At the group home that I work at, there is a young man who is very kind and considerate, however, like the rest of us sometimes expects results without putting the full amount of effort in. For example, this man (let’s call him Chris) is slightly overweight. As a result he will tell the rest of us, “I want to lose my weight”, but yet we still see him eating cookies and candies every chance he gets. When we challenge him on his choices encouraging him that he has told us he wants to lose weight and that in order to lose weight he will need to cut back on sugars and sweets he challenges back that it is no longer what he wants to do. Sometimes he will throw his hands up in resignation and say “I can’t do it!”
Chris embodies what the majority of us go through on a daily basis. Losing weight is one of the top ten New Year’s resolutions each year and while some succeed at it, many do not. There’s a sense of entitlement in our culture that we should be willing to get and achieve anything we want even without having to put hard work and effort into it.
I’ve been down this path before several times myself. I start cutting back on calories and exercising more often only to be invited out for a dinner. I tell myself I am going to cheat on the diet just this once but before you know it I have been out to McDonald’s twice that week. I eat healthy during the day but then at night am invited to a staff hangout and end up stuffing my face with chips and chocolate.
It is the same in our spiritual lives. Sometimes I expect to see great gains even without giving God a lot of time. To be honest, despite being a seminary student and a lover of all things theological, I do not always find the Bible the most interesting read available. Sure I love some of the Gospel, Epistle, and Old Testament story sections, but there are also lots of times when I am tempted to pick up a novel or something more-fast paced instead. There is a viewpoint that as Christians the Bible should be our absolute favourite book, but is it always the case? I read my Bible daily, but I often need to convince myself to read it whereas other books I just can’t seem to put down.
I think part of the problem we face is that we need to learn how to make our goals accessible to us. We need the commitment to follow through and to keep at it. When I first started trying to eat healthy I was in a competition with a friend. As long as I thought she was in the competition I kept losing weight because I am a very competitive person. However, the moment it came out she was cheating on the competition and simply didn’t care I gave up and for about a month gained all the weight back I had previously lost.
Sometimes as Christians we may have to be lone rangers. We may be asked to do something that not a lot of others will understand. When you’re in school you may be one of the few Christians in your circle of friends and may find it a real challenge to keep reading the Bible when others aren’t doing it.
At the same time, Christ has called us to live out our goals in community. Being part of a solid Bible-believing church and trying to make friends who are also Christian can help with this. As can even making the occasional non-Christian friend but someone who is deeply devouted to their religion. I’m telling you, seeing a devout Muslim or Sikh always challenges me to become a better Christian.
If you find Bible reading hard, don’t beat yourself up about it. There are plenty of resources available both in store and online which can make the Bible more easily understandable, accessible, and more lively. One tool that I have found very helpful is Bible Gateway’s website: https://www.biblegateway.com/. On this website you can access a variety of different Bible translations including ones in different languages. For a new English learner I would recommend a Bible such as the Easy To Read version or the New Century Version. For a youth group I would perhaps recommend The Message (despite my initial distrust of such a translation, the more I interact with it the more I see it not as the best scholarly authoritative truth but as a great supplement for a young adult crowd nonetheless). For people who have long commutes or who have difficulty reading in the first place (or simply don’t like to read) I recommend an audio Bible. I recently discovered Bible Gateway’s dramatized Bibles read by a variety of different voices and often with some pretty cool sound effects: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/. For people who are always on the go and don’t have room in their purse or bag for a Bible, I would recommend using Bible Gateway’s mobile app which is easily transportable, pocket-sized and accessible through Android, iPad, iPhone, and Kindle Fire.
When it comes to losing weight or reading the Bible it is hard work and might not come easily, but before you tell yourself “I can’t do it” and give up, I encourage you to use the resources that are available to you – supportive family and friends, Bible Gateway, and perhaps a buddy who is just as serious as you are about keeping the goal. After all, when it really comes down to it, initially starting will be hard, but the pay-off will be far greater.