Essential Activities of a Growing Christian
‘Be practical with me preacher what should I be doing to grow spiritually?’ This type of question is asked a lot to us preachers, especially after a sermon that is not presented too well and maybe a little too abstract. It is no surprise to us that we have to tend to our spiritual lives if we want to grow. It is 104 degrees out there today, so I was up early getting water on my lawn, since my assigned watering day is Thursday. If I want to keep the lawn from dying I have to keep water on it. If we want to keep our spiritual lives vibrant, our openness to God’s work in our lives, we have to do some spiritual activities. The late Dallas Willard once said that grace is not opposed to effort...it is opposed to earning. We can’t earn God’s love and grace, we can through our effort open our lives up to experience God’s love and grace.
Enough with the talk let’s get practical. In my view there are four essential activities that we have to be engaged in consistently to grow. These are ‘foundational’ activities that will lead us to other actions, activities that we do outside of church, but if these four things are not happening in our lives we have little chance to grow and develop in our relationship with God.
Activity # 1 Read the Bible – I would suggest doing two things, reading progressively through the entire bible in a year and using a couple Psalms each day to form your prayer life. There are several on-line bible resources that divide the Scripture into an Old Testament and a New Testament reading each day. Taking sections in small chunks gives time to ask questions and think about what is going on. Reading sequentially through books of the Bible helps to see the meaning of the entire book in context not just individual passages. I use an online program linked to a study Bible so if I have a question I can look at the commentary right alongside my daily reading. The online program tracks my progress and you can even have the readings emailed to you each day if you wish. Reading the Bible daily is an essential activity of a growing Christian.
Activity #2 Pray – prayer takes a lot of forms and the only way to get good at prayer is to pray. Prayer is not just taking a list of needs to God, although a prayer list is a great idea. Prayer also involves being silent before God, reciting scripture to God, reciting written prayers from other people, and writing out your prayers in a journal. Any communication with God is prayer. The key is to pray each day. I use all of the above methods to pray and find variety helps. (I find the Psalms are key to learning how to pray as they have been the churches prayer book for thousands of years. Take a psalm and read it as a prayer to God, stopping silently when you encounter a grand verse, reading out loud when you notice a direct response or request. If you want to learn to pray, the Psalms are the best instructors).
Activity #3 Have a Top 5 list. Make a list of 5 people you believe to be far from God and ask God to show them salvation. Ask God to bless their lives so they would open their hearts to God’s goodness. This one practice is the gateway to serving others and being outward focused. It is very hard to ask God to bless someone and then not look for ways to be a part of that process. It may be that you never even speak about God to your Top 5 list, but I have found this to be key to my spiritual growth.
Activity #4 Give financially. This is easy for some and extremely difficult for others. When we give our money to God (I encourage through the local church), we are saying we trust God more than our finances. This is a huge statement and an incredibly powerful tool for spiritual growth. I never give to ‘earn God’s blessing’ I give because I am responding in faith to God’s promise of goodness toward me. I am making a statement against the culture that says God is real. Financial generosity is important because it proves our belief in God, not to others but to our self and our family.
I realize that there are other ways to grow spiritually; I just wanted to touch on the four that are foundational. If you have questions or need some ‘coaching’ as you engage in these activities I would love to visit with you. Let me know how you are progressing and know I am praying for you as you seek to deepen your relationship with God.