As we near the end of one year, it’s natural to think about our goals for the next. And whether it’s saving money, losing weight, building relationships, or learning a skill, we need plans to meet our goals.
You may not think of your reading list as goal-related. You may want planning as far away from your books as possible. But what we read has an enormous effect on our thoughts, our emotions, our worldview, and our souls.
In twelve months, you’ll be a different person than you are now. What you read between now and then will shape what kind of person you will be.
Connection to Bible Study
This might seem like a strange post to read on a blog all about Bible study. But these topics are vitally connected.
We have a finite amount of time, and without a plan we may not using our time well. When we’re tired or sad or frustrated, it’s easy to fall into bad patterns and spend time in unproductive or unrefreshing ways.
In particular, we don’t often drift into reading or studying the Bible. The Bible makes demands of us, and it’s much easier to camp out in a novel or on social media. But the word of God is our life! By it we see ourselves and everything around us accurately. We put ourselves in spiritual danger when we neglect the Bible.
Without making a plan, we won’t read much of the Bible. And planning to read the Bible means planning not to read anything else at the same time. As we set reading goals for 2018, let’s do so with the Bible as our highest priority.
We can break down our reading plans into at least five areas.
- Plan to read and study the Bible. For Christians, this is non-negotiable. Through the Bible we hear the truth from God that we so easily forget. We hear commands, we receive encouragement, we are equipped for battle against the evil around and within us. We need this book! Plan to read the Bible. Plan to study the Bible. If you read nothing else in 2018, read the Bible.
- Plan to read other Bible-based books. While the Bible is in a class by itself, there plenty of other books that teach biblical truth. Consider books in the categories of theology, biography, memoir, and Christian living, and find some trusted sources for recommendations. (Start with your pastor and elders and move on to friends and other trustworthy sources.)
- Plan to read for development. Whether you want to grow personally or professionally, there’s a book for that! Plan to read books related to skills you’d like to develop or topics you’d like to learn about.
- Plan to read for refreshment. God has made us to work and to rest, and we acknowledge and submit to our Creator when we plan times and activities for refreshment. If you are renewed and re-energized by reading fiction or comic books or graphic novels or humor, plan for it. We love God and our neighbors better when we have fuel in our tanks, and reading can fill us up.
- Plan other media consumption. Television, movies, video games, social media, and other internet-related activities—none of these are inherently bad. But they suck us in; we blink and 45 minutes later wonder what happened. Seek out these media with intention, mindful of your weaknesses and temptations.
December offers down time that January does not, so if possible, it’s best to make plans for the new year now.
Take some time in December to think and pray and lay your 2018 reading before the Lord. Talk to friends about the books and priorities on your list, and commit to praying for one another and following up.
Another advantage of planning your 2018 reading in December is the abundance of “best/favorites of 2017” lists that appear. Prayerfully consider the titles on some of these lists. I suggest balancing new books with older ones, but these lists can point you toward some of the best new books to read. Life is too short and too important to read bad books.
Leave Room for the Unplanned
While I suggest you plan reading for 2018, you shouldn’t feel locked in by your list. There will be other suggestions and opportunities that come up, and these may be worth your time! I usually plan about 75% of my annual reading and count on filling in the other 25% as the year develops.
As we tumble toward January, plan to read the Bible in the new year. And plan your other reading so that it glorifies God and helps you to walk faithfully as his disciple.