BY: Chris Bolinger
In December, nearly half of Americans make at least one resolution for the upcoming new year. A recent survey conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion revealed Americans' top 21 resolutions. Those 21 resolutions can be grouped into four categories:
1. Improve my health: lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, improve my health, stop smoking, stop drinking.
2. Improve my life: get a better job, manage my personal finances better, grow/improve as an individual, go back to school, enjoy life, travel, get a new house.
3. Improve my behavior: be a better person, use my time better, set goals, spend more time with family, be kinder to others, get involved politically, worry less.
4. Get closer to God.
Fewer than half of those who make New Year’s resolutions are successful at keeping them for at least six months. The high failure rate has prompted a slew of columns and articles on New Year’s resolutions, with advice on whether or not to make them and how to keep them if you do.
There’s little downside in resolving to improve your health, or improve your life, or improve your behavior. And it’s hard to argue against resolving to get closer to God. But there’s one resolution that, when you keep it – even imperfectly – helps you in all four areas.
It’s reading your Bible.
Regular Bible reading improves your health, improves your life, improves your behavior, and gets you closer to God.
1. Reading the Bible improves your health.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, many physical and emotional health issues are the result of stress, which “can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior.” In fact, unchecked stress “can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.” Common effects of stress on your body include chest pain, muscle pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. Stress can lead to emotional issues such as anger, depression, and anxiety. When you are stressed out, you may overeat (or undereat), smoke, abuse drugs or alcohol, and exercise less often.
How does reading the Bible help you manage stress? Sometimes called “God’s love letter to us”, the Bible reminds you throughout that God created you in His image and loves you deeply, even when you wander away from Him. The Bible offers encouragement. Comfort. Reassurance. Strength. Peace. Hope.
In Luke 12, Jesus tells his disciples, and us, not to worry. The Apostle Paul echoes that sentiment in Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV):
“[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
2. Reading the Bible improves your life.
David describes God’s Word as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, ESV). Whatever path you’re on, the Bible can show you the right steps to take. It’s the perfect how-to guide for living, for reasons that include:
3. Reading the Bible improves your behavior.
Regular Bible reading improves your behavior. In fact, scripture engagement – or the frequency with which you read your Bible – is a more reliable prediction of moral behavior than traditional measures of spirituality, such as church attendance and prayer.
This revelation comes from research conducted by Arnold Cole, Ed.D. and Pamela Caudill Ovwigho. Their statistical analyses reveal that, controlling for other factors – such as age, gender, church attendance, and prayer – Christians who read the Bible four or more days a week have lower odds of abusing alcohol, having sex outside of marriage, viewing pornography, and gambling. Significantly lower odds. Here are some of the findings:
Getting drunk: 57% lower odds
Having extramarital sex: 68% lower odds
Viewing porn: 61% lower odds
Gambling: 74% lower odds
4. Reading the Bible gets you closer to God.
But the primary way that God reveals Himself to us is through the Bible. The Old Testament shows us that God created us in His image, loves us, and, even though we rebelled – and continue to rebel – against Him, wants us to be reconciled to Him. The New Testament tells the story of Jesus and the early days of the Christian church.
The more you read the Bible, the better you get to know God. The better you know God, the more you want to communicate with Him and follow Him.
It's the best resolution…any time.
The fact that reading the Bible regularly can have such a positive impact on us shouldn’t surprise us. After all, God’s Word is described as “living and active” and sharp enough to “divid[e] soul and spirit, joints and marrow” (Hebrews 4:12).
As you head into this New Year, resolve to read your Bible more often. It’s the best resolution to make, any time of year. And it’s never too late to start a resolution.