Five Reasons to Read God’s Word This Year

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INTRODUCTION: Today is the last Sunday of the year and many of us are making our New Years’ resolutions – which means that in just a couple of weeks, many of us will be breaking our New Years’ resolutions! That’s why a lot of people have given up on New Year’s resolutions altogether. Why bother making them if you’re not going to keep them?

However, whether you make any New Years’ resolutions or not, one thing we should all be evaluating as we start the New Year is our Bible reading. How are you doing as far as reading and learning God’s word? Reading your Bible should not be a New Years’ resolution to keep or to break but rather a daily discipline and a life-long practice. And the New Year is as good a time as any to stop and evaluate how you are doing.

This morning I would like to share with you five good reasons why you should read God’s word this year. And then I will share some helpful resources to assist you in your Bible reading.

1. It will teach you God’s ways.

So, why should you read God’s word this year? First of all, reading God’s word will teach you God’s ways.

The Bible tells us that all of God’s ways are good and right. Proverbs 3 says, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom … Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.” (Proverbs 3:13,17) God’s ways are good ways. They are the ways of wisdom. You could easily paraphrase Proverbs 3 to say that “God’s ways are pleasant, and all God’s paths are paths of peace.” God’s ways are not only good and pleasant, they are also right. Revelation 15:3 says concerning God, “Just and true are your ways.” (Revelation 15:3) God is perfect in all that he does, and so his ways are good and perfect and true.

Not only are God’s ways good and right, but God commands you to walk in his ways. Deuteronomy 10: “What does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul?” (Deuteronomy 10:12) What does God require of you? That you serve him, that you love him, that you respect him and that you walk in all his ways.

Our problem is that we do not naturally know or follow God’s ways. God says in Isaiah 55: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8) We do not know or understand God’s ways on our own. The good news is that God does not leave us wandering in the dark on this, but he offers to teach us his ways. Psalm 25 says: “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.” (Psalm 25:8-10) God knew that we could not know or follow his ways on our own, and so he promises to teach us his ways. And how does God teach you his ways?

God teaches you his ways through his Word. Psalm 1 says: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2) So how do we learn God’s ways? By reading and meditating on God’s law and his words. You cannot know God and his ways apart from his Word. That would be like trying to get to know your neighbor without ever talking to him or her. We must read God’s word to know his ways.

And it is something that we need to do every day. I love these words from Proverbs 8 speaking of the wisdom found in God’s word: “Blessed are those who keep my ways … Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD.” (Proverbs 8:32-35) God wants to teach you his ways, but you need to read his Word daily if you are going to learn. What a great image – listening attentively, watching daily at God’s doors, just waiting for him to speak to you through his Word. So that’s the first reason you should read God’s word this year. It will teach you God’s ways.

2. It will guide you in God’s paths.

A second reason why you should read God’s word this year is because it will guide you in God’s paths. Isaiah 2:3 says: “He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:3) The two are connected. The whole reason why God wants to teach you his ways is so that you may walk in his paths. It doesn’t do you any good to learn God’s ways unless you then walk it out. If you are going on a trip, why study the map if you’re not going to use it? God’s word will not only teach you God’s ways; it will also guide you in God’s paths.

How does God’s Word do this? Three ways. It shows you the right place to go. Then it shows you the best way to get there. And thirdly, it helps you walk closely with God all the way.

First of all, God’s word shows you the right place to go. When you open up a map, there are thousands of possible destinations. In life there are also thousands of possible destinations. Where are you headed in life? Are you on the right road? How do you know? Some people say it doesn’t matter what road you are on, but the Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25) Not all roads lead to good places. Are you even heading for the right destination in life? You should at least stop and ask yourself the question.

This is exactly what God tells us to do in Jeremiah 6: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) Jesus later said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) So what is the good way? Jesus is the good way. You need to follow Jesus. You need to trust in Jesus. You need to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life. Perhaps you are standing at the crossroads this morning, wondering where is the good way. Then look to Jesus on the cross. Look to Jesus who died for you so that God could give you life. That is the good way. Walk in it, and you will find rest for your soul.

God’s word not only shows you the right place to go. It also shows you the best way to get there. We read in Psalm 119: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Once we are on the right path, God’s word lights the way ahead for us. God says in Isaiah 48: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17) How does God do that? Through his Word. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) As you seek God in his word instead of leaning on your own understanding, God will light the path ahead of you, and he will make your paths straight.

God’s word also helps you walk closely with God all the way. When you look to God for guidance through his word, you not only get the best guidebook in the world, you also get the very best guide himself. God says in Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) God himself becomes your guide through his word. God himself counsels you through his Holy Spirit. Jesus is the good shepherd who guides and takes care of his sheep. You are probably familiar with the opening words of Psalm 23 where the Lord is described as a shepherd who personally leads and guides his sheep: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3)

3. It will strengthen you for your tasks.

Why read God’s word this year? God’s word will teach you God’s ways, it will guide you in God’s paths, and thirdly, it will strengthen you for your tasks. God created you for good works. You are not saved by good works. You are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. But once you come to Christ, God has tasks for you. He has good works for you to perform.

All that you do, you should do for God’s glory. If you are a student, then you should study hard for God’s glory. If you are a parent, you should raise your children to the glory of God. If you work, you should do your work for God’s glory. If you serve in the church or in some form of ministry, you should minister and serve for the glory of God. Where will you get the strength to do all this? Reading God’s word will strengthen you for your tasks in several ways.

