by Pastor Tim
A new year, 2022, is just around the corner. Do you have a better hope for your soul in the new year? Or is coasting your plan? The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Oh, what a prize it is to walk “upward” toward his call of us! I’m eager to press on for myself and I’m eager to see you press on with me. Let me suggest three ways for you to press on toward the prize in 2022: reading the Bible, praying, and reading a godward book.
Bible Reading Plan
In a recent sermon I told you that one of the best things you can do for your soul is to read through the Bible in a year. And to do that every year. Why? Because it is God’s word that revives your soul and rejoices your heart (Ps 19:7-8). And it does this, not when it remains on your nightstand or hidden inside your phone. The Bible nourishes your soul as you ingest it by reading it.
To do things we care about, we often need a plan. Think: exercise, family dinners, date night, take up a new sport or hobby. If we just wait for “the urge” before we embark, we often find ourselves never able to do these things that we really want to do. Bible reading is just like this; you need a plan.
I use the KINGDOM Bible reading plan, reading four parts of the Bible each day, 25 days each month. Another good one is the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan, reading four parts each day, each day of the month. I find it takes about 20 minutes each day to complete the plan. Copies of both are on the rack at FBC’s Welcome Center.
If 20 minutes a day sounds like too much, my first recommendation would be to tackle these in two years instead of one. Just read two of the four parts this year and read the other two next year. Another choice is the 5x5x5 New Testament reading plan, reading 5 minutes each day, 5 days each week.
Another important part of the plan is to think through what time you will read and where (if you have active children at home, you understand!). Currently, I’m often reading two parts in the morning and two parts during lunch. There is no wrong way; just find something that works for you.
Lastly, attitude! Before you read each day, pray to God asking him to help you see him and his ways as delightful in the words you will read. Then read! May your soul be nourished and strengthened as you press on toward the prize by Bible reading!
Another way to press on toward the prize God has for you is by praying more regularly. Try this: grab a piece of paper and pencil and write down all the people and situations that you really care about who need God’s help right now. Stop after a couple minutes. You really do want to pray for these, but you just don’t remember them all very often, right? Me too. So, here’s the plan. Just like Bible reading, you need a prayer plan. Write these items on a small piece of paper (I use a 3×5 card) and put that paper in a place where you will see it when you have time to pray. It might be in the car or the bathroom mirror or the kitchen table or your nightstand. I often pray while driving. You might find that you can pray while brushing your teeth or just before you go to sleep. Here’s a tip: don’t write so many on your little paper that you are overwhelmed. You might pick the top three or five from your original list. Start with these.
For each person or situation on the list, ask yourself, “What is a big request to ask God for with this?” Don’t just pray, “Help so-and-so’s marriage to get better.” Pray, “Help so-and-so’s marriage to be characterized by humility and delight in each other and God.” That would be BIG, right?
Lastly, pray with the mind of Christ. Yes, Christ cares about things on this earth, like health and finances and success. But even more, Christ cares about things that last for eternity, like salvation from sins and everlasting delight in God. If the person you are praying for has great health and finances and success, but spends eternity away from God in hell, you will wish that you had prayed differently. So, pray most for the most important.
Godward Book Reading Plan
Finally, reading good godward books helps us press on toward the prize of God. If you aren’t much of a reader, you might be interested to know that in 10 min a day, 4 days a week, you can read several books a year. If you are already a big reader, then my encouragement to you is to read beyond your favorite secular books to include some godward books. What do I mean by godward books? Those that write about God and life in a way that the Bible would agree with. Let me recommend five books:
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller
- J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life by Paul Miller, how to interpret and make the most of our trials
- Contentment, Prosperity, & God’s Glory by Jeremiah Burroughs
- Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper, short chapters helping us worship Jesus
- Fighting Satan: Knowing His Weaknesses, Strategies, and Defeat by Joel Beeke
I’ve heard it said that growing Christians are reading Christians. I sure experience this connection in my life, growing not just in my head, but in my heart and life. I want the same for you.
Brothers and sisters, let’s press on in 2022 toward the prize of knowing and enjoying God by reading the Bible, praying, and reading a godward book. If you have questions, I would truly be delighted to talk. Just reach out to me. May God richly bless you!