I like to plan. Do you? I like to write out my goals, figure out my action steps, check them off one by one, and track my monthly progress towards achieving my goal. I like achieving. I like seeing end results. I am not so patient with the process.
The trouble is, when we ask God to teach us and refine us, it's often about the process. Since Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, will grow our faith until the day we die, there's not much looking for an end result. Sure, it's great to look back and say, "God taught me to trust Him this year." "God has helped me overcome insecurities." However, I think we all realize that the struggle against sin won't ever fully end on this side of heaven. Instead, God gives us tools for our toolbox to help us continually overcome sin and temptation.
God Teaches Us
Notice that I am not using phrases like "I learned to overcome my insecurities," but rather "God taught me to overcome my insecurities," because when we set "spiritual goals", it is not about us determining to achieve greater faith. Instead, God teaches us to love Him more purely. We might decide on action steps on our behalf, such as studying Scripture, reading books on a certain topic, or speaking with a trusted friend/mentor about this truth we would like to learn. However, I will argue that the most important thing we can do to grow our faith in 2017, is to open our hearts to learn from God and to listen to the Holy Spirit teaching us.
Last week, I told you all about what God taught me this year. To summarize, it was to take responsibility for my actions and then to trust Him for everything else. I think this lesson applies here as well. There may be some healthy habits we can put in place, such as a regular time of prayer and Scripture reading. We can't expect to grow in our faith in God if we never talk to Him or learn from His Word.
Base Your Goals on Scripture and Bathe Them in Prayer
Whatever spiritual growth you desire, you should bathe it in prayer and base it on Scripture. Regular prayer and Bible study habits help us focus on God. Truly learning how to study the Bible and what it's ultimately about is foundational in growing our faith. It helps us discern truth from lies. It allows God to speak rather than our human minds. It keeps our beliefs based on truth and focused on Christ.
Whether reading the Bible is already a habit of yours or not, you can learn how to study the Bible well. In addition, getting an overview of its message and storyline will help you place and more accurately interpret any passage. If you are not yet confident that you can independently study the Bible, I highly recommend the "Scripture Confident through the Old Testament" series. It will teach you all I described above and more. You will learn how to make important observations about your Bible passages before interpreting and then applying what you studied. It is the foundation for anyone serious about studying the Bible. I urge you not to rely on others to study the Bible for you, but to learn how to do so on your own as a good steward of God's Word. Click here or on the banner below to find out more.
Not there yet? Let me send you a FREE guide, "10 Steps to Approaching the Bible with Confidence." Just tell me where to send it, or click here for more details.
Even better, invite a friend to study the Bible with you. Studying Scripture is so much richer when done in community. Click here to find out how to study how to start a virtual study group.
I bring this up because it's important to accurately base our goal on Scripture. Too many Christians decide, this is the year they will believe in themselves or make much of themselves, while God calls us to believe in Him and make much of Him. As learning how to study Scripture to discern truth from lie takes a little time, if you are unsure if your goals are biblical, I encourage you to turn to a pastor or trusted Christian mentor for guidance.
Listen to the Holy Spirit
With studying Scripture and regular prayer in place and your heart ready to listen to God, you are just where you need to be to learn from the Holy Spirit. I believe that God invites us to ask Him for growth in a certain area of our lives. Ultimately, of course, it is God who decides what to teach you and how to teach you. However, remember that God is our loving Father. He tells us that He loves us much more than the sparrow, whom He provides with food and shelter (Matthew 10:31). Why would He turn down us, His beloved children? And why would He turn us down when we ask Him for a lesson that will grow our faith?
So how do we tune our hearts to listen to God? Let's take the example of anxiety. What if you asked God to teach you to be less anxious and trust Him instead? When you feel those anxious thoughts rising up, bring them before the Lord in prayer, then practice being silent before Him and attentive to what He might want to teach you. Take some time to be still and listen inwardly. It might feel awkward at first, and you might question yourself or have a hard time stopping your thoughts, but this is a great practice and will help you to be a better listener to the Holy Spirit and hear what He has to say to you. Sometimes, He will impress a thought on you right there while you are listening. Other times, another piece of the puzzle might come when you least expect it. The truth is that we cannot orchestrate the types of lessons with which the Holy Spirit blesses us. He is the best Teacher, and to be His student is a great privilege.
Keep Track of What You Are Learning
I encourage you to either journal, that is write down, the experiences and lessons the Holy Spirit teaches you, or if you are not one for journaling - it’s OK, neither am I - site down once a month and write a quick summary of what God has taught you. At the end of the year, you will look back and marvel at how far God has brought you, how you have grown in your faith, and learned step-by-step. God never gives us more than we can handle. And that often means that He feeds us bite-size lessons that are just right for us. He never overwhelms us or hits over the head with the truth. Instead, He is a gentle and clear teacher. He does not leave us second-guessing but leads us to the truth. What a great God we serve!
I’d love for you to share below what you are asking God to teach you this year. I would love to pray for you and rejoice in your submission to God’s teaching and your listening ear, which are both pleasing to God.
This year, I am asking God to teach me to be calm and patient instead of stressed and on-edge. I can’t wait to see how He will change my heart, my relationship with Him and even my family. How about you?