I used to hate the month of January. I’m not a fan of cold weather, so I would say that January and February are the worst two months of the year. If I can just get to March, then I’ll be happy again, I told myself. I think the post-holiday blues had something to do with this as well. But something changed in my thinking in the last few years. Suddenly, I began to have a different perspective. Instead of seeing January as a month to dread because of the cold, I began to love January because it signifies a new beginning and the perfect time to make goals and personal life adjustments. I encourage you to consider doing the same with your spiritual life. In other words, decide now what changes you need to make to grow spiritually in 2021 and what that will look like.
How? Here are some areas to consider:
1. Bible reading. Although the Bible preached and read on Sunday is an essential part of the worship gathering, it’s not enough to sustain you throughout your week. Relying on the Sunday sermon to spiritually feed you all week is like relying on breakfast to sustain you throughout the entire day – it’s not enough. For 2021, I encourage you to consider an actionable game plan to ensure that you’ll read God’s Word regularly. This could be using a Bible reading plan, or picking one book of the Bible, and spending several months studying it, along with study Bibles and commentaries.
2.Prayer. If Bible reading is like food, then prayer is like water, and we all know we need water to survive (a common metaphor when speaking of the importance of the Word and prayer). I’m surprised to meet so many Christians who regularly go many days without praying. Praying before meals and silently here and there is good, but a more vibrant prayer life is needed for continual spiritual growth. We need regular times to pray, in a private room, where we can (1) praise/adore God for his character; (2) confess sin; (3) thank God for his blessings; (4) and ask God for our desires. I’ve found it helpful to pray using index cards, and others have found help through an app called PrayerMate.
3. Church attendance. I 100% understand that many of us will stay home to practice safety. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your home, please don’t feel compelled to leave. But many churches have made significant upgrades to their technology system since Covid, and I encourage you to block your schedule on Sunday mornings to gather with God’s people either in-person or digitally.
4. Reading Christian books. One of the primary ways I grow as a Christian is through reading Christian books. I would be a million miles further behind if it weren’t for the writings of men and women who build my faith. I understand that some of us are more inclined to read than others, but I do think every Christian should have some level of eagerness to grow in their knowledge of God. Schedule time in your day (even just 10-15 minutes per day is good) to read more good books.
5. Focusing on one particular besetting sin. John Owen once told us to “be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” Instead of focusing on all of your sins in a cumulative effort (we can’t even begin to know half of all the ways we sin!) consider one, and ask God to help you kill this sin. For example, if you struggle with unrighteous anger, read a book on the subject, consider seeing a counselor, and tell other Christian friends, pray, and see what happens. I offer zero easy and cookie-cutter solutions, but certainly grace-driven effort in conjunction with the power of the Holy Spirit will help you make at least some improvements.
A guy at the gym was wearing a shirt that read, “Better Than Yesterday.” I really like that phrase. Me, I’m a polished tinkerer (I also love that phrase) and I am eager to improve in all areas of life, and sometimes this means adjustments. We may not all see eye-to-eye on the enthusiasm with which we need to improve and in what areas, but I hope we can all agree that our spiritual lives are the most important thing about us. I’m a work in progress, and so are you. We may not be where we want to be, but by God’s grace, may we be heading in the right direction.
Kevin DeYoung writes, “I should hasten to add that measuring your progress in the pursuit of holiness is easier said than done. For starters, you shouldn’t take your spiritual temperature every day. You need to look for progress over months and years, not by minutes and hours.”
May we seek to be godlier in 2021 than we were in 2020.
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