This summer, I filed the idea away in my Evernote account, thinking it would be a great way to launch a year, by immersing myself in Scripture. If people can binge-watch their favorite shows on Netflix, or stay up all night reading the latest fad novel, why couldn’t I binge read the Bible?
A few days before 2016 arrived, I decided to just go for it. My husband helped me divide all 66 books of the Bible into seven days of reading, since I could not find an existing reading plan to do such a crazy thing. The shortest amount of time I could find was a 90-days-through-the-Bible challenge.
I rolled out of bed Monday, Jan. 4, determined to blitz my way through Scripture, to take in the entirety of God’s message to me in a very short time span.
I hit it hard for two days. Monday, I read through all but a few chapters of Deuteronomy. Tuesday, I regained those chapters and reached my goal of reading to 2 Chronicles. I was feeling good – truly to read through so much of the Bible in 48 hours opened my eyes even more to God’s heart and our great need for Him.
Then Wednesday, I started feeling overloaded, and got a call to sub at the elementary. I only read through half of Nehemiah. The next day I subbed again, and read through Esther. At this point, I should have been through Isaiah.
Instead of a fresh commitment, I began to flounder. It’s now Day 12, and I am just beginning Ecclesiastes. I’m a little past the half-way mark.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who starts big and fizzles, who launches strong and loses steam. Immersing myself in Scripture, and reading it from the first to the last verse in a compressed time frame is a goal I really want to achieve, not just to say I did it, but because I feel like God is challenging me to do so. Maybe God has upped the ante for you, too, in an area of your life. You know you need to step out and step up, but you are at a stalemate.
Here’s the advice I am giving to myself today, so I can get back on track and continue pursuing the challenge God has laid before me.
Count the cost.
I am a dreamer. I am better at the big picture than the details to get there. It’s not uncommon for me to launch an idea without fully thinking through what it will take, and end up overwhelmed. I know this about myself. I need to learn to count the costs. That doesn’t mean to drag my feet or delay what I believe God is calling me to, it is considering and understanding the commitment, and accepting that commitment, before launch.
For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
– Luke 14:28-30
What time commitment will it take to see the challenge through? If another opportunity or activity arises that will take away from what I know my primary goal will require, I must say no. The first few days I read huge chunks of Scripture because I made sure I cleared my schedule to do so. I am a fast reader, but even so, I probably read 7-8 hours each day. That meant no TV, no running into town for errands, easy dinners, forgoing the radio in the car to listen to my Bible app read Scripture so no minute would be wasted, etc. I knew what it would take to stay on track after those first few days, yet then I said yes to subbing, which meant I took out four hours of potential reading time each day. That significantly decreased my ability to get to where I needed to be to reach my goal.
Any call of God on a person’s life will require sacrifice. Being ready for that is why I needed to count the cost.
Shut down the distractions.
When I began to fall behind on my daily goals, distractions began to conveniently appear all around me. I started to focus on what I was missing rather than what I was achieving. Distractions work so hard to gain attention, and then subtly imprison our minds. They give us escape from responsibility.
My primary distraction (and not just during this challenge, but every day) is social media, namely Facebook. It’s my gateway drug to wasting time and taking a break from what I need to be doing. Once I go in, I find myself struggling to get out. Then it’s on to other apps, email, etc., until I force myself to re-enter reality. Is this really where I want to spend my life??? NO! Yet, I find myself there again and again.
We all have our distraction detours, whether it’s sports, favorite TV shows, games, Pinterest, food… What control do these have on us, honestly? Do they take us away from our God callings? Do they point us to Christ, or just waste our time? All of these distractions can be used with purpose and for God’s glory (maybe). But if I am real with myself, my technology use is too often feeding addiction.
Taking on God-inspired challenges should be accompanied by accountability and encouragement. I should have asked my husband to help me stay focused, and to gently (key word! :)) remind me of my goals when I began to get off task and be tempted by distractions. We need someone in our corner who will keep the end game in front of us. Maybe that’s a family member who has permission to give tough love or a Sunday School friend who will text through the week and be praying. Accountability is key.
Rest in God’s grace.
God loves me. He loves me regardless of my goal achievement. He challenges me because He wants me to grow closer to Him, not to put a big check mark on my list. His grace needs to be enough for me, rather than if I “made it.” When I step out in faith, God wants my confidence to be in Him, in His wisdom and unfailing love. If I stumble or fall, I do it into His arms. He promised to always be there. I will trust in His love and His grace. Even if I struggle with this, God ALWAYS finishes what He begins.