Hello, 2021! The beginning of a new year is a good time to take stock of where we are in our Christian walk. Where do we need to start? I challenge you to make five commitments that will help energize your spiritual life and set you in the right direction.
First, seek to put God first in all things. (see Matthew 6:33). Jesus spoke these words in the context of our anxiety about physical and material provision. Jesus commanded us not to worry, but to be people who trusted God and relied on God in all things. He said, “Look at the birds of the air (26).”
Do you worry too much? About finances? Family? Health issues? Jesus said that worry adds nothing to your life, but instead takes away from your life. Worry takes your focus off God and puts your focus on worldly concerns.
The cure for worry is to seek God first, to put God first and to keep Him first. Somebody or something is number one in your life. Who is it? What is it?
Putting God first is a deliberate, conscious decision that we make every day and even throughout the day. Start this new year by deciding now that you are going to live for God and give him first place in your life. Keep your eyes and focus on Him.
Stanley Jones tells of a missionary who got lost in an African jungle. There was nothing around him but bush. He finally found a national living nearby and asked him if he could get him out. The native was willing and said, “follow me.” So, they walked and hacked their way through the unmarked jungle. After an hour the missionary asked, “Are you sure this is the way? Where is the path?” The guide answered, “In this place there is no path. I am the path.”
God is our path into the unknown of a new year. Are you following Him?
Second, commit to read God’s Word daily (I Peter 2:2). God’s Word feeds our spiritual life just as a mother’s milk nourishes a newborn babe. We must feast on the nourishment of God’s Word every day. God speaks to us and guides us through his Word. How many of us take time to read God’s Word each day?
The Psalmist says God’s Word gives guidance to the perplexed (119:105), victory to the tempted (11), joy to the discouraged (14, 111, 162), encouragement to the hopeless (49), peace to the troubled (165), and new life to the defeated (25, 37, 40, 88).
Let me suggest five ways to get a good grip on God’s word: (1) Hear it taught and preached regularly. To sit under sound biblical preaching is a tremendous necessity for spiritual growth and to stay on track with our lives. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate, isn’t it? Our mind wanders. Do you realize you only remember about 15% of what your hear? Taking notes helps your listening tremendously and will also help you retain what you hear. Listen carefully for the text, title, key points.
(2) Read it. Someone said the Bible is the least read best-seller.” You need a plan. Use your YouVersion Bible app or find a reading plan online.
(3) Study the Bible. Be present to interact in a small group Bible study each week.
(4) Meditate on it (see I Timothy 4:15). Profiting means “to advance or grow.” Meditation helps us make progress. Let what you have heard or read rest in your mind; ponder it.
(5) Live it out. Put God’s word into practice.
When we get to know God’s Word better, then we get to know God better. We let Him into our everyday lives. Do you have a plan for reading God’s Word during 2021? How will you fill your life with God’s Word this year?
Third, seek to glorify God in all that you do. Warren Wiersbe writes “Growing Christians who open their lives to God’s Holy Spirit, seek to put God first, and fill their lives with God’s Holy Word will be guided to say and do those things that most bring honor and glory to God. There is a sort of spiritual intuition that develops that helps them make wise decisions. When our desire is to bring glory to God, then we don’t care who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory.”
I want my life marked by that spiritual intuition, don’t you?
When we glorify God, we are simply giving credit where credit is deserved. We are pointing a godless world to a Holy God. Through our lives, words, and deeds, we are exalting God.
When people look at your life, do they see you, or do they see God? William Denney wrote, “No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time.”
Fourth, give greater attention to prayer. A young pastor asked a wise, retired pastor, “What really builds a church?” The response? “The Word of God and prayer.” Acts 6:4, “The apostles devoted themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”
The old pastor continued, “You have to keep things balanced. If all you have in church is prayer and no Bible, you end up with lots of heat but no light, zeal without knowledge. But plenty of Bible without prayer gives you light without heat. You end up having a Bible school. It takes both the Word of God and prayer to make balanced Christians and to build a balanced church.”
We know that apart from God we can do nothing, as Jesus said in John 15:5. The person who neglects the Word of God and prayer is like the man in Jesus’ parable who builds his life on sand instead of the strong foundation. When the winds blow, and the rain falls and the flood waters rise, he’s in trouble.
We must pray like we’ve never prayed before. We must pray to unleash God’s power in the lives of people who need the Lord. We must start our day with prayer, but we also must stay in a spirit of prayer and spiritual sensitivity all day long. No believer can rise any higher than his or her prayer life, and no church can rise any higher than her prayer life.
Prayer is the oxygen that invigorates the body of Christ. Let’s raise our prayer lives a notch this year. Pray for one another. Pray for the lost. Pray that God will help us get beyond this virus. Where does prayer fit into your new year’s plans?
Five, attend church regularly. Thankfully, I strongly believe we’ll turn a corner in our fight against this virus early this year and folks can get back to church and school in person. Many so-called church health consultants are trying to prepare leadership not to expect everyone to come back. I understand human nature, but I don’t understand people not wanting to be in worship with God’s people, the body of Christ, on God’s day. Hebrews 10:25 commands “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as is the practice of some.”
Human nature says, “I can watch online, stay in my jammies, and ‘have church’ at home.” However, we miss a lot when we miss the togetherness, fellowship, and powerful dynamic of worshipping together in person. God designed us to need one another, not to fly solo.
I look forward to seeing you in your place on Sundays as we regather for worship. The world still does a number on us day after day, and we need to come together on Sundays for that shot of spiritual energy and encouragement that worshipping together brings.
(We also need to remember to start each day with personal worship, time alone with God).
Is there an area of spiritual slackness in your life that must be addressed if you are to progress this year? What is it? What are you going to do about it? What is your plan for growing in Christ this year?