If you could set one New Year’s resolution and receive a guarantee of its success, what would you resolve to do? Eat healthier? Get more exercise? Save more money?
Maybe, like a third of the population, you’ve given up on New Year’s resolutions. They never go anywhere anyway and you just end up feeling like a failure, so what’s the point?
But if you KNEW that you would see the results from your resolution, wouldn’t you aim a little higher? Wouldn’t you set your mind to something you’ve longed after for years but haven’t had the time or discipline to pursue?
That’s where I find myself this year. I am a fan of resolutions, but I don’t usually wait until January. I make them at the beginning of each school year, on my birthday, on my anniversary. If it can be measured in years, I’ve got a resolution for it.
But I’ve found that most of these leave me wanting more. Even when I am successful at changing some facet of my life, there’s part of me that’s still not satisfied. A part of me that is still hungry for something better.
So, this year, I’m trying something different. My resolution is to spend 2021 getting closer to God. This year, I’m going to de-prioritize All The Things that get in the way of my pursuit of Him, and I’m going to centre my heart back on the One who matters most.
After a far-too-long season of doing too much, moving too fast, and constant striving, the beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity to change the pace, slow things down and get closer to God.
How to Get Closer to God
The Bible gives us very clear instructions on how we are to get closer to God. Throughout scripture, Jesus and His disciples instruct us on this critical component of our faith. Collectively, they form a group of activities and attitudes that are referred to as the spiritual disciplines.
What are Spiritual Disciplines?
Here are twelve examples of spiritual disciplines referenced in the Bible.
Other disciplines not listed here include practicing Sabbath, journaling, and tithing.
Less Doing, More Being
I’ve found that in the past few years, especially, my life has become so filled with all the “doings” of being a Christian: attending church and small groups, volunteering on Sundays, hospitality, serving on committees, attending retreats and camps, fellowship, etc.
Don’t get me wrong: all of these things are GOOD. They are very good, not to mention necessary.
The problem comes when we’re DOING so many of these things that we crowd out the EVEN BETTER stuff. Studying God’s Word and meditating on it. Listening for His voice. Prayer. Stillness.
In all our doing, it becomes too easy to push these things aside. We convince ourselves that we’re serving in the way God has called us to, so it must be okay. Surely, we think, He’ll understand if we don’t have time for that other stuff. After all, that stuff only benefits us, and All The Things we’re doing? They benefit other people, right?
Well, maybe not so much. It’s hard to continue pouring out of an empty jug.
In an ideal world, you could do both all the time. Your life would be so integrated that you would move seamlessly between prayer, study, service, and fellowship, resting in the Lord’s grace as you did so.
But our world is so far from ideal. There’s this thing that gets in the way called Life. We have to go to work, take our kids to school (or stay at home and educate them), manage our households, participate in myriad extra-curricular activities, serve, serve, serve. The noise quickly drowns out the Spirit of God if we don’t prioritize Him in our lives.
We all want to pour ourselves out for those we love, but first, we must go to the well to get the water we need, then we can provide that water to others.
How to be more intentional about your spiritual discipline next year
Five steps you can take:
- Read more about them: I highly recommend Celebration of Discipline, but you may also enjoy God in My Everything and Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.
- Make a plan: Can you set aside a certain amount of time each day to practice your spiritual disciplines? Are there some that you feel more led to focus on than others? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the areas that are most important for you to work on right now.
- Cut back on your doing: Are there other areas in your life where you can slow down or simplify while you work to bring your spiritual life into balance with your physical life? Perhaps you can cut back on an activity or two or step away from a committee for the time being. The more margin you can create in your life to support this journey, the more success you will experience.
- Find an accountability partner: Do you have a friend or relative you can study the disciplines with? Someone with whom you can check in regularly to encourage and support you? Schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings with them to discuss and pray together.
- Keep a journal: While journaling itself is often referred to as a spiritual discipline, it should—as is the case with most of the other disciplines—not be separated from the others. Journal your prayers, journal about your meditations and study, journal through your fasting and solitude. Writing things down preserves them for future reference, but more importantly, it gives God yet another way to reveal new things to you.
Your Guarantee of Success
Kudos to you for making it all the way to the end! At this point, you may be wondering about that guarantee of success I mentioned earlier.
This is the beautiful thing about resolving to get closer to God: if you want it, it’s yours.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:12-14).
If you take the time to seek Him, to read His word, to pray to Him and serve Him, you can rest assured that He will meet you exactly where you are.