Answers to Your Questions: How to Grow Spiritually in the New Year
Q: Many of my friends are making resolutions for the New Year, most of which involve some physical change such as losing weight or breaking a bad habit. While those are good, I would like to resolve to take the necessary steps to grow in my spiritual life this coming year. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can accomplish that?
A: It’s encouraging to remember that from God’s perspective, we’re all a work in progress. It’s even more encouraging to know that He wants to see us make as much progress as we can and that He will do all He can to make that happen; He will help us as much as we let Him. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). Here are five ways that He helps us grow and mature spiritually:
1. Involve God in the decision-making process. From the time we are small children, we learn through parental instruction. Just so, we grow spiritually as we learn to follow God’s instruction, as we turn to Him in prayer and apply the spiritual principles in His Word to our decisions.
2. Exercise faith. Just as we also learn through experience, through suffering the consequences of wrong decisions and reaping the rewards of right decisions, we grow spiritually as our faith is put to the test and we see that it is the solution to life’s problems.
3. Give of yourself. As we forget ourselves and focus on meeting the needs of others and making them happy, we become conduits of God’s love to those people. And as we pour out, God pours into us. “There is one who scatters, yet increases more. … The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:24a–25). “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
4. Recognize and work on weak areas. We all have room for improvement. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That’s a fact of life that’s general enough that it’s not too hard for most people to accept. It gets harder when we get specific about our weaknesses, and it gets harder still when others get involved. It’s humbling to acknowledge our weaknesses, even if only to ourselves and God. But if we can humbly acknowledge them to others and show ourselves open to their help in the form of advice, reminders, and prayers, we find ourselves on the fast track to spiritual progress.
5. Take on new challenges. It’s human nature, especially as we grow older, to say, “This is the kind of person I am” or, “I can do this, but not that,” but when we do, we stop growing. When we close ourselves off to new information and ideas, we stop growing intellectually. When we close ourselves off from other people, we stop growing emotionally. But when we close ourselves off to new challenges, we stop growing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Again, we are each a work in progress, and we only continue to make progress by moving forward, and the way we move forward is by rising to new challenges.
(This answer is based in part on “Five Steps Toward Spiritual Growth” by Samuel M. Shoemaker, which first appeared in Faith at Work magazine and was reprinted in the September 1962 issue of Guideposts magazine.)
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