Prepare your minds for action and exercise self control – 1 Peter 1:13
In my sermon on Sunday, I talked about making a Faith Plan. A Faith Plan is a tool to help you prepare and be intentional about maturing and growing your faith. Often times we live in the land of good intentions but struggle to see any noticeable change in the way we are living or our passion for Jesus.
As radical followers of Jesus we need to discipline ourselves in our faith so we can be effective kingdom builders for the long haul, not just when it feels good.
The following is a list of 12 concrete things you can do to become an effective follower of Jesus now, and in your future. The list has been divided into two categories: internal factors and external factors.
1) Submit your dreams and goals to Christ
Many of us come to Jesus with many selfish ambitions. These selfish ambitions need to die. Ultimately, our only ambition is to see Jesus glorified!
In prayer, give your dreams and goals to Christ. A warning: it may be the boldest prayer you ever pray. Make a practical list of the things your hanging onto and ask yourself if you’d be willing to let them go for the cause of Christ.
2) Read Scripture, For Real
We are eager to act but not always eager to listen. The letter of James instructs us to be slow to speak and slow to act but eager to listen. We should be eager to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This practice is about building a dependency on the only true Word: Jesus Christ, the Living Word. No words should be louder than the words of scripture. Without scripture our plan is directionless.
Building a practice of reading and memorizing Scripture will increase the clarity of the voice of the Holy Spirit. Make notes of what is striking, challenging or confusing. Write scripture out to help you memorize them.
3) Get New Desires
The Holy Spirit can begin to cultivate desires within us (Philippians 2:13). Cultivate this in the times of quiet, honest prayer alone with the Holy Spirit. Share your deepest thoughts, emotions and longings with Jesus. As this process continues the desires of your heart will begin to conform to that of the Holy Spirit. Journalling is an incredible tool in helping to formulate your thoughts. Start to form a specific picture of where you would like to be in 5,10 or even 20 years.
4) Establish a Routine
One of the reasons that our good intentions are never realized is that we never frame them within a routine. Everything worth doing is going to take discipline and perseverance. Establish a regular routine of time in scripture, time hearing the spirit, time at church and time serving. If you need to put time with Jesus in your calendar – do it! It may feel unspiritual but it is actually very spiritual to prioritize and establish a routine that enables you to build your faith.
5) Get Serious About Sin
Nothing will derail your efforts to have sustainable growth in your faith more than allowing sin to remain unaddressed. By convincing yourself that it’s “not that bad” or it’s “not a big deal” or “I’m not hurting anyone” you limit your capacity to build the kingdom and make yourself and your ministry vulnerable to decay.
Pursue radical holiness in every area of your life, don’t allow compromise in this area. Know what holiness looks by asking the scriptures, not by asking culture. Confess your sin to the Lord, again, writing it out is a powerful tool.
6) Establish Real Accountability
The reality is that the battle will never be fought alone. You need passionate Jesus followers around you. Get comfortable talking about your faith, hopes, fears, and struggles. The Book of James commands us to confess our sins to one another. If you want to grow in your faith you will need to be vulnerable with others in your faith.
This will not happen by accident; people will not ask if they can hold you accountable. It is your responsibility to invite trusted people into your life for this kind of honesty and relationship. It is also your responsibility to equip those you are asking to hold you accountable with tools to do so – for example letting them know specific situations, patterns that cause issues for you. Don’t just share the struggle though, also share the dreams.
7) Learn New Things
You do not have all the tools and knowledge you need to succeed for things you hope the Lord will use you for you. If think you do, return to step 1-3. You may be lacking theological knowledge, scripture memorization, counselling skills, public speaking ability, visionary creativity, a technical skills – you name it!
The answer to this is to simply to learn the knowledge, skill or ability required! Identify where you have a lack in knowledge or skill and work diligently to address it. Don’t allow your present inability to define your future ability. This may be through reading books, asking questions or even taking courses. Find someone that is strong where you are weak and ask them to teach you.
8) Sharpen Your Skills
Every one has skills that are intended for the benefit of the Kingdom. Some of you may even be excellent with them already. However, our skills need constant refinement. You can always be more effective with the skills you have.
Throughout the Scriptures the leaders of the early church demonstrate an incredible excellence in the usage of their skills – see Paul in Acts 17 and Acts 24. This was refined over years of ministry and practice in addition to a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
In short this is about mastering your craft and pushing yourself daily to improve. Ask others to give you critical feedback. Remember: you are not your skills, so your worth is not dictated by success or failure.
9) Honestly Name Threats
Many of us desire to serve Jesus in environments that are potentially toxic to our faith. There is no room for compromise in obedience to the call of Jesus. Yet, complacency or compromise can start to creep in very quickly. If the situation you find yourself in has a history of leading you away from Jesus then in all likelihood future situations will have a similar effect.
Make a list of situations or temptations that are a threat to your faith. Honestly evaluate if you can remove the risk altogether. If you cannot, build a plan to keep the risk far away by establishing clear boundaries. For example: if greed is a threat, practice radical generosity and build a habit of living on less than you need. If getting drunk is a threat, avoid situations involving alcohol altogether.
10) Dive Into Opportunities
Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to grow your faith. Invest whole-heartedly in the place the Lord has placed you. Instead of waiting for perfection to come to you, help be a part of building it yourself!
11) Soak Up Wisdom
Surround yourself with people that are skilled and knowledgeable in areas you are not. In this way you will both be strengthened by them in your weakness as well as glean knowledge for the future. Seek this people out in your life, they are likely all around you.
12) Be Very Patient
Timing can be a difficult thing to discern with the Lord. Be faithful to the above components and in his timing the Lord will bring about what he desires to do in you!
Often times we are very focussed on the end result or the product. The Lord however, is much more concerned with your heart and whether or not it is pursuing him! Above all, keep him front and centre.