Resolutions are made to eat healthier, exercise more, get organized, or live less stressed.
In fact, every year 45% of Americans usually make a resolution of some kind.1
There is nothing wrong with wanting to make changes when it comes to our well-being, in fact we should want to be as healthy as we can possibly be, but part of being healthy is also nourishing our spirit as well as our bodies.
Most of us don’t think about making a plan for our spiritual growth, but just as we would make a workout plan, a healthy meal plan, or a to-do list of projects to complete, we should also make a strategy for our spiritual health.
Here are 5 ways we can be intentional in our relationship with God:
1- Make a schedule and stick to it
Just as we would clear out time on our agenda to schedule an exercise class or a walk outside to help achieve our physical health goals, we should do the same for spending time with God.
We make time for what is important to us—plain and simple. Do we really want to send the message to God that He just isn’t important enough for us to make Him a priority?
Just like any other relationship, we have to invest the time if we want to get closer to Him.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
2- Read, study, and listen—there is no substitute for hard work
Once we have set a scheduled time on the calendar to spend with God, we should be prepared to work hard. Wait. What?
It’s not enough just to schedule time at the gym; you actually have to put in the hard work to see results. There are no magic pills or quick fixes to losing weight. And there are no shortcuts in relationship with God.
If our desire is to learn more about Him, grow deeper in love, and learn to hear His voice, then we are going to have to read His word. We can not depend on someone else on social media to tell us what His word says. We have to find out what He says for ourselves, for our lives, for our situation.
We must not just read it only for devotion time, but study it, know it inside and out, front to back.
After we are done reading and studying, we need to spend time in prayer.
This may seem like the easy part of all this, but we often get this part wrong because we see prayer as a one-sided conversation.
Unless we just want to dump all our junk in His lap and walk off without hearing what His answer is, If we ever want to know what He’s saying to us, we have to be willing to get quiet and listen.
3- Set Goals
“And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV
When we begin a nutrition program we have an end goal in mind. Usually it is a certain amount of weight we hope to lose, a certain dress size we hope to fit into, or an event we hope to compete in.
Goals help us to evaluate how far we have progressed, what we still need to complete, and identify our achievements.
Goals will do the same thing for our spiritual life. We will be able to evaluate if we are progressing in our understanding of His Word, what we need help in understanding, and we will see the benefits of our dedication.
What are some goals we could set for ourselves?
—Begin with a certain amount of time to spend in reading the Word and prayer; increase the time as you become more comfortable in your routine
—Identify a certain book of the Bible to study; break into small pieces and create a customized reading plan
—Complete a devotional or reading plan to help ‘jumpstart’ the discipline of spending time in the Word
—Learn prayer journaling or Bible journaling
These are just a few suggestions. Be creative and come up with your own, but be willing to be led by the Spirit. Ultimately, we want to be sure we are following God’s plan for our life and not asking Him to bless our plan.
4- Be Accountable
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. “ Hebrews 10:24
Much like when people partner with a friend to keep them accountable to their eating and exercise plan, we, too, should find another Christian to help keep us on track with our spiritual plan.
God instructs us not to neglect meeting together, to encourage each other, and motivate each other to good works.
Although we often think of meeting together as church services, it also applies to Bible studies, and one-on-one mentoring relationship—in person and online.
Let’s be sure to connect with someone, ask for their help in achieving our goals, give them permission to ask us tough questions about sin struggles and whether we have been consistent with our Bible study and prayer life.
5-Don’t give up
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 ESV
Just like with exercise and healthy eating, there will be days when we don’t stick to the plan. We rush out the door before reading His Word, we try desperately to engage in prayer but struggle to focus, or we just don’t “feel” like doing it.
There is grace and forgiveness when we don’t follow our plan exactly, but whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel. Take a deep breath and get back on schedule the following day.
We may even encounter a ‘dry’ season, where we feel like we are doing everything ‘right’ but we aren’t hearing God and growth seems to have plateaued. Don’t quit. Remain faithful to meeting with Jesus, He may be silent for a season, but He will complete the good work He started. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
Remember, this is a lifelong behavior change, not a quick fix. Don’t give up!