By Rankin Wilbourne, Lead Pastor – originally published in December 2015. 

“Resolved: To read the Bible each day and remind myself to listen to my Father’s voice instead of listening to my own.”

Maybe you’re one of those people who makes New Year’s resolutions every year. If you’re not, it has always struck me that as a young man Jonathan Edwards made a list of 70 resolutions that he subsequently read over once a week, every week, for the rest of his life. If the greatest theologian America ever produced needed a disciplined ritual to keep his resolutions, how much more do I?

Everywhere you look today people champion the importance of habits – see the bestselling book, The Power of Habit. But this emphasis on habit is nothing new. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Maybe your problem isn’t making resolutions, but keeping them. A 2014 article in Time magazine distills some of the best, current research on “How to Make Your Resolution Stick.” Here are some best practices:

  • Start Now. Align your resolutions with a major benchmark like January 1 (or even a Monday). Regardless the benchmark you choose, start now.
  • Make a Plan. Here’s the terrible irony: “The more you want your goal, the less you’re likely to plan for it,” thinking that your resolutions are good enough. But when it comes to resolutions, good intentions aren’t enough to follow through. You need a plan to follow.
  • Chop It Up. After you make a plan, parse it up into realistic bites.
  • Raise the Stakes. The Time article encourages “financial incentives” (i.e., putting your money where your mouth is) to raise the stakes. I wouldn’t go so far as to prescribe putting cash on the line; however, often all that’s needed to raise the stakes is inviting a friend to join you.

Of all the resolutions you could make this year, nothing will help your mental and spiritual health more than a daily diet of reading God’s word. Under the best practice of “Make a Plan,” you can find several Bible reading plans on YouVersion.com that will email you a reminder every day. Visit YouVersion.com and scroll through the options to find one that is realistic for you. The following four plans, all available via YouVersion and in print, are commonly practiced and extremely effective:

  • Bible in 90 Days. “That works out to 12 pages of reading each day – a commitment, but certainly manageable, and one that’s well worth making.”
  • Book of Common Prayer. The Pacific Crossroads staff uses this guide book for group morning readings and meditation every day.
  • The One Year Bible. “Daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, in as little as 15 minutes a day, will guide you through God’s Word in one year.”
  • M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan. “In one year, you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice.”

Start now and make a plan. Like Jonathan Edwards, resolve to do this and do it habitually. That’s one way to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). And remember, one way to “Raise the Stakes” is to invite a friend to do this with you.