By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Instead of making New Year's resolutions each year that you might tend to forget about or wimp out on in a couple weeks or months, I encourage you to carve out some time this month to ask yourself some questions that may lead to some much-needed spiritual goals.
Our God is all about relationships, not to-do lists, so getting at the heart of Who He is and what He wants from your life is key to setting spiritual goals so you don’t end up in a spiritual rut or lukewarm in your relationship with God year after year. Is growing in your relationship with God—and growing in your relationships with family and friends—important to you? Asking God and yourself specific questions and setting some spiritual goals for the next year as a result, helps me ensure that there is spiritual fruit developing from my life each year, instead of being a sponge that continues to soak it all in, but gives little out.
Here are six questions to ask God and yourself—and some resulting goals you may want to consider—to make it a spiritually productive 2023:
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1. Who is most important to me and how does it show?
You and I make time for whomever and whatever is most important to us. Therefore, to say “I don’t have time to pray or read my Bible” is another way of saying “My relationship with God isn’t important to me.” I never want that to be the summation of my life—or even a year of it.
Do you have a plan this year to regularly meet with God? I try to do that first thing in the morning as a way of prioritizing Him above anything and anyone. Maybe your plan is to spend time with Him at night before heading to bed. There’s no right or wrong time to prioritize who is most important to you but it pretty much comes down to who gets the first and best of you, and to order your day that way. When I carve out the first of my day to spend time with God, I’m making sure I’m at my best, spiritually and emotionally, by the time I start interacting with my family, clients, coworkers, parents, and friends. My devotional book, God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, is designed to help you meet with God for a few moments every day through prayer and getting into His Word at the same time.
2. What do I want to fill my mind with this year?
What messages are you letting run through your mind on a regular basis? Is your television constantly on and you’re hearing ads and commercials of what the world says you need to be happy and fulfilled? Is your radio or personal musical playlist reiterating the importance of sex, self, or something else? Consider investing your time in podcasts that are based on the Word of God, music that uplifts your soul, and resources that will help you rediscover the joy of reading or listening to God’s Word.
If you've owned a Bible for years but have never read the entire book, this is a great time to start reading. There are several great reading plans available at BibleGateway.com to help you read through the entire Bible in a year, or the Gospels in 40 days. There is also a daily audio Bible plan to listen to the Word of God. You might try reading the Bible in a different version that you aren’t as familiar with so you catch words and concepts you didn’t notice before. Or, ask yourself where you want to be in your relationship with the Lord by the end of the year and then set tangible goals for getting there through a topical study of words like rest, quiet, obey, joy, or peace. The world will continue to proclaim an unbiblical “me-first” message that we can easily adopt, so guard your heart and mind with God’s truth that proclaims Jesus first, others second, and you third—a sure-fire formula for joy this new year.
3. Who can help me grow spiritually in the next 12 months?
Just as bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33), healthy friendships centered on a common love for Christ and His Word can help you grow spiritually. Do you need someone to hold you accountable, ask you the hard questions, challenge you to move beyond where you’ve been the past year or so? Consider participating in a weekly small-group Bible study or asking your pastor to recommend to you a mentor who can disciple you and help you grow as a follower of Jesus. If you don’t have a local church, this is the time to find one because it’s nearly impossible to grow spiritually if you are isolated and not connected to a group of people who are growing in their walk with God. You and I can mature spiritually at a faster rate in community because we are able to share our experiences with one another, learn from one another, and hold each other accountable. Find a small group study in your local church or be the catalyst to start one among friends or neighbors or even co-workers during your lunch hour at work.
4. How does God want me to best steward the resources He’s given me?
Everything we have comes from God. Therefore, a re-evaluation of how we can tithe, give, and better steward all that He’s given us will ensure we are people who are focusing on giving, not getting. Again, our society continually reinforces the message: “Get all you can for yourself.” Ask God this year how you can be a follower of Jesus who gives all you can for Him and His kingdom. When you do this, you can broaden your awareness of not just your needs and those of your immediate family, but the needs of others around you. And, by doing that, you can become more in tune with how God may want to use you and all He’s given you for His work, not just your own.
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5. How does God want to grow and transform me this year?
Have you heard other believers talking about their “word for the year”? I challenge you to go a bit deeper and choose a verse or passage for the year—a scriptural encouragement, promise, or principle that God can incorporate into your life. Choosing just a word like joy, celebrate, peace, or purpose is all good, but it basically centers on you and the benefit you’ll receive from focusing on that word, or your interpretation and observation of it. But applying God’s word to your life, with the goal of becoming more of who God wants you to be, goes beyond just focusing on a single word each year. Think in terms of biblical context, and God’s overall purpose for you.
One year, my verse was 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” If “thanks” or “gratitude” were my word for the year, I would have missed the all-important part of that particular verse that says “in everything” – in the good as well as the bad, the beautiful as well as the ugly, the hopeful as well as the disappointing.
You can choose a word and grow into it, or choose a whole verse or passage of Scripture and gain the entire context of it. This year, I’m going for a whole passage. Will you join me? If so, pick your verse or passage, say it aloud every day this year, and I guarantee if you do this, by the end of the year—and likely a lot sooner—you will have not just incorporated that spiritual principle into your life, but memorized one more verse of Scripture. Choose from Psalm 90:12, Psalm 119:32, Psalm 119:133, Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 4:8-9, Colossians 3:1-3, or find one of your own.
6. Am I noticing—and recording—the many ways God comes through for me?
The psalmist said: “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all” (Psalm 71:15 NIV). How many times has God come through for you, protected you, moved mountains for you, and within a few days or weeks you forgot about it? How many times might we miss His divine interventions that prove to us His great track record of always looking out for His own? I’ve been keeping a “blessing book” for years and recording every time God comes through for my family, every unexpected blessing, every answer to prayer. At the end of the year, we review it together and praise God for His goodness and faithfulness toward us.
Consider writing on a slip of paper every time God shows His goodness, unexpected provision, or specific answer to prayer, and placing that slip of paper into a jar that you and your family can go through at the end of the year. Or, record it in a journal and share it regularly with others. By recording God’s “saving acts all day long”, you will not only be more keenly aware of how God is working in and around you, but you will become a person who is able to give thanks in all circumstances and praise Him in the good times as well as the bad. God constantly has your back as you follow Him. Don’t miss it this year.
Go ahead. Spend some time asking God and yourself these six questions and you may find yourself with six or more spiritual goals for the new year. As you focus on them this year, you’ll not only grow another year older, physically, in 2024, but another year older spiritually—in your faith and in your walk with Christ.
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