We truly are creatures of habit. Scientists who study human behavior have concluded that
“A habit cannot be extinguished – it can only be replaced.”
All habits consist of a habit loop – cue, routine, and reward.
What does this have to do with Bible reading?
Everything! Armed with these insights on habits and a desire to regularly read the Bible, we can build a simple (not necessarily easy!) strategy to establish a Bible reading habit that will become a way of life.
First, you need a strong “why.”
Why is Bible reading important to you? List all the benefits you believe you will get from it. What will your life look like a year from now, or five years from now, as a result? List all the consequences of not reading regularly. What will your life look like a year from now, or five years from now, if you don’t establish the habit?
Arrange for accountability with at least two other people. Going it alone is a recipe for failure. You could have a check-in meeting weekly with your partners, or do it with a couple of fellow small-group members at your regular meeting. But it can’t be a casual, optional thing.
Have contingency plans.
You will slip up and miss a day occasionally. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Make up the lost ground quickly and get back on pace; otherwise, you are defeating the purpose of a habit. This is not legalism unless you allow it to be. You are training yourself for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). Be open with your accountability partners – that’s what they’re there for!
Realize that there’s a lot at stake, not only in your life, but in the lives of those you can potentially influence. Spiritual warfare is a reality, and Christians with their noses in the Bible are a threat to Satan’s kingdom. But God promises to grant anything we ask according to His will, and so we can pray for His help in this discipline with full assurance that He will strengthen us and teach us.
Now you’re ready to replace a habit. Let’s take a common one: Facebook. First, identify the cue and the reward. What’s your cue for getting on Facebook? Do you do it after dinner? When the kids go down for a nap?
What’s the reward? Every habit has a reward, though we’re not always conscious of it. What do you get out of Facebook? Is it the “likes”? Is it simply the good feeling of knowing what’s going on currently with your friends?
Once you’ve identified the cue and the reward, it’s time to unplug 15 minutes of Facebook from your habit loop and substitute 15 minutes of Bible reading. The cue remains the same. What about the reward? Will the reward be sufficient to keep the behavior going? You may have to experiment with this a bit. There’s nothing wrong with artificially tweaking the reward until the habit has been established. Once the habit is firmly in place, it will run on its own.
Now that you have a plan, write it down in the form of an intention statement, like this:
“From now on, when I (cue),
I will read the Bible for 15 minutes (routine) in order to