6 Habits That Will Lead You Towards Spiritual Growth
Every January 1st people tend to take time to look back at the year they have just finished, and look ahead to the one that is coming. It is a time to set personal goals for the future - things they want to achieve or change in the upcoming 12 months. Initially, the local gym and the grocery store health food aisle's are filled with those hoping to change their unhealthy habits and implement some new ones. And, as most of us are all too aware of, by the time February and March roll around many of these new habits have gone by the wayside as people fall back into the daily habits and routines they were accustomed too.
When we set new goals, we also need to establish new habits into our lives. Without making a change to our actions and our intent, we have not set goals, we have just identified wishes. Every new habit we set begins in the mind before it ever becomes an action. At some point of repetition a new habit becomes a consistent pattern in your day to day life. According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.
It takes a lot of effort to change an old habit and implement a new one. It can be especially hard when we don't see immediate results of change. Persistence and repetition are key ingredients - think about a toddler learning how to walk, the reason we call them toddlers is because they are so unsteady! If they gave up on the process of walking every time they fell, humans would never have become bipeds!
As we look at setting some goals for 2020 - it is a good idea to look beyond our desire to improve our health or finances, and think about where we would like to be in our spiritual maturity a year from now. There are certain Biblically based habits we can implement into our lives that will deepen and strengthen our spiritual maturity over time.
Here are 6 habits you can implement right now that will help you become more Spiritually mature in 2020.
Be in the Word:
John 15 talks about the need for us to remain (abide) in Christ. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5. One of the ways we remain close to God is by reading his Word. Just like we need to eat on a daily basis to have the energy to go about our day, we need to feed ourselves spiritual food daily to have the resources and the ability to fight the Spiritual battles that come up. We battle every day against our sinful nature, which is usually the direct opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-25)
There are many good Bible reading plans and apps you can use to help you be consistent in making this a daily habit. There are even those that will read it for you as you listen! Find something that works for you as a method to keep the Bible in your head daily, and you will be amazed at how the Living Word can change your life!
You Version Bible App
Bible Gateway App
Dwell Scripture Listening App
Be in Prayer:
Prayer is both a powerful element and a privilege of our relationship with God, and unfortunately, it is often the most underused tool we have available to us as children of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." God's will is that we should pray without ceasing... when sometimes we think we are doing good if pray before a meal.
We are also told in Philippians 4:6-7 "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." The Bible tells us that if we pray instead of worrying, we will experience God's peace.
Praying is a huge part of our relationship with God - it is our communication with Him. Even though he already knows everything about us, he still wants us to talk to him. Even Jesus modeled the example of prayer during his time here on earth.
Journaling your prayers is a great habit that will not only help you be consistent with prayer, it will also give you a great marker of when and where God answers or resolves the things you are praying about. There are many different types of journals available that would work for this, and there are even some great journaling apps that I will link below.
Be in Church:
We often refer to the fact that we don't GO to church, we ARE the church. But that doesn't mean we are called to have a 'it's just Jesus and me in the woods' mentality. While it is true that the church is not a building, it is the body of Christ, and God call us to come together as a body. There are many example in scripture of the early church coming together corporately to worship, take communion together, tithe, and listen to teaching.
Acts 20:7 NIV "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight."
Heb. 10:24-15 "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
Weekly services in your local church are a way to connect with and encourage other believers. It gives us an opportunity to serve in a ministry, to share the gifts and talents God has given us with his people. It gives us an opportunity to worship and praise God together as one body, to meet new people and help them get connected to God and others. It is a time to hear teaching from our leaders that we can take home with us and dig deeper into, either on our own or with a small group. Constantly attending services shows our children and others that may be watching that we choose to make time in our lives for the things that are important to God. Making weekly services a habit in our lives, over time, will help develop our spiritual depth and dedication.Be in Small Group:
If you have attended Real Life Ministries at all you will have heard the above phrase - because we do believe getting into a small group is not just important, it is vital to spiritual growth and discipleship. Over the three years of his ministry, Jesus spoke to many crowds and healed the masses, but he only made 12 disciples. Jesus, the greatest disciple maker who ever lived, chose relational discipleship as his method to disciple the men who would spread his teaching to the entire world. He modeled discipleship in a small group. There is something about being with the same people every week - getting to know them and their families. Helping each other through struggles and hard times, joy and celebration. Digging into the word together and discovering new truth, saying hard things to each other and asking for grace. Basically - living life alongside each other, being real and transparent. This is the stuff deep relationships are made of, and it is how God wants his children to grow strong together. If you develop a habit of meeting together with the same group of people every week, and begin walking alongside them through your life, you will find that true relationship with other believers can give you the support and accountability needed to change and grow in your love for God and for others. And that is a description of Spiritual Maturity.
Acts 2:44-46 "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."Be Generous
If you do not give a portion of your income to your local church, you are missing out on one of the biggest blessing and growth opportunities available to us as believers. God commands us to do this in the Old Testament, and the New Testament shows us it the practice was continued in the early Church.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work
Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Giving back to God teaches us to be thankful for all the blessings he has given us. It helps us remember that he is in charge of everything, and that we are simply stewards of his gifts. It is a tangible way to demonstrate that Jesus is not only our Savior, he is also the Lord of our lives. And God is more than able to take care of us when we give back. Set a goal of giving to your local church from every paycheck for 6 months and see what happens - this is the only thing God tells us to test him in!
Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it
Be in the World
Being in the world is something we can't usually avoid, but being a light in the world takes a little more intention. It turns out that we don't show Jesus to the world by being polite, listening to the right music, wearing a cross or having a church logo on our car. The truth is very simple, but not easy. We show it by loving each other.
Jesus said in John 13: 34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
There are two parts to this - there is the way we treat our fellow believers, and the way we treat those we encounter that are not believers. When the people far from God see us loving each other, through struggles and difficulty, with grace and forgiveness, they may see something they have not experienced anywhere in their life. And they will want to know where it comes from. At the same time, we have no idea what might grow from a tiny seed of kindness shown to a stranger.
So be involved in the world, smile and say hello to the grocery checker, go to your kids sports events and talk with the people in the stands. Take a walk in your neighborhood and check on the widow next door to see if she needs anything. Every day we walk or drive past lost people that God cares deeply for. And we may be the only glimpse of Jesus they see. We are God's ambassadors here on earth - trying to reconcile people back to him.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 "And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
So for this last habit - try to show a single act of kindness to someone everyday. Look at the people you interact with through God's eyes, and give them the same undeserved grace that God has given you. This includes people you have relationship with, family, co-workers, and strangers - the 'Love one another" command doesn't come with any exclusions!
So there you go - 6 simple habits that can move you towards spiritual growth in 2020. Don't forget - these are simple, but that doesn't mean they are easy ;-) Start out by choosing 1 or 2 to focus on in a month. Even what seems like a small amount of progress is good as long as you are heading in the right direction! Discipleship is life-long journey - but it is worth the trip -
You can download this 6 Habits graphic by clicking HERE