Spiritual Growth Goals for 2017: Some SuggestionsAuthor: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Discipleship, Personal, Prayer, Spiritual Disciplines, Worship
We have turned the page of history from 2016 to 2017. We set resolutions, goals, for ourselves because in God’s grace we have a “new beginning.” Christians often have a stated desire to grow Spiritually and our annual new beginning is a good time to take stock to see how we are doing. So in this blog I want to recommend a few steps that will enable to partner with God’s Holy Spirit to work in our life.
I want to stress here at the beginning that these are not magical incantations. We humans do not “cause” Spiritual growth. Only God’s Spirit can do that. However we can surrender to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives and partner with the Spirit rather than resist what God is doing. Texts that emphasize God’s Spirit and our cooperation are Galatians 5.16-26 and 2 Peter 1.3-8.
“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness … For this very reason you must make every effort to support your faith with godliness … knowledge … self-control … endurance … mutual affection with love.”
Christian Spirituality is a response to divine grace. It will begin and end in grace else it simply degenerates into morbid self-righteous legalism. Our walk with the Spirit is simply a growing awareness of our debt to the Creating and Redeeming God who is revealed supremely in Jesus of Nazareth.
Over the years I have noticed some effective channels we can open in our lives to partner with the Holy Spirit. None of these are particularly revolutionary they simply are ways of removing Self so the Spirit continues to mold us into the image of God’s dear Son. I divide these paths into two groups: Textual and Praxis.
Textual Channels of the Spirit
- Commit to reading each of the Gospels beginning to end. Allow yourself to watch the beauty of the love of God spill onto the pages of history in the life of the Nazarene. Join the disciples in worship of Jesus, do not just read … worship. All four Gospels are easily read in a month by reading three chapters a day. I have reading plans for all four Gospels in a month or one Gospel per month for four months. If you would like to have one (with an accompanying Hebrew Bible lection) I will be glad to forward that to you. Read the Gospels. Worship the Lord.
- Commit to read the “Capital Books” of the Bible this year (if not the whole Bible). Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Amos, Jonah, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, James, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation.
- Memorize and Recite daily the “Jesus Creed” and the Lord’s Prayer. The Jesus Creed is found in Mark 12.28-31.
- Read 1 book about your religious heritage this year. This does three important things: a) it reminds us of our common humanity and need of divine grace and b) helps us see that God uses people just like ourselves to accomplish his mission and b) fuels gratitude on our part. I recommend one of the following works:
- Doug Foster & Gary Holloway, Renewing God’s People: A Concise History of Churches of Christ
- John Mark Hicks & Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding
- For more of challenge, Leroy Garrett, The Stone-Campbell Movement
- Read 1 book that challenges you to look at the world through the life of another ethnic group. I recommend one of my heroes, John Perkins new memoir Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win.
Praxis Channels of the Spirit
- Be involved, don’t just “show up,” in your local church. If there are Bible classes or small groups, commit to be in them. Commit to encourage the elders, the ministry staff, even the “janitor.” Give visible expressions of gratitude. Don’t recommend a book, buy a book (I have good lists). Pray for your local church daily. Give a gift card for Outback to the staff (including the “janitor”). Encourage Spiritual growth in all of them by telling them you see it in them. Not all ministers are married (like myself) but for those that have wives, DO NOT PLACE UNREASONABLE EXPECTATIONS ON THE WIVES AND CHILDREN OF MINISTERS (or the husbands of female ministers too!). Do not be a well meaning dragon in the church. The fastest way to bring change in your local church is to stop being a critic and be a positive source of energy by doing what you want to see. Memorize Ephesians 3.14-21 as the prayer for your local gathering. The pronouns are plural and note the words of v.18 … let the Spirit etch them on your heart. So pray for your congregation, love your local church with all your heart, support your local congregation. Amazing things will happen.
- Adopt a mission, even if your local congregation does not have one, as a family. Talk about this mission with your family, especially your children. Be a constant source of prayer and assistance to this mission. Take “family collections” to send funds. Buy books/dvds/etc that the mission could use.
- As a family, be involved in local service projects on a regular basis. Serve in the local soup kitchen. Pass out socks to the homeless in a downtown park.
- Become aware of the needs of God’s family in difficult places in the world. Places like Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, and Sudan have long histories of Christianity, find out about these believers. Pray for them. Share their stories of faith. Find ways you can support them. You will be blessed greatly.
- Commit to pray for and with your spouse daily. Pray that your heart will grow in love for your spouse daily. Make it part of your time with the Jesus Creed daily.
- Finally, cultivate the habit of wonder in yourself and your family. Take walks regularly (if not daily) and notice the beauty of the Creator. Notice flowers, butterflies, trees, grass, and birds. Take the family to a local planetarium and notice the grandeur of what God has wrought. Wonder fuels praise and a sense of our own dependence on our loving Abba.
Nothing on the list above is particularly difficult or time consuming. The real channel of allowing God’s Spirit to work in our transformation is simply making a priority out of what we say is important to us. I have found that cultivating these channels to be deeply enriching and productive of great family memories too. The great thing about theses is they do not simply deepen MY faith but they pass ON the faith to our children. In them we “seek first the kingdom of God.”
“May the Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face shine upon you
and give you peace” (Num 6.22f)
“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling,
and to make you stand without blemish in the
presence of his glory with rejoicing,
to the only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, power, and authority
before all time and now and forever.
Amen” (Jude 1.24-25)
Dear Lord help us to walk to the Rhythm of Grace and swim in the River of the Spirit.
You may find last years suggestions helpful too. See Grow in Grace & Knowledge of the Lord: Purposeful Discipleship in 2016