Here we are at the start of a new year. Many of us will make resolutions or set goals, hoping that this year will be better than the last one.
One of my goals is to grow in my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray this verse for myself: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (Philippians 3:10). The first two requests sound pretty good—to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. But then there’s one more—sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. If I’m going to grow in my understanding of God and know the power of His resurrection, I’m going to have to understand that life this side of heaven is going to be hard and include suffering. Growth is difficult and will require effort on my part as I trust God for His grace to help me in good times and as well as in hard times.
To aid me in my desire to grow in my relationship with the Lord, I’d like to share with you some thoughts to aid me in my quest. These should be relatively easy to remember since they all start with the letter P.
I’m praying that the Lord will give me a passion for Him and for His Word. If I’m going to grow I need to go to the source of truth on a daily basis. I have to read His Word every day. I have found that I need to think great thoughts of God if I want to develop a love and passion for Him. If left to myself, I’m prone to conform God to my idea of who He is or what He should be like. He is a magnificent God and I don’t want to reduce Him to something He’s not.
Application: To develop a passion for the Lord, we have to truly know Him. We can grow in our understanding of Him by reading the Bible, praying, and reading books that aid us in our Christian walk. Decide on a plan to read God’s Word, and then stick with it, even if you miss a day here or there. Read through the entire Bible or maybe just the New Testament this year. Start your prayer time with focusing on God’s attributes—His holiness, His faithfulness, His power—and how those relate to your life. Ask your pastor or Sunday school leader for recommendations for good books to read.
My purpose in this life is to glorify, honor, please, and reflect the image of God. I would like people to get a better picture of who God is by the way I live my life and respond to life’s difficulties. Any lesser purpose focuses on me and my comfort.
Application: Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:9: So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. Repeat it to yourself several times during the day so that this truth will influence the daily choices you make. All of life should be filtered through pleasing and honoring God because of who He is and what He has done for us.
I want to bear fruit for the Lord. The Lord Jesus said that He chose us to bear fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16). But I have to keep in mind that earlier in this passage Jesus said that God is working in my life to make me more fruitful. This entails being trimmed or pruned. God is chipping away everything in me that doesn’t look like Jesus Christ. And chipping can be painful. God disciplines us so that we will share in His holiness. Even though discipline is painful, it will reap a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:10-11).
Application: Get involved in serving, either at your church or somewhere in your community. Don’t be afraid of committing to serve on a regular basis. You may need to shadow someone for a while to understand a particular ministry. This may seem uncomfortable for a while, but there is great joy in serving others.
I think most of us would like to grow in perseverance. We like seeing a project the whole way through. There’s something very satisfying when a job is finally done and you’re enjoying the fruit of your labor. But developing perseverance is not easy. The Apostle Paul tells us that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4). And James tells us that we are to consider trials joy because they produce perseverance in us and helps us mature in our Christian life (James 1:2-4). The only way I’m going to grow in my relationship with Christ and develop perseverance is to go through the sufferings He willingly experienced on my behalf.
Application: Remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Resist giving in to discouragement when life gets hard. Even though there may be times we want to give up, we have to keep the end goal in mind. Choose to keep up with daily or weekly commitments, even when you don’t feel like it. Feelings can’t be in charge.
When life is going well, praising God for His goodness is not that difficult. Praising God when life is hard is very much a challenge. We want life to go smoothly, but when we go through trials, we don’t always experience joy. Yet we can praise God because He promises to work all things (even our difficulties) together for our good as He transforms us into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). He is preparing us for eternity with Him, when there will be no more pain, sorrow or death. We can praise and thank God because He desires to use us to further His kingdom. Much of this goes back to having the right perspective of our purpose: to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and sharing in the fellowship of His suffering, becoming like Him in His death.
Application: Spend time daily praising God for who He is. Start a list of things to be thankful for and add to your list each day. If you’re struggling, make a list of His attributes and start thinking about the greatness of our God.
So, if you haven’t made any resolutions or goals for this new year, gear up for a year of growth. This will happen by purposefully and prayerfully growing in your passion for God and His Word. Remember that your purpose in life is to please, honor and glorify God as you seek to be more fruitful for His kingdom. Persevere in the goals you set for yourself and be sure to praise Him for His goodness to you!