When I first became a Christian, I had no idea how to grow my faith or what action plans to take. At the time I was a teenager, and my Youth Pastor sat me down and asked me if I had a plan for growing spiritually in the next 12 months.
Each year in January, I started by writing out a plan to ensure I didn't end the year in the same place, spiritually, as I was when the year started. Year by year, we might not notice a lack of spiritual growth in our lives. But you'd be surprised how quickly ten years can pass without having memorized one verse of scripture, without confronting a habitual sin in your life, without having shared the gospel with an unbeliever, without having experienced a point in your walk with God that lit a fire under you and caused you to live differently.
Instead of making "new year's resolutions" each year, I sit down with God and ask, "How will I grow more in love with you this year?" By being intentional about setting goals to prioritize my relationship with God, I've found the result is that I am growing in my relationships with my family and friends, as well. Setting some spiritual goals for the following year also helps me ensure that there is fruit developing from my life each year, instead of being a sponge that continues to soak it all in but gives little out.
Here are some examples of a few of the spiritual goals that I've set through the years, many of which repeatedly stay on my list from year to year. Try a couple of these, and maybe even come up with some of your own, so that you are one year closer to Christ -- and to those you love -- by the time next January rolls around:
1. Meet with God before anyone else.
Do you have a plan, first thing in the morning, to meet with God before anyone else? It's one way of prioritizing Him above anything and anyone. It's also a way of making sure you're at your best, emotionally, by the time you start interacting with your friends, family neighbours, or co-workers.
2. Get into God's Word every day.
If you've owned a Bible for years but have never read the entire book, this is a great time to start. There are several good resources available to help you read through the Bible in a year. Ask yourself where you want to be in your relationship with the Lord by the end of the year, and then set tangible goals for getting there through study. For instance, if you want to know God better, consider a study of His names in the Old Testament and Jesus' "I am" statements in the New Testament. If you need to slow down and learn to listen for His voice, study all that the Word says about "rest" or "hearing" or his "voice." If there are character traits you know you need to work on, consider an in-depth study of some or all of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
3. Participate in a weekly small-group Bible study and Church.
Not out of obligation but out of a desire to worship in the Lord’s house and be encouraged. Of course, we don’t have to go to Church to be a good Christian, but getting a weekly dose of music, prayer, worship and fellowship is often just what we need to stay focused on Christ after a long, hard week, or before a challenging week ahead (Hebrews 10:25).
We can grow at a faster rate in community because we are able to share our experiences with one another and hold each other accountable. Find a small group study in your local church or be the catalyst to start one among friends or neighbours or even co-workers during your lunch hour.
4. Have a prayer journal.
Keep a "prayer journal" in which you record every blessing that comes your way throughout the year, adding a prayer of thanks or praise. In addition, write out your prayer requests and record the answers as they come. By writing out these types of things, you will not only be more keenly aware of how God is working in and around your life, but you will become a person who is able to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
5. Live out your faith.
This might sound like the hard part; yet, when we make the first five tips a priority in our lives, then living out our faith becomes a reality. A heart on fire for Christ transforms our inner thoughts and desires, and results in not only the desire to live out our faith, but the inspiration and motivation to do whatever it takes to do so. Living out our faith doesn’t mean never messing up; it just means we are better equipped to handle the times when we do. And not only do we benefit in wonderful, blessed ways as we live according to God’s instructions, but our lives can become a shining witness to his goodness and power, and other people might long to know him as well.
Make some of these action points a priority in your life the next year and hopefully, a year from now, you'll be not only another year older in your body, but another year older in your faith and walk with Christ.
How will you grow in your faith and walk with God this next year?