This weekend I was at an annual family breakfast. The family passed a book around where we could write down our goals. I thought it was a novel idea, but I purposely did not put down spiritual goals, because every year, I plan all these lofty spiritual goals in January and by oh, let’s say March, reality hits me like a ton of bricks. One year, I thought I’d complete a read-through-the-entire-bible program, and I did pretty well until about March. It all fell apart one night when I couldn’t decide whether to study my Sunday School lessons which seemed more immediate, or read five to ten chapters of Genesis because I had skipped a day or two and had to catch up to the reading plan. I couldn’t do both. So the Sunday school lesson won and it was downhill from there. After a while, I dropped off the plan.
Year-long Bible reading plans are great if that’s the only reading you’re doing by the way. Honestly, I’m not trashing them, but the best-laid plans of mice and men…
Well, you know the rest?
This year, though, I’ve decided to focus on two spiritual goals:
1. Re-reading and studying the gospels and;
2. Begin a local bible study focusing on verse-by-verse study.
The bible study thing, I’ve been praying about for a couple of years, so it’s not a sudden move. I just believe that this year is the year. These aims are not at all what I put in the goal book either–way too much mental energy and explaining to do.
At this moment, my goal is to get past March with my goals intact. I am setting up a teaching ministry with my husband, and I guess that was a previous goal which is coming into its own this year. But, I don’t count that as 2017 goal because it’s in progress already.
Patience truly is a virtue.
The 6 Things:
God made humans ambitious. As a whole, we always strive to improve (no jokes about the lazy people you know). We want to get a little better at something, anything. So we set standards and activities that we hope will get us to the finish line.
By nature, I am a goal oriented person. I am known for getting stuff done because of my A-type personality. I tackle a multitude of little tasks like a pit bull and stay on them entire the entire project is completed. I figure as long as I am moving toward the finish line, it doesn’t matter how fast I’m going. I just want to stay on the path.
I recently woke up with I Corinthians 3 on my mind. In this chapter where Paul chastises the church for taking sides behind different favorite preachers. The Corinthian church wallowed in so much division, side-picking, popular preacher flag- waving and mudslinging that he couldn’t even speak to them on common spiritual things.
Well, since you and I don’t want that type of testimony, let me share six tips gleaned from this bible chapter that will help us boost our spirituality in 2017:
1. Refuse to focus on the size of your church. This is carnal thinking and indicates nothing. Focus instead on the truth that is coming over the pulpit and your own obedience to that message. A church should be a local assembly of sold out believers in Jesus Christ, with the salvation of others as their primary goal. Whether it’s 100 or 10, the warmth of the love of Christ is what is important.
2. Make prayer your highest priority this year. The Corinthians were not a prayerful bunch, and so they ended up arguing about preachers and who is following who, and my preacher is better than your preacher. Tragic. Try to drown out ALL such carnal noise with the serenity of quiet time alone with the Master.
“Sitting at the feet of Jesus, Oh what words I hear him say. Happy place so near and precious, may it find me there each day” (hymnal song)
3. Take time to realize that if it’s good, it’s because of God. THINK SPIRITUALLY. Everything we accomplish in the secular or spiritual world is because God allowed it to prosper. When we focus on His sovereignty over our events, our spirituality will increase, and carnality (from the sinful nature) will decrease. Carnal thinking focuses on things like personality, status, and influence; spirituality focuses on God and Him alone. Paul realized this when he told the Corinthians, “who is Paul or Apollos but preachers by whom you believed?” Both were just instruments in God’s hand. That’s spiritual thinking.
4. Ask God to give you a quality experience with Him. Experiences that will refine you and not burn you up. That is the whole point of Paul’s admonition in this chapter. He says the fire “the test” will reveal the quality of our experience. The next time you are ready to scream in 2017, think about this: it’s the hard times that make us great.
5. Recognize that God is in control. Even though things may seem out of control, understand in whose hands you’ve left the problem. We can look at due dates on bills and wonder how we’re going to meet that and not know the answer, but God knows.
6. Walk circumspectly. Be aware of where you are in your spiritual walk. I always talk about this because, lessons-learned, if I had slowed down and took better inventory of my own life, I would have avoided a lot of entanglements that were spiritual poison and from which I am still recovering. Look around you as you walk forward in God.
Have a great New Year!