Tackling reading the word
The new year has always been a time for setting resolutions and goals, making big plans and fresh starts.
Some people face these new beginnings starry eyed and excited for all they'll accomplish this year. Others won't even try, knowing they're doomed to failure before the new year even begins.
Common resolutions for the new year among Christians are about scripture reading. Maybe it's to read through the entire Bible this year, maybe it's to be faithful to a devotional every day, maybe it's to join a new study group.
Boiled down though, the point is Christians know they need to spend time in God's word.
It can be difficult knowing how to begin. Since failure has hit everyone more than once, each new year finds people plotting out special tactics to ensure this is the year they succeed.
Three areas can determine the success and consistency of Bible study through 2018. Why it's important to study the Bible, especially with supplemental material, how to keep motivation high all year long and what to study.
Christians everywhere are adamant that Bible study is important. But often unanswered is why and the benefit of using a program or study guide.
“(A study book) provides a person with a direction and a method to engage in studying God's word rather than opening up the Bible and wondering where to begin,” said Pastor David Laborde of Community Bible Church. He explained a Bible study guide prevents getting stumped or discouraged by deciding where to start reading.
Jeannette Levellie, local author, speaker and wife to Pastor Kevin Levellie of Nevins Church, adds Bible studies help get the wheels in people's minds turning, bringing them to new conclusions and ideas they may not have found alone.
“With insights from other believers, we can sharpen our awareness of God at work in our lives and his constant love and care for us,” she said. “We also gain wisdom for the daily challenges of life by studying God's word.”
Studying the Bible is important because it's the only reliable way to learn about God, and a study guide can act as a starting place, where someone else has already done the planning in advance.
Even though most can agree on the benefits of Bible study, motivation sometimes doesn't last past the first week of January. How can people keep their spirits and vigor up after the mundane responsibilities return and start to wear them down?
“The best way to keep motivated is to ask God to help you and to be accountable to a friend, prayer partner or spouse,” said Levellie.
Change happens and not feeling alone can be helpful for staying consistent.
“Whether you study the same material or not isn't essential,” Levellie said. “It's knowing that someone else will consistently ask you, 'what did you study today, or this week?' and in turn, you can ask them the same questions.”
Levellie references Proverbs 27:17, which says, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” for Levellie, there is no greatest fulfillment than to help sharpen a fellow-believer, and no greater goal than to be sharp in the ways of God.
There is a lot to be said for getting an accountability partner, but Laborde cautions it is not a failsafe system.
“There is no secret or magic dust you can sprinkle to make it happen,” he said. “It comes down to a person desiring to study the Bible and then making it happen through personal discipline.”
He added it's a good idea to carve out a specific time of day that is consistently available and make it as much of a habit as a meal.
Once the motivation and reasoning are there the next big question is what study guide to use.
Laborde suggests “Ten Basic Steps Toward Christian Maturity,” by New Life Publications, and “Design for Discipleship,” a series by The Navigators, which can be found on the organization’s website. He prefers these materials because they use an interactive format of questions as well as commentary. He said an interactive approach allows readers to personally engage with the text as well as receive input by professionals.
Levellie loves “Faith Food Daily Devotions,” by Kenneth E. Hagin and “From Faith to Faith,” by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. Levellie has also written a 72-part humorous devotional book called “Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top,” which is relatable and helps make Bible study fun.
When it comes down to it, there are a lot of different materials and methods for studying the Bible, but the important thing is that a person gets started and doesn't give up. There's no better way to kick off a new year than with fresh resolve to dig deep in the word of God.