Sometimes I need to get smacked by a plank.
Remember when Jesus talked about how we must take the plank/log/beam out of our own eye before we point out the speck in our friend’s eye? In Matthew chapter 7:1-5, He talks about judging others and how we need to look at our own struggles before we focus on others’ struggles.
I can spend a lot of time asking how can I help someone to grow as a disciple but forget to take proactive steps for my own growth. That’s the plank I got smacked with today. So I got thinking how can I grow NOW. What immediate steps can I take?
So here’s 5 things we can do to help us grow as disciples.
- Read the Bible and reflect with the Holy Spirit’s help on what you’ve read.
Reading the Bible is always a great first step (and it might seem obvious). But I speak with so many Christ followers who don’t regularly read the Bible. And universally they say, “I know I should but…”. God sent us this amazing love letter and we leave on a shelf. I know it takes discipline but it’s worth it. Do it once this week or twice and then try to beat that next week and so on.
If we just read and don’t ask God’s help in understanding what He’s saying to us then we’re missing out. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us and the Spirit is there to help us understand and recall what God has done and said. The Spirit is the helper and comforter so let’s ask for some help and comfort!
Not sure how to get into reading on a regular basis? Pick a book in the Bible, it’s always good to go for a gospel and get Jesus’ story deeper into us. But there are lots of other great books to read and I bet there’s one you haven’t read often or possibly at all. Pick that one!
Ask God to point you to a particular book and then read it through a bit at a time over the next week or two. Maybe a shorter one to start so you can have the accomplishment of reading a whole book.
Use a reading plan to help you know how much to read. Look one up on the internet or use the You Version Bible app on your handheld device.
2. Go and Serve Somewhere New
We learn not just by reading or thinking but by doing. Action influences our thinking. We have taken young people and adults on mission projects overseas and to the inner city and while some people think it’s all about helping those “in need” it’s really about growing disciples.
Get a person in an unfamiliar spot, serving in new ways and leaning on God and their team mates and you’ve got a prime opportunity to grow a disciple. People come out of their limitations as God shows them what they can do. Their parents or friends might limit them at home but on a mission or serving trip they can build houses, feed people, care for seniors, talk about what they believe with one or hundreds and pray powerfully for others’ needs.
We expect too little of ourselves and others in our home environment. When challenged and serving in new territory God gives us wings!
And you don’t have to go far away.
*If you’ve never served seniors seek an opportunity. Ask at your local seniors’ home or centre if there is a program where you could volunteer.
*If teenagers intimidate you then ask about helping with youth somehow.
*If street people frighten you then go and find a chance to serve them and know them as people.
*If you’re afraid to talk about your faith then ask someone who you know has done it to coach you in doing that.
Set a time frame or if you’re like me you might procrastinate and never do it. Get out there, ask and do!
3. Read a book by a faith challenging author that you don’t know.
Ask friends whose opinion you value what author has stretched them as disciples of Jesus and then borrow or buy that book and read with an ear to hear how you can grow. Don’t just get the ideas in your head, act on them.
4. Get a friend to be a good model or mentor for your faith.
Take the approach of a learner and ask them to help you grow. They’ll likely be flattered, perhaps intimidated and hopefully willing to help.
Set up a regular meeting time perhaps every two weeks or even once a month. Occasional times where you have to connect just to set schedules can be tough and easily lost in life’s busyness so go for something regular.
It’s not their responsibility to become your teacher and figure out a course of study for you. Take the time to talk about where you’re at in faith and what steps you want to take. Ask them to listen and to encourage you as you take these steps and to provide some accountability. Again, they’re not a teacher but if they’ll share where they’re at and the steps and struggles they have taken it will help you to grow.
5. Turn off Distractions and Tune into God
Be still and know that I am God, it says in Psalm 46 and in our digitally connected world it’s difficult to be still and avoid distractions. Our phones, tablets and computers get our attention first thing in the day rather than the God who made us. Not saying you need to throw away your devices but put them aside and on silent so you can actually be still with God.
This can involve prayer, sitting, reading the Bible, lighting a candle or whatever helps you to focus on God. Take a practical step like praying a Centering Prayer or meditating on the goodness of God.
One brief prayer that I often use is The Breath Prayer. Saying aloud or silently, “Abba Father, I am Yours.” It’s brief enough that you can say it timed with your breathing.
Breathe in – “Abba Father”
Breathe out – “I am Yours”
And you can repeat it, sitting in a relaxed position and letting your thoughts rest on God and your trust in Him. It’s a powerful prayer that helps us to tune out distractions and focus on God and our reliance on Him.
Other options are The Jesus Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer or even just praying the name, Jesus. You can find those and other centering prayers online.
As you take time to listen to God, you might find yourself distracted. Acknowledge the idea that distracts and set it aside for later. Pray your centering prayer again. Rest in God’s presence.
Listen for God to speak to you. You might find Bible passages come to mind or ideas from God. You do want to check that anything you hear is from God and consistent with His teaching in the Bible.
You might not hear anything. Often just resting in God’s presence is a great growth opportunity. We can be very task oriented and want results so we get disappointed if we don’t hear God. But just being quiet, worshipful and attentive to God is enough.
One time I was getting psyched to be still and listen for the voice of God. This was new for me. I wanted it to be just right. Wanted to prepare to hear God. I got the fireplace going, set up a space on the couch with my Bible nearby, turned off the phone and had everything just right. I figured I’d take 20 minutes, possibly 30 and just be still waiting on God to speak in some way.
I’m psyched, I’m ready, and as I sit down, in the split second as my butt lands on the couch I hear God’s voice. BAM!
Didn’t have time to get settled, or to do a centering prayer. Didn’t gaze into the fireplace, relax my breathing or get in a comfortable position. Just BAM, God spoke. And I knew it was God — the words came out of left field completely unexpected but spoke straight to my heart and clearly aligned with God’s word. God will surprise you. He might speak or might not. But it’s about Him not you.
Be still and know that HE is God.
Looking back at my 5 suggestions for growth, you might say, “YES, I will do all these things!”
Sure, go for it. Or even if you pick one and take that on and then maybe another one or two later. Growth is an ongoing process for disciples of Jesus and we can always start, stop and adjust.
So, go for it, whichever you prayerfully think will work for and challenge you.