This column, written by Dr. Heath Lambert, originally appeared in the print edition of the Florida Baptist Witness.
It is the beginning of a new year, and if you are like most people you’ve already begun a new round of New Year’s resolutions. Some people have promised to work more, others want to cut back. Some have promised to take that special trip, finish a project, or lose weight. Many Christians have doubtless made spiritual resolutions like reading the Bible.
Every December and January I read articles, hear sermons, and see posts on social media encouraging that now is the time to commit to reading the entire Bible in a year. These exhortations are paired with a listing of various Bible-reading plans, and Christians can choose their own adventure as they decide to read straight through from Genesis to Revelation, to read in the order the books were written, or to read a bit from each testament every day.
I am always thankful for these encouragement and practical suggestions, but we need to be honest. Most of the people who make resolutions to read through the Bible in a year will not finish. Though they begin with the best of intentions and the strongest of resolve, by May most will not remember the last time they completed a daily reading. These are Christians who love Jesus and the Bible, and who mean well, but they will lack the resolve to complete what they resolved.
This means that Christians need more than encouragement and practical suggestions if they they are to complete their goal of reading the Bible. In order to fulfill their resolutions, they need many things, but here I will just mention one. They need a real reason why they should complete their Bible reading. When the busyness of life, the urgency of work, and the comfort of sleep tempt us away from our plans we need to have a strong reason to press on in the Word. The Bible gives us lots of reasons to read it, but let me focus on just one in this space.
“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” (Ps 119:92). This passage contains good news and bad news. Let’s take the bad news first. The world is full of affliction, and all of us will experience some of that affliction this year. We might not know what it will be or when it will strike, but we can know it is coming. And this affliction is serious; it threatens to lead us to perishing.
But there is good news too. God has given us a resource to help us in that affliction. He has given us a source of help that protects us from perishing. That resource is the Word of God that, when studied and when delighted in, protects us from perishing. This is a glorious reality. In a world full of affliction and the threat of perishing God gives us a Word that strengthens us in the pain.
This means Bible reading is not drudgery. It is not a new burden added to the list of already busy days. It is a collection of Words from God, which he calls us to delight in. When we delight in these Words, they strengthen us and protect us from the pain that floods our life.
So I hope you have resolved to read the Bible this year. I know I have. I also hope you have a very helpful plan to complete the job. But more than resolve and a plan, I hope you have a strong reason to read the Bible. One powerful one is that this year will have trouble, and God wants to prepare Christians for it with his Word.
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