As we begin a new year, chances are good that most of us have given at least some thought to New Year’s Resolutions. It may be that you have totally given up on the practice of making resolutions at the start of a new year because you have failed to follow through with plans for self improvement in years past. However, I would venture to guess that even the most cynical among us stands on the brink of this new year with at least a glimmer of hope that we will make positive progress in some area of our lives in 2020.
One area in which many people would like to see progress is physical fitness. This hope of becoming more physically fit causes many of us to look for a diet or workout plan that will reveal a secret that will make the path to peak physical condition easier or shorter. I came across the following tweet the other day that reminded me of the truth that there really are no secrets to growth:
The secret is there is no secret. The secret is to stop paying attention to anyone who says they have a secret.
• If you want to get stronger: lift heavy things, rest, repeat.
• If you want to get faster: run, rest; repeat.
• If you want to become a better writer: write, rest, repeat.
Getting in better physical shape requires eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly for an extended period of time. No secrets. No shortcuts.
This same principle applies to our desire to experience spiritual growth. We hope to find a personal devotional, small group Bible study, sermon series, or church that will put us on the fast track to spiritual maturity. However, the secret to spiritual maturity is that there is no secret. Eugene Peterson addresses this truth in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Peterson writes:
“Millions of people in our world make decisions for Christ, but
there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born
again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim.
In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be
sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes
on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious
experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the
patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a
long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians
If you stand at the beginning of 2020 hopeful that you will grow in Christlikeness this year, I would urge you to embrace a long path of obedience, trusting that God will do His work in you as you humbly seek to know and follow Him by committing to the following three things:
The Word of God—God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Word. There may be seasons in which reading the Bible seems hard. There may be seasons in which nothing you read seems to apply to your current situation. When you go through these seasons, humbly stay the course, trusting that God is doing something in you as you faithfully read. If you do not have a Bible reading plan you follow, I would encourage you to follow the Project 119 Bible reading plan we provide.
The People of God—God calls us to live in community with others. This often calls us to love people we find hard to love and to make adjustments to our personal schedule so we can meet with others. But, Christian discipleship is not an individual sport. We only grow in Christlikeness as we pursue the Lord in community. Show up regularly for worship, join a Sunday Morning Bible Study Class, and prayerfully consider participating in a Growth Group.
The Mission of God—You were made to serve others. If you only focus on what you are getting out of church, there is a high likelihood that you will leave worship services, Bible studies, and Growth Groups unfulfilled. However, if you enter each of those discipleship experiences asking God to show you how He wants to use you in the lives of others, you stand a much better chance of experiencing the presence and power of God in your life. Volunteer to serve as a greeter, sign up to care for children during worship, sign up to pick up doughnuts and bagels, or volunteer to run our weekly livestream. Whatever it is, commit to be a contributor instead of a consumer this year.
I think God would have each of us be hopeful about our spiritual growth in 2020. However, God doesn’t offer us any secrets or shortcuts to spiritual growth. Instead, He invites us to meet Him in His Word, follow Christ alongside others, and serve others in Jesus’ name—and to commit to these things for the long haul. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call me at 205-803-3484 if you need more information about how to get plugged into the discipleship ministries or identify a place where you can serve others at MBBC.