Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1–3, ESV
God has given us his word so that we might be nourished and refreshed. Like a tree who is able to continually draw nutrients from a nearby stream so the child of God who regularly meditates on God’s word is continually refreshed.
New Years is a time when some of us decide to try and take up a Bible reading plan. This is an admirable goal however, it will fall short without a good plan. Reading God’s word is a primary way that we learn about God and his good news of salvation.
Whether we are just hearing this good news for the first time, or if we have been meditating on God’s word for decades his Spirit can speak to us through the Scriptures.
The following are a few steps that can be helpful in cultivating a regular and daily devotional time.
1. Find a time
One of the biggest challenges in establishing a daily devotional routine is finding time in your schedule. We all face a myriad of demands and responsibilities that call upon our time, and we can often fail to intentionally set aside time to be with God and to be in his Word.
As you look ahead to the new year determine now when you can read his Word each day. It’s best to find a time that is consistent and built in to your routine. Try to carve out and guard 20-30 minutes of your day to spend devotionally in reading Scripture and in prayer.
2. Find a space
Along with establishing a consistent time for devotions try to find a space that can be your go-to location for your devotions. Whether it’s a comfy chair in the living room, or a quiet corner of the house where you will be less likely to be interuppted finding a home base for devotions will help it stick and become a habit.
It can also be helpful to keep whatever you use during your devotions (Like a particular bible, or a prayer journal if you use one) in that space. So when it comes time you don’t have to spend the first five minutes just trying to get organized and find everything you need.
3. Find a plan
The Bible is a big book and it can be intimidating to figure out where to start. To address that many people have developed reading plans that give you a guide on what to read each day. Many are designed to take you through the entire Bible in a set period of time. Others focus on a particular portion of Scripture. The important thing is to pick a plan ahead of time, and to print off a guide so it becomes easy to know what you’re supposed to be reading.
Remember to think through how much time you have each day, and how quickly you want to read when figuring out what kind of reading plan to choose from. Below are a few suggestions:
TGC Read the Bible
The Gospel Coalition has put together an entire toolkit of resources to help you read through the Bible in a year. The plan they use was developed by a 19th century Scottish pastor named Robert Murray M’Cheyne. This plan takes a little bit longer each day because you end up reading through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in a single year.
This plan is unique in that it takes you through the entire Bible in a year, but you end up reading the passages in the chronological order in which they took place. The 66 books of the Bible tell one story but are not arranged chronologically. The intention of this plan is to help you understand how the events fit together, and when they took place. It’s particularly helpful in seeing how the prophecies of the Old Testament were delivered in the history of Israel.
ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan
This plan uses four short readings each day to take you through the entire Bible in a year. Even though there are four sections to read from this plan is still pretty easy to read through each day. You might even consider splitting the readings up to a morning and evening devotional time. Or if you have a family choose one of the four readings to read together each day.
Stephen Witmer has developed a helpful reading plan that uses two passages a day to take you through the entire Bible in two years. This is a good plan if you want to read a bit slower, while still working through the entire Bible. As a church we used this plan, and went through a two-year sermon series entitled “Redemption Unfolding” just a few years ago.
4. Find a partner
When trying to develop any habit, including a spiritual discipline, partnership and accountability can be enormous factors in maintaining consistency. If you’re thinking of taking on a Bible reading plan in the New Year consider finding someone who can help keep you accountable. Even if they aren’t using the same plan you can still plan to have regular times to check in and see how each person is doing in their devotional time, and share what God has been teaching you.