[NOTE: This isn’t one of our usual articles. It’s a letter to our church, but you may enjoy reading it. Happy New Year!]
Tomorrow marks the beginning of a New Year. Can you believe it? Another year has gone by…
A lot of folks will begin the New Year with making some New Year resolutions. For some, those resolutions may actually produce real change – if, of course, they stick with it. That’s always the hard part. Thanks to those who don’t, well be able to find some great buys on used gym equipment in a couple months!
I’ve never been big on New Year resolutions, but starting a New Year is a great opportunity to ask ourselves if there are changes we need to make in our walk with the Lord. I believe it was A.W. Tozer who said, “We are as close to God right now, as we want to be.” The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:5a, “Examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith.”
It’s a good thing to stop every once in a while and take a personal inventory. “Am I where I want to be with God?” “Have I reached my potential in Him?” “Have I discovered my divine destiny?” “How can I glorify Him more in this coming year?” Personally, I have to answer,”No” to most of those questions. I definitely want to be closer to Him this time next year than I am right now.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of the daily disciplines of our faith. They can produce lasting change and upward growth more than anything else we do. We all know how important the Word, worship, prayer, fellowship, and serving are in moving us closer to God. Yet, as much as we may know it – like most New Year resolutions – the hard part is doing it.
A lot of Christians kick off the New Year with a fast. We at His Church have done that for a number of years. Fasting is always in vogue; it’s like coming out of the gate full speed ahead. However, what happens after the fast? Do we continue in hot pursuit of the Lord, or do we revert back to where we were before? That’s why I want to focus more on the daily disciplines, rather than
Take prayer, for instance… I often feel overwhelmed with its vastness. We need to be praying for our families, neighbors, friends, our country, our leaders, our church, persecuted believers, and the list goes on and on. So,where do I begin?
Leonard Ravenhill once said, “A man is no greater than his personal prayer life.” Our prayer life needs to begin with us. Our entire spiritual walk flows from our personal prayer life. If I’m not spending time talking to God about me, I won’t be talking to God about others. Several years ago, I was challenged to commit a certain amount of time in prayer every day. That challenge changed my life. Yet, as important as it is, I still struggle at times to remain consistent.
George Mueller was asked shortly before he died if he had anything to say to the Church. Here is his answer: “Learn to persist in prayer. “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking until you receive. So, I want to challenge you to commit some time every day to ask, seek, and knock. You might be surprised at what happens!
Spending regular time in the Word of God is a must for every believer. Jesus said it best, “Man does not live by bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) Reading, studying, and mediating in the Word of God will feed and satisfy your soul. Again, the challenge we all face is doing it daily. I want to recommend finding a reading plan that works for you – and maybe a reading buddy, if you can.
I have read through the Bible several times, but I have to admit that often I would read it, check the box, and not be able to tell you what I read. Ultimately, the Word does not return void, but I was never sure if my mechanical reading ever had any real impact on my life.
This year Myrna and I are going to begin a three-year plan to read through the Bible. We tried the one-year plan, but it would often take us two to three hours a day to get through our reading – taking time to discuss, expound, look-up questions, and pray about what we read! As much as we love the Word, that, too, proved to be overwhelming.
So, maybe you need to try things, too, see what works for you. If three chapters per day is too much, how about one? Maybe just a passage, a few verses, or even one verse daily is what you need to really get the Word down into your heart. Again, we need to partake daily from the bread of heaven. (Romans 12:1-2)
Praise and worship are amazing spiritual disciplines – and are the keys to victory. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism) Satan hates it when we praise and worship our God – from the heart!
I’m often reminded of a song by the Imperials that was popular back in the eighties, entitled, “Praise the Lord.” Check out the lyrics… “Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him. Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise. Praise the Lord, for the chains that seem to bind you, serve only to remind you, that they drop powerless behind you, when you praise Him.” Those words are so powerful and oh so true. Let’s learn to make praise and worship a daily part of our lives, too.
So, let me summarize with the last two points…
Serving is vital to our spiritual growth. Jesus told us to give and it will be given to us. (Luke 6:38) When we take the initiative to give of our time, money, and energy, it will open the flood gates of heaven for God to pour back into our lives. It makes sense; we have to give and serve to make room for more. Otherwise, we tend to become spiritually fat and lazy! Ask the Lord, “How can I serve You more?” He’ll show you.
And, last but not least: Fellowship. This maybe more important than we realize. The Bible says we need to edify, exhort, and encourage one another. We all need encouragement, edification, and to be exhorted, at times. However, the Bible warns us that in the Last Days many will forsake gathering together. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
That is such a dangerous thing! Satan knows that if he can scatter the sheep, they will become vulnerable to every form of temptation and deception known to man. Please, please, please don’t forsake joining together with other believers in the Lord. True fellowship happens when we come together with Jesus. (Matthew 18:20)
Well, this wound up being longer than I had anticipated, but I wanted to encourage you to pause and examine your walk with God, as we head into the New Year. Over the years, I have come to realize how important our daily walk with God really is. I love those times when God shows up and makes some immediate changes in my life – and yet, it’s the daily walk with God that ultimately transforms us. We have all been given the same 24 hours in each day – now it’s up to us to use them.
May God bless each of you richly in 2019!