We do not treat faith like any other thing in our lives. And while it is a thing all its own, the thoughtful way in which we undertake our jobs, our parenting, our hobbies, well, this manner of practicality can help our faith journeys. It is much the way athletics can teach one about perseverance and how to deal with success and failure, and how those lessons are not isolated to court or field.
In short, there are no shortcuts to becoming a more faith-filled, faith-fueled person, but there are some useful tools we can put in our belts.
Here are some we spoke about at today’s Faith Forum, along with some helpful resources:
1. Reading your Bible
-To read your Bible well, you need to read your Bible often, but to read your Bible often, you need to read it well. So have a plan! Hey here are some! And some longer ones! And these are some great ones! Look through the list, and, I don’t know, pick one. And, keep in mind, you CANNOT fail these plans. Even if you try one for a bit and fall off the wagon, good came from trying and you will learn something–about the Bible, about God, about yourself . . . It is one of those things wherein you win just by showing up!
-Try to understand your Bible and its context more by getting a hold of a study Bible or a commentary or a trustworthy online resource. Don’t know where to find one? Just ask!
-Prayer is an essential key to growth. In each day, there are 96 fifteen-minute segments. Maybe devote one of them to praying for the world, the Nation, the town, the family, the peer group, the job, the health, etc. That should put a pretty good dent in the allotted time!
-Pray for others. Write down their needs in a place like this, and then, you know, actually pray for them. This will not only connect you with God, but connect you in a unique way with them and their needs. In time–and I know this is a scary thought–you mind find yourself really caring for this person and their needs! It is maddening indeed when that happens!
-Implement a plan, prayer hooks, journaling . . . anything that produces an attitude and disposition toward prayer is valuable.
-Remember, prayer isn’t your connection with a magic genie, and sometimes, pray or not, the circumstances would turn out just the same. But in the action of prayer, you become linked to God’s work. You get to know who He is and what He’s up to. You learn about Him through the way He provides and through the times when the answer to prayer is a resounding “No.”
3. Small Groups
-Get in a small group! A small group is just a few faith-committed folks who are willing to get together and share their lives. You can find a group that meets once a week or one that gets together once a month. There is no exact formula, and you may have to try a few out before you find a fit. But it will broaden your perspectives, deepen your faith, and give you friendships that go beyond the news, sports, and weather.
-Four marks of a thriving small group (though you can have a terrific group without these too!): Prayer, Fellowship, Mission, Study.
-If you don’t have small groups at your church (or don’t currently have a church) or if you would like to be in a group with co-workers, don’t worry, there are groups here at VU. You can contact Matt to get in one of those, or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can get a couple buddies here at work and just start one up. We’ll help you get up and running, but really there is not much to it . . . yet, at the same time, there is so very much that comes from it!
-Want to make a resolution that lasts? Get someone to hold you to it. Whether you are changing a habit, repenting of a sin, or just trying to hold to a new life goal, a person willing to lovingly hold you accountable is invaluable.
-One effective way to get the ball-rolling with your accountability person is to decide three questions he or she will ask you each time you get together for this purpose. The questions can center on the changes you are trying to make or the resolutions you have made. By deciding these questions together, the person holding you accountable will not have to grope around for the “right” questions nor will he or she feel awkward asking questions you decided upon.
-All you need is a trustworthy person and a purposeful plan for your time together. If you are lacking this person but would like accountability, contact Matt.
5. & 6. Become a Faith Mentor and/or get a Faith Mentor
-Every quality enterprise seeks expertise. Teams have coaches, businesses have boards comprised of qualified individuals, and employees have supervisors. Having someone who has been there before and can help you along, well, there is simply no better way to learn. So find someone who has a bit more life experience than you and learn from them, and, at the same time, when you feel you are ready, find someone a wrung or two below you in terms of faith and life, and hold the rope for them.
7. Schedule your Life with Opportunity in Mind
-God often speaks through the unexpected experiences–namely, the people we stumble upon each day. Too many times, we miss opportunities to see God and stretch our faith through experience because we burn the candle on each end. We willingly trade a full life for a busy one, and these are very different indeed.
-Create time for people. Unexpected people. Create margin in your life by trimming the fat away and simplifying. With this margin, serve people. This will stretch your faith–and, at times, your resources–reminding you of your weakness and of your need for a strength beyond yourself.
8. Get a “Spot”
-By becoming a regular somewhere–a particular restaurant or coffeehouse or gas station–you can take superficial relationships much deeper. You begin to learn your server has a name, a story, a life! And he or she will begin to know you. And since relationships are oft the way we come to see and know God, the deeper we can plunge in our daily dealings, the more our faith will increase, right along with our impact.
9. Walk in the Good
-How much good are you avoiding in your life? When was the last time you sent an encouraging email just to encourage? Send someone a ‘just-because’ card? Buy a meal for a stranger? Release an unrelenting wave of kindness on all who cross your path on a given day or week?
-The thing is, there are many, many ways to do good–to love and serve others. And if we are doing these things to make much of God and to serve Him and the people He created, well, naturally, we are going to grow and change through it.
-Disclaimer: Walking in the good will make your life messy, time-consuming, and harder. You will be forced to rely on a source bigger than yourself, a power more than yourself. And in that way, it will also make your life more impactful and awesome (through the joy and peace and calm you experience). Question is, is it worth it?
-The first word many of us ever utter is “No.” We only grow into that more and more as we age. “No” becomes a staple of our vocabulary, and many times for good reason. But in terms of our faith growth, few words are as harmful. So why not shoot for an outlandish “yes” now and again? God wants to stretch you in an opportunity you aren’t entirely comfortable with? Yes. He wants you to give more than you planned? Yes. He wants you to spend more time with someone in need than you would like? Yes.
-What if you committed to an outlandish YES this year? Or one each quarter? Or each month? The kind of YES that could only be explained by an illogical, otherworldly love. If we truly committed to that . . . oh, the stories we would have and the impact those very stories might have on our little piece of world.
Do you want a more faith-filled 2014? Well, that’s a good start. Now what? What plans are you going to make and how are you going to stick with them? How are you going to learn and grow and be changed?