First of all, the Bible tells us that God’s word equips you for every good work. We read in 2 Timothy 3: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) How does God equip you for your tasks? Through the Scriptures. All Scripture comes from God so that you may be fully equipped for everything that God calls you to do.

I love King David’s description of this in Psalm 18. He begins by speaking of God’s word and God’s way and then goes on to speak of how God equipped him for his tasks “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.” (Psalm 18:30-36) David was strengthened and equipped for his tasks through God’s perfect and flawless word.

God’s word also strengthens you for your tasks by nourishing you. God’s word is often compared to food in Scripture, because it nourishes us spiritually, even as physical food nourishes us physically. When Jesus fasted in the desert for forty days and then the tempter came to him telling him to turn the stones into bread, Jesus answered him by saying, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Jesus found strength and nourishment from the reading of God’s word.

One of the things about food – last week’s food doesn’t help you a whole lot this week, does it? Food is one of those things that you need to eat every day in order to nourish your body. It is the same way with God’s word. Job said: “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” (Job 23:12) You must feed on God’s word daily if you want to nourish yourself spiritually.

God’s word also strengthens you for your tasks by giving you the wisdom you need to succeed. Proverbs 24 says: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.” (Proverbs 24:3-6)

The Bible is chock full of practical wisdom and guidance to help you make wise and right decisions in all areas of life – whether business or relationships or finances or parenting. That is why God told Joshua: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8) You will always be better off when you follow God’s ways instead of man’s ways.

4. It will comfort you in your sorrows.

A fourth reason why you should read your Bible this year is this: it will comfort you in your sorrows. I don’t know what the next year holds for you. I hope that it will be a great year. But, if you are like most people, and if next is like most years, then you will most likely experience a mixture of both the good and the bad in the coming year How will you handle the tough times? Reading God’s word will comfort you in several ways.

Romans 15:4 says: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Did you catch that? The Scriptures were written not only to teach us about God, but also for your encouragement and your hope. When you read the Bible, you are reading about real people and their real experience of the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

So when you read about God delivering the Israelites from Egypt, you are not just reading about history. He is the same God who delivers you today. When you read about God hearing Hannah as she poured out her heart in prayer, you are not just reading about someone else’s experience. He is the same God who listens to your prayers today. When you read about God giving David victory over Goliath, you are not just reading about a battle in some distant past. He is the same God who gives you strength for your tasks today. “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Reading God’s word will comfort you in your sorrows also because the gospel is good news for the poor and brokenhearted. Jesus preached his first message in the synagogue from this passage in Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Jesus read the passage, and then he gave the application. Do you know what the application was? “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) Christ has come and brought us salvation! That is good news! He has come to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and to comfort all who mourn. The gospel is good news that will bring you comfort in times of sorrow.

And then finally, reading God’s word will comfort you in your sorrows because God’s promises preserve your life. Listen to these words from Psalm 119: “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word … My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law. I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them.” (Psalm 119:28,49-52)

The psalmist was suffering and was weary with sorrow. But when he remembered God’s word and God’s law he found comfort. Why? Because God’s promise preserved his life. When you read the Bible, you will find many great and precious promises from God that will give you comfort and strength during the hard times. God has never broken a promise, and he never will. You will find much comfort from God’s promises in Scripture during times of trouble.

5. It will protect you from harm.

And then finally, the fifth reason why you should read your Bible in the New Year is this: it will protect you from harm.

There are good paths and bad paths in life. The Bible was written not only to show you the right way, but also to keep you from going down the wrong way. God’s word guards against wrong paths. Listen to these words from Proverbs 2: “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding … he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones … Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men.” (Proverbs 2:6-12) Think about it. How many bad decisions in life could God have protected you from if you had only read and followed God’s word?

God’s word helps you fight against temptation. Psalm 119:9,11 says: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word … I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9,11) When Paul encouraged Christians to put on the full armor of God he said, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) The Bible is your offensive weapon against the attack of the enemy. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, how did he fight back? He used the sword of the Spirit. He quoted Scripture again and again.

Finally, reading God’s word will protect you from harm because God sanctifies you by the truth of his word. When Jesus prayed for his disciples before going to the cross, among other things he prayed for their protection: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15-17)

If you are a follower of Jesus, you no longer belong to this world. Yet Jesus’ prayer was not that God take you out of the world, but that he protect you while you are in it. And how does that protection take place? Through the word of God. God sanctifies you or sets you apart from the world and its evils by the truth that is his word. Nothing can truly harm you when you are following God’s word. Even if you should lose your life for Christ, you will still find victory in God’s presence in heaven.

So why read God’s word in the New Year? Reading God’s word will teach you God’s ways; it will guide you in God’s paths; it will strengthen you for your tasks; it will comfort you in your sorrows; it will protect you from harm. Let’s face it. You and I cannot afford not to read God’s word this year!

CONCLUSION: If you have already developed the discipline of daily Bible reading and you have a plan that works well for you, praise God! Stick with what you’re doing. But if this is an area where you need to grow or if you are looking for something different this year, I have assembled some resources to help you in your reading of God’s word.

There are some Bible reading plans available in the foyer, and there is a web link at the bottom of your sermon outline where you will find a number of Bible reading helps. (rayfowler.org/resources/bible-reading-helps/At the link you will find a variety of Bible reading plans to choose from as well as some great books that will guide you through reading the whole Bible. And if you’re a parent or grandparent, you will also find some Bible story books for you to use with your children.

I encourage you to check out these various resources and to find the plan that is just right for you. Even 5-10 minutes in God’s word at the start of each day will make such a difference in your life in the New Year.

© Ray Fowler

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