People commonly make goals about health, finances, and career growth for the New Year. However, an area that is often neglected is spiritual growth. If we were more intentional about our relationship with Christ, we would see more Christians growing and impacting the people around them.
Although God produces spiritual fruit in us, we have a part in the ongoing process of our discipleship. Growing in godliness involves discipline (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
We cannot expect to grow in Jesus if we are not spending time with Him and not cultivating Christlikeness in our lives. The following five points are ways to invest in your spiritual growth this year.
1. Go Deeper in Your Bible Study
Most Christians know they should read God’s Word. However, for those of us who do consistently read the Bible, we can easily fall into the routine of passively reading pages.
While reading the Bible in a year is a great plan to help get people acquainted with God’s Word, believers who are seeking to grow need to go deeper in their study of the Bible.
To see spiritual growth, we must allow God’s Word to seep into our hearts, not just gain head knowledge. One way to intentionally focus on Scripture is to practice biblical meditation, which is where we think deeply about a passage or verse.
Mulling over a verse includes thinking about it regularly or “day and night” (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-2). Oftentimes, memorization goes along with biblical meditation since we can think more deeply about a verse as we learn it word by word.
When we meditate and memorize Scripture, we can better follow God and protect ourselves against the temptation of sin (Psalm 119:11).
Another way to go deeper in Bible study is to think about how you will apply Scripture in your life. It is wise to remember the instruction from James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Therefore, when you are reading and meditating on Scripture, ask yourself how you can obey God’s Word and live out what He says. Brainstorm and jot down ideas of how you can apply the Bible to your life that day or week.
2. Freshen Your Prayer Life
Like Bible reading, believers also know that praying is essential to the Christian life. The problem is that we often allow worries and requests to crowd our prayers.
I know I often pray for the safety of my loved ones or about a problem in my life. Years ago, when I stopped and evaluated my prayer life, I realized it was me-focused rather than God-focused.
While we should tell God about our worries and concerns, we also need to take time to praise and thank Him. As our Creator and Savior, the Lord deserves our worship and gratitude.
Our prayer should mirror David’s: “With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever” (Psalm 86:12, NLT).
Before we even think about our problems or requests, we need to pause and focus our attention on God. What is one thing you can thank Him for? How can you offer Him praise in your prayer?
Just as praising God in our prayers can help us grow spiritually, committing to pray for the lost will transform our hearts. All people need the saving grace of Jesus because all have sinned (Romans 3:23).
We can regularly choose to pray for an unbelieving loved one or friend. Interceding on behalf of our community or deliberately praying for an unreached people group are other important ways to pray for the lost.
The more we orient our hearts toward God and what He is passionate about, the more we will find ourselves changed. Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
As we pray and ask Him to work in the lives of those who are in spiritual darkness, we will find ourselves and others increasingly impacted. God could even use the act of praying to motivate us to share the good news with those individuals.
3. Read a Spiritual Classic or Missionary Biography
A wonderful way to grow in godliness is to read a spiritual classic or a missionary biography. Believers who have gone before us often leave us with insights and emboldening examples of faith. By “walking” with them as we read about their lives, we gain wisdom (Proverbs 13:20).
I have found that spiritual classics urge me toward a closer relationship with God and stronger faith during painful seasons of life.
For example, when I read A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller, I was reminded that God is present even in the darkest times. He does not leave us in the valley of the shadow of death but is walking with us, helping us grow (Psalm 23:4).
Spiritual classics that Christians have found enriching throughout the years include My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer, and Confessions by Augustine.
In looking for other spiritual classics, do not exclude more recent books such as Desiring God by John Piper or Radical by David Platt. These also offer significant insights to consider in your walk with Christ.
In addition to spiritual classics, missionary biographies are great resources that spur spiritual growth. Reading about how others actively took the gospel to the nations of the world can inspire us to live more obediently and tell others about Christ.
Furthermore, learning how missionaries reacted to hardships and suffering can also encourage us in times of difficulty, reminding us to remain steadfast in hope and faith.
To start, you may want to consider A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot and Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime by Janet Benge and Geoff Benge.
Autobiographies by missionaries are also inspiring choices, such as The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, edited by Jonathan Edwards, and Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis Majors. You may be surprised at the relevant lessons you take away from reading about their lives.
4. Find an Outlet to Serve Others
We can easily fall into passivity regarding our Christian walk. When we go to church, we may expect others to serve us, such as the pastor or Sunday School leader. However, Jesus taught us another way. He came to serve us by giving His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
During the Last Supper, He gave the disciples an example of servanthood when He washed their feet (John 13:1-17). As He said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). If we want to be like Him, then we must begin to cultivate the heart and attitude of a servant.
In thinking about how to apply this in your own life, consider the areas where you could serve others. Is there an area in your church that needs help?
How can you use your passions or skills to bless others around you in the name of Christ? Even narrowing your search to your own neighborhood could yield multiple opportunities to serve others.
5. Share the Gospel
Just as reading the Bible and praying can help us grow, actively sharing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection increases our growth as disciples.
Often, we will feel uncomfortable or fearful sharing our faith with others. The very act of telling the gospel to others, though, pulls us out of our comfort zones, which is what following Jesus involves (Matthew 16:24).
One way to share the gospel is to tell others your testimony (how Jesus saved you). While there are many methods that some Christians advocate using, telling others your testimony invites a personal discussion that avoids making you and the other person feel as if you are making a sales pitch.
People are more drawn to the gospel when they can tell that you care about them as a person, not an evangelism project. As we develop a stronger desire to make Jesus known, then we will know that we are growing in love both for God and others (Mark 12:30-31).
Why Does This Matter?
When a new year comes, people often make goals for different areas of their lives. One area that is commonly neglected, but has value for the present and eternity, is our spiritual lives.
To grow, we must nourish our relationship with Christ by spending time with Him and obeying what He says. This year, instead of obsessing about weight or wealth, invest in spiritual growth and become a stronger follower of Jesus.
For further reading:
How Is Spiritual Growth Like Gardening?
How Can I Identify My Spiritual Gifts?
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Akil Mazumder
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.