Most New Year’s Resolutions fail—and I think I know why.
Some think that the new year comes with magic powers that will automatically zap old ways of doing things and implement the new way. Often this kind of resolution lacks the roots to give it a sturdy and fruitful composition for when the busyness picks right back up again after the Holiday season.
I’ve made enough resolutions to know simply having one won’t make the difference. Resolutions require intentionality, deep convictions, and the discipline to see them through. Resolutions require changing habits—which can be a challenge.
I have thought long and hard about making some Edwardsian resolutions as it comes to being more intentional with what I read. The resolutions I share below are not goals for this year, but rather goals for the long haul. If you’re a Christian reader serious about your faith, I hope they serve you well to know Christ and grow in Him.
15 Resolutions for Christian Readers
1. Resolved to make study and meditation on Scripture more important than all other reading.
The first Psalm calls the man who meditates on the Scriptures day and night the blessed man. All reading should be supplement to knowing God through His Word. This should be obvious, but if you enjoy a good Christian book like I do, it is something to constantly keep in mind.
Warning: If you miss this first resolution, the remaining fourteen won’t have much value.
2. Resolved to read more old books that have stood the test of time.
Many new books are printed each year for the first time and are never reprinted, while some books have been reprinted for hundreds of years. The difference? Classic works stand the test of time. I stole this idea from C.S. Lewis:
It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. C.S. Lewis
3. Resolved to regularly read biographies (especially Christian biographies).
Biographies have the power to put us in the shoes of a historical person and view life through their eyes. They give us a front row seat to their struggles, sins, relationships, good times, victories and adversity. We can learn more about human existence, brokenness due to the effects of sin, and how the gospel of Christ speaks to each life situation.
Christian biographies take it one level higher and encourage us by showing examples of faithful brothers and sisters from the past. John Piper calls Christian biographies “living theology” and “the best entertainment” because they give Christians a glimpse of how faith is lived out in our dark world. Piper, in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, calls Hebrews 11, “a divine mandate to read Christian biography. The unmistakable implication of the chapter is that if we hear about the faith of our forefathers (and mothers), we will “lay aside every weight and sin” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).”
- A few biographies I have enjoyed: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, Jim Elliot, Charles Colson, Louis Zamperini, Keith Green, Billy Graham, Tom Carson, J. Hudson Taylor.
- A few biographies on my “to read” list: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, George Mueller, David Brainerd, George Whitefield, and Abraham Lincoln.
4. Resolved to occasionally read outside of what I usually read.
Social media is making it easier than ever to remain in an isolated echo chamber that only tells you what you want to hear in the way you’re used to hearing it from the people you’re used to hearing it from. These echo chambers may be a place of safety (to a degree), but they also may hinder us from answering tough questions and looking at life through a different set of eyes. To offset this, I like to occasionally challenge myself in reading something that might rub me the wrong way or come at an issue from a different perspective.
5. Resolved to reread the best books.
Re-watching a movie allows more of the story’s beauty to sink in each time, and maybe you even laugh at parts you never noticed before. Rereading books can do the same thing. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”
Our choice of books, like our choice of friends, have the amazing ability to shape us and how we think. Re-read the best books that you most want to shape you. This will aid you better than reading twice as much by speaking to you at a deeper, and more permanent level. A few books I resolve to re-read: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, several Timothy Keller books (Prayer, The Prodigal God, and Center Church), The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, and Holiness by J.C. Ryle.
6. Resolved to read for Christian growth.
I don’t know where I would be in my life or faith without the great Christian books that have shaped me and been my constant mentors. I am committed to continuing to read to grow my faith and love for Christ. Because of their tremendous importance, a few topics are constantly on my reading list: the gospel, prayer, and books helping me read the Bible better.
7. Resolved to further develop the gifts God has given me through reading.
I, like Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6), seek to fan into the flame the gifts God has given me. To some degree, I consider writing, teaching, preaching, and blogging to be gifts that I want to develop for the glory of God. My reading will help me steward God’s grace in each of those areas. 1 Peter 4:10-11 has been a guide for me in thinking about my gifts:
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.“
8. Resolved to read in order to strengthen relationships with others.
Not much is more important in our lives to God than how we live in relation to one another. That’s why I want to read books that can help me strengthen relationships with others. Specifically, I will be reading on topics like Alzheimer’s, relationships, and common sin struggles, among others.
9. Resolved to minimize time wasted on TV or the internet to read.
If I’m not intentional, TV and random browsing on the internet can eat away my free time and reading time. I want to invest my time and brain energy in things more profitable than mindlessly watching TV or aimlessly browsing the internet. I am resolved to fill in extra gaps of time with reading that will redeem the time by filling my soul and helping me fulfill my calling on earth.
10. Resolved to read more fiction.
I used to have a bias against fiction, preferring the “real world.” Now I understand better that fiction takes us into new worlds, allowing us to experience things we could never experience otherwise. While I still read more non-fiction, I am working in more fiction to my reading plan. One fiction read I enjoyed this year was Les Miserables and this coming year I hope to read C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.
11. Resolved to read more by the Puritans.
The Puritans provide deep, gospel-rich spiritual writing that is lacking today in many Christian books. This resolution is influenced by Charles Spurgeon, who said:
“Give yourself to reading.’… You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible.”
Another nice thing about many Puritan works is that they are free online in digital form. Here are a few free Puritan books on my list to read: Precious Remedies for Satan’s Devices and All Things For Good by Thomas Watson, The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes, and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs.
12. Resolved to read everything with a discerning eye.
This resolution may seem obvious. My goal is to consider the question, “Is this in line with Scripture?” with everything I read, even with authors I am comfortable with. This helps base our beliefs on Scripture and not let our theological frameworks (which are helpful) influence our beliefs.
13. Resolved to read prayerfully.
Much like watching a movie or going to a game with others, reading books is a great way to share an experience with someone and learn things you couldn’t by reading alone. Why not read a book in conversation with God by reading prayerfully? I often pause for a time of prayer to thank God, ask for His guidance in my life, growth in character, or ask for wisdom in discerning a situation. This makes sense considering 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18’s desire for us to pray continually.
14. Resolved to read more with the future in mind.
Reading with the future in mind means taking notes in the margins, underlining sentences and paragraphs, and journaling personal applications of what I read. When I pick up a well-marked book that I read in the past, I am able to enter back into my experience reading the book and easily navigate to the most helpful parts. This makes rereading and quoting books in the future work easy and efficient.
15. Resolved to not make reading an idol.
According to Tim Keller, an idol is anything “more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” Books, like any other good gift from God, can become an idol if we’re not careful. The resolution to love God and others is so much more important than reading–which is why I resolve to put books down if I feel like they are absorbing my heart and mind more than my first duty as a Christian.
What resolutions do you have? What books are on your list?
Article originally posted January 2, 2015