As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God (Psalm 42:1, ESV).
Happy 2018! What does the new year hold for you? Are you longing for something new, better, different? Are you tired of flipping pages on the calendar and going through the motions of your life? Want to make a choice that will transform 2018 from dead to lively, from flat to full, from just another year to your best year yet?
Spend time with God in His Word.
This isn’t just another task or meeting. This is an invitation to spend time with the King of the universe, listening to His voice in the pages of the only Book on the planet that will transform your soul. This isn’t a book club. It’s not an appointment with a personal trainer who might help you marginally reshape your body. This is God, who spoke the universe into existence, and who will speak to you personally if you open the Word and listen.
How’s that work? Simply and methodically. Open your Bible, and follow these three steps.
Step 1: Discipline
Here’s the spiritual workout plan: I challenge you in Jesus’ name to discipline yourself to spend thirty minutes in God’s Word every day for a month. During those thirty days, set aside the first half hour of every day—before you shower, before you dress for work before you drink a cup of coffee (or while you drink it). Commit to this: “I will not do anything else until I get thirty minutes with the Lord in His Word.”
At first, it’s going to feel like hard work, but it won’t stay that way for long. It’s like when you start working out on a treadmill with no fitness base—grueling at first, but over time it grows easier and eventually becomes addictive. Get up in the morning, and make yourself do it. Get a friend to hold you accountable. Check in with each other. Go after this choice that will change your life forever: thirty minutes for thirty days. It starts with discipline.
Step 2: Desire
Over time, God’s Word will become your desire. This step involves another thirty days. No longer will reading the Bible just feel like a discipline. You will find that you look forward to it, that you can’t wait to spend time with the Lord. Like David, you’ll say, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1). You’ll wonder how you lived without it. You’ll recognize how famished and impoverished your soul was and how difficult the Christian life felt on empty. No longer will it feel like a burden or obligation.
After thirty days of discipline and thirty days of growing desire, you’ll conclude, “I want it. I desire it. I hunger for it.” After these sixty days, you’ll say, “I chose God’s Word as my authority, and my life has been changed forever.” And then you get to move on to step 3, which will blow your mind.
Step 3: Delight
In the third, thirty-day step, you will begin to experience what David observed about the blessed person, whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night”(Psalm 1:2). David didn’t tolerate God’s Word, the way we do brussels sprouts. He didn’t gut it out, the way we do dental cleanings. He loved God’s Word. “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). And we can get to that place too.
When you begin to delight in God’s Word, time spent in His Book will become your favorite time of your day, the best part of your week, the most treasured moments of your life—alone with God, digging into His Word, being fed by His Spirit. And the effects will seep into every part of your day so that you will find God’s Word running in the background of your thoughts constantly.
King David experienced this delight. So did the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). So did the disciples, who “said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures’” (Luke 24:32)?
So can you. Choose God’s Word. Start with discipline, and watch as discipline gives way to desire and grows into full-blown delight. This can be the defining choice of 2018 for you.
I dare you.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.