How do you plan to grow, spiritually, in the next 12 months?
I had to start asking myself that every January to ensure that 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 more 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.
I guess what I'm saying is that spiritual complacency isn't ever an intention, but too often it can creep into our lives unnoticed -- a tragic consequence of failing to be intentional in our spiritual growth.
Instead of making "new year's resolutions" each year, I sit down with God and set some spiritual goals for the next year to ensure that during the time I am aging another year, physically, I will also be aging another year, spiritually. I want to make sure, also, that there is fruit developing from my life instead of being a sponge that continues to soak it all in, but gives little out.
Here are some examples of 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 more effective for His kingdom -- by the time next January rolls around:
1. Read through the Bible in a year. There are several good resources available to help you do this. If you've already done it, do it again, but in a different translation. (Even better, team up with a friend to do this with you and hold each other accountable).
2. Choose a book of the Bible to study. The next step after simply reading the Bible is to study it, go beneath the surface, uncover the truths, principles and insights in Scripture. You may want to study one book of the Bible each quarter...or one for the entire year. Try picking up the New Inductive Study Bible which actually teaches you how to study the Bible on your own. Make sure you regularly share with others what you are learning.
3. Study a topic that will help you grow. 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. For instance, if you want to know Him 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 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).
4. Participate in a weekly small group Bible study or lead one among your friends, neighbors, or co-workers. 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.
5. Read three books to deepen your devotional life. Set a goal to read a book every month, every three months, or whatever is realistic for you. Also consider reading books that will challenge and convict you...that's where the growth comes.
6. Start a weekly prayer group with others who share similar concerns on your heart. (For example, praying with other moms for your children, praying with other wives for unsaved spouses, praying during your lunch hour with co-workers, or praying with friends or church members for a specific burden God has placed on your heart.)
7. Start a journal to record your growth. Start journaling your thoughts as you read the Word. How did a certain passage compel you to pray? What changes are you asking God to make in your life? What discoveries have you made about His character or His Word? Date each page. By the end of the year, you'll have a record of where God took you and what He has shown you through the past 12 months.
8. Record your blessings and answered prayers. Keep a "blessing book" 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 be able to see your progress in becoming one who does "everything without complaining or arguing" (Philippians 2:14) and a person who gives thanks "in all circumstances" (First Thessalonians 5:18).
9. Disciple a young believer. We learn the most when we teach it to others. And seeing them grasp truth for the first time gives it a fresh impact on our lives as well. Pick up the One-to-One Discipleship manual from Multiplication Ministries and take a young believer through the adventure of living the Christ-directed life.
10. Pick a 'theme verse' for the year. Say it aloud every day. I guarantee if you do this, by the end of the year -- and probably a lot sooner -- you will have memorized that verse. And that's one more verse in the Word of God that you will have memorized during your lifetime. Choose from Psalm 90:12, Psalm 119:32, Psalm 119:133, Galatians 5:16, Philippians 1:27, Philippians 4:6-7, or find one of your own.
Make some of these action points priority in your life this next year and hopefully, by the end of 2012, you'll be not only another year old in your body, but another year older in your faith and walk with Christ. That's my goal for the year. How about you?
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of several books including When Women Walk Alone, Women on the Edge, and Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs. For free resources on how to start your year right and grow spiritually, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com