The New Year is right around the corner. Many people are wrapping up this year and preparing for the next. Annual goals are being established. Personal resolutions are starting to percolate. People are hoping for a better year in 2022.
Among the dreams of many, a greater commitment to their faith is among the top. People want to be a better Christian. They want to grow in their spirituality.
To be successful in reaching their dreams of a stronger discipleship, people will need to have a proper mindset. Without “renewing” their mind, seeing their visions become real will be difficult.
Follow the six guidelines below and your chances of success are greatly increased.
1. Set Realistic Expectations
You must have realistic expectations of yourself. If you only go to church once a month, thinking you are going to make it every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, every Wednesday night, and any other time the church doors are open will probably be a stretch.
I suggest you start with yourself before trying to make a swing for a homerun right away. Start with the basics:
- Get sin out of your life. That’s right. If there is sin in your life, deal with it first. The call of Christian discipleship begins with “Repent.” Repent means change your life. Stop doing the things you know you shouldn’t do and start doing the things you know you should.
- Build faith in your life. Rather than trying to make a commitment to going to church eighteen times a week, how about making a commitment to start every day with prayer. You might consider reading scripture and doing a devotion. Both of these are good, but communion with God should be a priority. You don’t need a Bible or a daily devotional to do that. The first Christians did not have any of those and they did incredible things for Christ.
2. Be Honest
Think about the first guideline again. Be honest this time. Sin? Have any? Are you communing with God, or just saying “Hi” in passing as you bolt out the door each morning?
If you will not deal with the two steps in the first guideline, having a greater faith next year isn’t probable. Striving to be a better Christian but not dealing with sin and not communing with God is like trying to lose weight while eating the super-size meal and ice cream at a fast-food restaurant four times a day and a dozen donuts as a snack twice a day. Not going to happen.
Be honest with yourself. Want a stronger spiritual life in Christ? Go back to the first guideline.
3. Plan for Faith
Faith is like anything else. If you don’t plan for faith-growth, you want do faith-growth. Stop treating your spiritual life like it is just something extra that you will do if you get around to it. Additionally, stop treating your faith as if it is something that just happens.
Go read the book of Acts for proof. Faith didn’t just happen to the early church. It wasn’t just something extra they did when they had time. Same thing holds true in the Gospels also.
Put time for faith on your calendar. Treat it like you do everything else in your life. You know when you must go to work. You know what kid you must take to practice, when, and where. You know when your favorite team plays or when that movie you want to see comes out. Imagine what would happen if your treated discipleship the same.
Plan for faith. Track it.
4. Faith First
In conjunction with planning for faith, make faith the first thing. Pray first thing in the morning. Do your devotion first thing in the morning. Put faith events on your calendar before you put anything else on it. Say “No” to other invitations and offers if you have already planned time for faith. Say “No” because faith is your priority.
5. Change Your Environment
Similar to the need to rid yourself of sin, rid your environment of sinful things and create faith opportunities.
- Stop watching television shows and movies that you would not watch with Jesus sitting next to you. (God is there by the way, we just forget it sometimes.) Stop watching things that glorify things God wouldn’t glorify. If you can’t find inspirational entertainment, at least make sure what you watch is neutral. In other words, not filled with vulgar language and sinful acts. You are not helping yourself otherwise.
- Same with music. Yes, I get into the rhythm of the beat like anyone else, but I know what fills my heart with joy unto God and what does not. Be smart.
- Be careful who you hang out with also. You don’t have to watch a movie to hear or see things you have no business watching as a Christian. Sometimes your so-called friends can provide enough.
- Hide Your Phone. Hiding your phone changes your environment. You could include any technological gadget also. You need a break from media of any sorts. How about as part of planning for faith and faith first, plan a media fast. A media fast is where you turn off (completely) all your gadgets for a period of time. Doing this act alone works wonders. But since you want to have a spiritual transformation mindset, turn them off so you can spend time with God or doing the things of God.
- Set Out Your Stuff. A great way to remind yourself you are changing your environment for spiritual growth is to set out your discipleship resources before you go to bed. If you read the Bible, study a book, or journal, place those items on your kitchen table before you go to bed. Open them to the spot you plan to read the next morning. Put everything you need for your morning ritual exactly like it would be if you were doing your morning ritual. All you have to do then is wake up, fix your coffee, sit down and get started.
If you have taken care of the previous guidelines, this guideline will do wonders for you.
6. One Goal at a Time
Like these guidelines, doing them in sequence, pick one thing in your life that you want to change or improve and work on it first. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But taking one step at a time provides a foundation for you to build upon with further steps.
In my experience, and in what I have witnessed as a pastor, trying to run a faith marathon before learning how to run in the first place doesn’t normally work so well.
Take one thing. Work on it. As the Apostle Peter taught in his letter, one thing builds upon another. Keep working on the one you are at and it will lead to another until you mature in your faith.
If you want to be more Christ-like in the coming year, take transforming your mindset seriously. Don't leave your faith to chance. Embrace your faith. God gave it to you, invest in it and watch it grow.