Are you looking for ways to grow spiritually? Why not set a few solid spiritual goals and make 2021 the year to grow your relationship with God? Here are 4 reasons why it’s important, 6 practical habits, and 7 goal suggestions.
Why Should I Put Jesus First?
With all the distractions everywhere, it easy to put our relationship with God on the back burner. I’ll start that on my vacation…next summer…when I retire… However God emphasizes over and over throughout the Bible that His plans for us are more important than any goals we give ourselves (promotions, wealth, marriage, kids, etc.). Here are a few Bible passages on why we need to put Jesus first:
1. To Run the Race with Discipline
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.“
When running in a physical race it’s easy to see if you are winning. But in the race of life it isn’t so obvious. Must we run harder and never slack off if we are to receive the prize? How do you win at life? By being all that God calls you to be. God has given every one of us gifts to serve his Kingdom, and here Paul is encouraging us to maximize those talents through self discipline.
2. To Love God with ALL Our Heart, Soul, and Mind
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus makes faith very simple in this passage. Love God first with everything you’ve got, and then love your neighbor. Have you loved the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind? I’m guessing the answer is no (at least it was for me). Infinite temptations and distractions pull us away from Him daily. Re-Centering on Jesus is a lifelong exercise. Why not toss out some of the baggage that’s been holding you back from full commitment to him? What idols have you held onto in your life? It’s time to put Jesus first with your money, time, and energy.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“
3. To Fulfill the Great Commission
18 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”“
Here Jesus commands all believers to “make disciples”. Are you making disciples? Why not? What can you do about it? Maybe you need courage, knowledge, or simply desire. God can help you with all of it. Take the next step today.
4. To Make Every Effort to Be Like Jesus
2 Peter 1:5-8
5 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.“
Peter tells us to “make every effort.” That means God wants us to do more than just pray and sit on our couch waiting for our character to change. We must act. When a relative drives you crazy, choose to hold your tongue. When things don’t go your way, choose to persevere. When someone creates beauty, choose to shower them with compliments. When you know a person is lonely, choose love and call them.
Which of these qualities do you lack? Our character is important, and He wants to make us more like Jesus.
6 Practical Applications
How do we turn convictions into goals? Here are a few suggestions:
- Write them down in a conspicuous place (journal, refrigerator, car dashboard).
- Take the extra time to make them actionable and measurable, so you can know if you accomplished them. As an example, compare “Be a better neighbor,” to “Learn my neighbor’s birthdays and get each one of them a gift and card for their birthday this year.”
- Don’t get overwhelmed by taking on too many things at once. This is a lifelong pursuit. You could set goals for the first quarter, or even just the month of January. You can pick up new habits one at a time (4-6 weeks to learn a new habit).
- Put time on your calendar for self-reflection (quarterly or monthly or weekly).
- Pray for self-discipline, perseverance, and change from God.
- Share your goals with a spouse or friend, and ask them to keep you accountable.
Here are some practical ideas for spiritual goals:
- Gospel Conversations / Witnessing
- Make a list of people you could witness to
- Identify your #1 – “who’s your one?”
- Learn new techniques
- Find a Mentor – Who do you know that’s good at this?
- Spend More time in prayer – ex: move from 30 seconds to 10 minutes in the morning
- Keep a prayer journal
- Change how you pray – ACTIP
- Set aside times for deeper prayer – ex: Once a week, consider setting aside a day where you spend 1 hour in prayer…and move up from there
- Bible Reading
- Scripture Memorization
- Christian Books
- Changing Consumption Habits
- Set limits on TV, Movies
- Review Hobbies and look for idols to remove
- Switch to Christian Radio, Podcasts
- Learn your neighbors names & birthdays
- Invite them over for dinner (this is tricky with COVID)
- Ask how you can pray for them?
- Put God First
- In your day
- With your money
- With your time
- Forgive Intentionally
In Philippians 2:12, Paul reminds us to “work out” our salvation with fear and trembling. Peter tells us to “make every effort” to grow. It’s not biblical to sit on our couch and hope for God to grow our character. Set a goal right now and make yourself accountable! With God, all things are possible!