Happy New Year everyone! This post contains three ideas to help us to grow as Christians in 2024 – read on, or skip here to find out what they are. (Hint: it’s all about being intentional)
As we begin another year, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and to look ahead. Some of us might feel optimistic about the future, others of us less so, especially those of us with challenges to our health, finances, or relationships.
So my encouragement today is to be intentional. Let’s unpack what I mean by that…
My impression is that for many of us it has become increasingly difficult over recent years to find time for God, for ourselves, or for each other. I believe technology is to blame for this – the world has become more digital, which we thought would mean more connected, but if anything, it’s actually made it harder to get quality time with others and with God. We had the pandemic, which made us more remote (and amidst the chaos, did at least help cut down the time spent commuting for some) but somehow we’re busier than ever, struggling for the time to do the things we really want to.
Perhaps it’s always felt a bit like this – after all, the Apostle Paul wrote two thousand years ago,
“I don’t understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”Romans 7:15 ESV
Anyone who catches themselves doomscrolling their TikTok feed for hours knows just how that feels!
How are we spending our lives?
Of course, I’m being flippant, but the point is that unless we are intentional with how we spend our lives – our thoughts, our time, and even what we talk about – unless we are intentional, we will get carried away by the currents of the world, blown this way and that by the winds of the culture we live in. There is another way.
The phrase I wrote above: how we spend our lives, is worth considering. It serves as a reminder that our lives are finite, that we’ve been given an allotted amount of it, and that we can either invest our lives, or throw them away frivolously.
Over the last year, would you say you spent your life well?
That’s not to guilt trip any of us, by no means! Often when reflecting at the end of a year we can feel bad that we didn’t do all the things we dreamed of. In fact, in the spirit of New Year’s honesty I will tell you that over this last year, I overworked, overspent, stressed too much, spent far too little time with friends and family, and generally allowed myself to be pulled in every direction. I even allowed myself to drift a bit from my church community. At a glance, it didn’t look very good!
If you can relate, take heart! Because we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
Jesus offers the fullest life
But what do I mean by “investing” our lives? Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that the devil wants to take everything from us – to ‘steal, kill, and destroy’. But Jesus came so that we would have abundant life!
Jesus offers the fullest life imaginable – and everlasting too. So, whatever is tempting you away from the life that Jesus offers us is a lie. The choice is ours as to how we spend what God has gifted to us – our time, energy, and thoughts: either on the things of Christ or on the things of the world. Jesus said,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:19-21 ESV
How do we do that though, I hear you cry! Well, even though I had a difficult year in some respects – somewhere in the mix of it all, I did have a breakthrough with God. While drifting along, being carried in the business of everything, I rediscovered the simple, but narrow, path. Or I should say, God helped guide me towards it, gently, by His grace.
So without further ado, here are three things I’ve found helpful this year which I’ll be aiming to build on this year. I promise they aren’t too difficult, and I hope they encourage you to grow as a Christian.
How to grow as a Christian
1. Spiritual Disciplines
This won’t win any prizes for most original Christian idea of the year (or even millennium) but if you do it every day, it will change your life. That’s reading and studying and memorising the Word, and spending time in prayer. This is what I mean by investing our lives wisely.
One website I read had a good line that:
“One of the major outcomes of disciplined prayer is answered prayer. But, in all truth, that is secondary to the real purpose of prayer which is an ever-growing, unending communion with God.”gotquestions.org
On the negative, if you find you’re not praying very often, it may be that you are trusting in your own strength rather than God’s help in your situation.
But on the positive side, by choosing to spend time reading the Word of God and praying, we’re investing into the very purpose of our lives, and the ultimate relationship of the universe. It takes intentionality, time, effort, and honestly it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. But if you keep at it, you’ll see that patient, diligent investment will reap huge rewards over time.
2. Daily GRACE
This is an acronym: Gratitude, Reflections, Actions, Challenges, and Enjoyment (GRACE, gettit!)
Quick disclaimer – Ecclesiastes says there’s nothing new under the sun, and I actually heard about this daily practice via my wife who is far more intentional and wise than I am. So, I’m not trying to claim I’m some super spiritual mastermind who has made all this up – but it has been a helpful tool for us both this year.
The idea is to help you to reflect honestly each day, and to provide a framework to nudge ourselves and our brothers and sisters towards living life to the fullest each day. So either on your own or with a close friend, the idea is to go through each of these questions and reflect honestly. It works well as a journal or prayer prompt each day as well. Here’s how it goes:
- Gratitude: What was I thankful for today?
- Reflections: What did I learn today about life, myself, and God?
- Actions: What initiative did I take toward the things that are meaningful to me and my calling?
- Challenges: What did I have to deal with, confront, or overcome?
- Enjoyment: Where was there joy, delight, and meaning today?
3. Read Christian Biographies
And finally, this is one that I’ve found inspiring in 2023: choosing to read a couple of Christian biographies. I’m a bit of a history nerd anyway, but spending time reading or watching programmes about the whole lives of Godly people throughout history has been so encouraging. (For example, you could watch Inexplicable or Heroes of the Faith).
It’s useful to realise that we’re all human, and even our Christian ‘heroes’ made mistakes, had regrets and challenges they had to overcome. We shouldn’t forget those who have come before us, and we can learn so much from them.
So that’s just a few ideas of how being intentional can help us grow as Christians over the next year.
- Spiritual Disciplines
- Daily GRACE
- Christian biographies
But please remember: Jesus has done it all! There’s no condemnation in Christ Jesus, and whether or not you manage to do these every day or not at all is beside the point – we just want to grow in Christ.
How are you planning on growing this new year? I’d love to hear from you – send your ideas in the comments or via our contact page!