A couple of years ago, I set out to become a runner. I started out slow and very uncoordinated, but the more I ran, the easier it became. Soon I was running just about every day and growing in the distance of miles. But when life got busier, my motivation slowed down, and so did my running. Unfortunately, I got so behind that I gave up on running altogether. Following a Bible reading plan is sort of like running. You experience a burst of excitement to start, and you have to discipline yourself to do it every day. The farther you get, the more motivated you feel to keep going. But if you get off track or fall extremely behind, it can be easy to become ashamed, frustrated, or tempted to throw in the towel. If you have resolved to read the Bible in a year and feel like you've failed in your plan in some sort of way, there is no need to feel ashamed or resolve to quit. Here are three truths to remember when progress in your Bible reading falters.
Christ gives us grace for our failures
One of the most important truths to remember when we fail is that Christ gives us His grace. Sometimes we can view God as an angry coach who yells at us when we mess up. Thankfully, that is not the God we serve. We may condemn ourselves for our failures, but because of Christ, God never will. As believers, we have received forgiveness from Christ. This forgiveness covers the wrath that was once between God and us because of our sin and replaces it with peace.
The peace we have with God means that we will never experience God's wrath, even in the moments we sin or fail. And because the forgiveness we have received from Christ is ours forever, we can be confident every day that God will not be mad but merciful. As Lamentations 3:22–23 tells us, "Because of the Lord's faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." This means that if we have failed in our reading today, God gives us mercy. And if we fail again tomorrow, God gives us mercy. When resolutions fail, God's grace remains.
Our faithfulness does not earn or maintain God's favor
It is also helpful to remember that our obedience to God does not earn His favor. It is possible for us to either be unaware or forget the purpose of spiritual disciplines like Bible reading. Our motivation in spiritual disciplines is to give God glory and grow in Christlikeness. The goal is not to make a checkmark on our reading plan but to grow in our love and knowledge of the Lord. But when we forget these truths, we can allow our obedience and faithfulness to God to become the means to earn His favor. But what we do does not and cannot earn God's favor, and that is a good thing!
It is through Christ that we receive God's favor. It is by His work alone and not our own. This means that succeeding in your reading plan does not earn favor with God, nor does failing in your reading plan make you lose favor with God. However, the approval we have received from Christ motivates our desire to know, love, and obey God. Obedience is not the means to receive God's grace but is a response to the grace we have already received. We desire to be in God's Word daily because we get to know and grow more like the God who saved us. And even in the moments we fail, we can have peace knowing that our position in Christ remains the same.
We can persevere through the Spirit
Falling behind or getting off track does not mean we need to give up. Just like running a race, we can still aim for the prize–growth in our knowledge of the Lord and His Word–even if we fall behind. We do not have the strength in and of ourselves to do this, but this is why we have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to get back up and keep going, even if we fail again. The Holy Spirit is a major comfort and help to us as we endeavor to regularly read God's Word. We can rely on and rest in His power and presence as we discipline ourselves to keep going in our Bible reading plans. And if we get back off track again, we can rely on the Spirit to get back on track again.
If you've gotten off track in your plan or fallen behind, don't lose hope! Continue to keep going as you rely on the Spirit and rest in Christ's grace. After all, the endeavor to regularly read God's Word is not about perfection but progression, so aim to keep moving forward even if you stumble along the way.