Habits, Bible Reading and New Year’s Resolutions

In less than a week, everyone is going to be writing down their New Year’s Resolution, and in Christian circles, most of these lists are going to include 2 things:

  • “I want to read the Bible more”
  • “I want to work out more”

Which are both great aspirations. But the research shows us that’s all they are, aspirations. They hardly become our new reality.

Here’s what the research shows:

According to research, about 60 percent of us admit that we make New Year’s resolutions but only about 8 percent of us are successful in achieving them.

So over 90% of us are going to fail to reach our goals. 

  • Aren’t you so glad I’m sharing this exciting and inspirational stat with you as you are thinking about your resolutions?

Now I know there are so many factors that go into this stat, but let me share with you one factor I know that we can control:

Our calendar. Our daily schedule. 

We all know that if we are not careful, our calendar can control us instead of us controlling our calendar. 

Even as you are preparing for a new year, if you are like me, you are thinking, “There are so many habits I want to cultivate this next year like spending more time with Jesus, exercising more, or fill in the blank, but how in the world am I supposed to fit anything else into my already busy schedule?”

Well, the answer to this is actually very simple. We have to make spending time with God a priority. 

Now most of us want to jump ahead and skip the little things and get on to the big things. But D.L. Moody should stop us in our tracks when he says, “There are many of us who are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”

This should call us to focus on the simple, little thing of daily spending time with Jesus before anything else. Because for God to do a great work through us, he first must do a great work in us.

But just because it is simple, or little, doesn’t mean it is easy. Almost all of the greatest truths of life are stupid simple but incredibly hard to follow through on.

Just think about a few:

  • If you want to be financially healthy, save more than you spend
  • If you want to lose weight, eat more veggies than candy
  • If you want to keep the golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated

Following through on these simple things takes discipline and consistency. And the same is true for any habit we want to cultivate in our life. And the best way to make something a priority is to put it on our calendar for a specific time and at a specific place.

This comes from a research study James Clear references in his book Atomic Habits

Here’s what they did. They conducted a research project to study how people can build better exercise habits over the course of 2 weeks. So they gathered hundreds of people and divided them into 3 groups.

The first group was the “control” group, so they were simply asked them to track how often they exercised.

The second group was the “motivation” group, so they were asked not only to track their workouts, but also to read some material on the health benefits of exercise.

Finally, the third group was the “intention” group, so they were asked to do everything the second group was asked to do, but they were also asked to formulate a plan for when and where they would exercise over the following week. 

Specifically, each person was asked to complete the following sentence:

  • “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].”

After receiving these instructions, all 3 groups left. After two weeks, they reported back, and here’s what they found:

In the first 2 groups, 35-38% of people exercised at least once per week. But 91% of the third group exercised at least once per week – more than double the normal rate.

All because they simply wrote down a plan that said exactly when and where they intended to exercise. Then they followed through on it.

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So for us, as Christ followers who are called to “remain in Christ” in John 15, we must have a plan in place for how to do so. Or else we are not going to follow through on it.

Now, let’s say we are able to schedule this time. Protect this time. And let nothing else interfere with this time.

Let me tell you what could happen.

I don’t know if you realize this, but based upon a research project conducted by Crossway, here’s what could happen…

  • If you carved out 12 minutes per day, you could read the whole Bible in a year.
  • In just 6 minutes per day, you could read the entire New Testament in just 6 months.

Now let’s say we were really ambitious, and we took 30 minutes of our day and devoted it to reading the Bible. Here’s what we could read:

  • Ecclesiastes in 1 day
  • Romans in 2 days
  • The Gospel of Mark in 3 days
  • The book of Genesis in 7 days
  • The New Testament in 40 days
  • The whole Bible in 160 days

It all comes down to priorities.

With this in mind, let me ask a scary question: if someone observed an average day in your life, how would they see you spend your time?

How much of your time would that person see given to Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, podcasts and other hobbies?

Then, how much time would they see you devoting to Bible reading and spending time with Christ?

These are questions I’ve asked myself and they are incredibly convicting for me. And honestly, I’m upset with what people would see. (If you really want to be freaked out about where you are spending your time, check out your Screen Time app on your iPhone. That’ll be convicting enough.)

This is why I want to prioritize Bible reading, not just aspire to it.

So here’s some homework for all of us to do. Let’s each fill out this sentence for ourselves and begin to follow through on the little things which lead to the big things:

  • “During the month of January, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of intentional time with Jesus everyday at [TIME] in [PLACE].”

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