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Friday, April 10, 2015

Spiritual Growth Day by Day: A Practical Approach

You've been told by sources innumerable that you should read your Bible and pray every day. You know this is right. You know that a Christian should delight in daily devotional time. You've been told that this is the way to grow, that you will soon see spiritual progress if you follow these two simple steps: read your Bible and pray.

You've tried. But you're starving spiritually. You know you are, and what's worse--you have little direction to climb out of this quicksand of sinking spirituality. Again, people tell you to read your Bible and pray. It's a vicious cycle.

I have found myself caught in this cycle many times. Trust me. And I want to share with you the means of escape I have found. This is my personal, practical approach to spiritual growth day by day. 

I will reveal right away, before we begin, that I experience dry seasons just like everyone else. I do not spend adequate time in my devotions every day; some days I let idols sneak into God's rightful position--first place in my heart. But just as you can do, fellow-Christian, I repent and beg God's forgiveness. Then I try again. Thank God my Savior "delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18).

Tools Needed:
  • Bible
  • Commentaries (physical or digital)
  • Notebook or Journal
  • Pen or Pencil
  • A Humble, Willing Heart

1. Study
Reading your Bible is vastly important, but it is little wonder that you seem to gain no spiritual sustenance if all you do is read. You must go deeper. Study the Bible.
I realize that "study" sounds like work. Yes, in fact, it is work. It can be hard work to thoroughly study a passage until you gain a Biblical understanding of it, but it is rewarding work. The excitement of learning something completely new from an oft-repeated passage is worth your time and effort. But more important is the knowledge that you are gaining a deeper understanding of God's Word, and in so doing, of God Himself. He is glorified in our efforts. 

Tip: Personalize your study plan. I use a daily Bible reading plan (currently a 90-day plan through the New Testament) that I found online. There are countless plans from which to choose. In this plan, I read three chapters a day. I find that reading aloud when I am alone helps me to focus on the words and keep my mind from wandering. 
As I read, I almost always come across a few passages that I do not understand. I stop where I am in my reading, open studylight.com on my phone or computer, and choose a reliable commentary from the Tools section. (Of course, you may use physical commentaries, as well.) If you are unsure which commentary to use, try starting with Matthew Henry's. I find his work to be extremely helpful. It is best to use several commentaries for each passage, so that you do not read only one man's opinion on the passage.
Once I read what trusted Bible scholars have to say on the passage I am studying, I jot down a few notes in my notebook which is set aside for devotions and church notes. That way, not only have I learned something new from God's Word, but also I have the notes to refer to later, when my memory needs refreshing.

2. Talk
Personal prayer time with God likely will seem overwhelming if you try to pray through your whole list of burdens and requests every time you pray, or even once a day. If you find that you can do this, go ahead by all means. But if you feel stressed just thinking about your prayer list, try splitting up your list over a period of several days. You may focus on a few requests each day for five days, a week, or even a month, before you complete your list. Group the more urgent burdens together to pray for first. Of course, there are probably several requests very important to you that you would like to pray for every day. Certainly do that, and daily ask for spiritual growth and for God's guidance and help throughout your day. 

Tip: I learned a few years ago that prayer time becomes far easier for me when I try to quiet my thoughts (not easy for a woman, who has approximately 10,000 things on her mind at once) and picture Christ sitting near me, right in the room. Then, I talk to Him as my closest Friend. What also helps me is speaking to God throughout the day, as I go about daily tasks. It may be just, "Thank You, Father" and a smile when I receive a blessing. But it is still conversation and sweet fellowship with my God.

3. Hide
Yes, you may have to hide somewhere to be alone with God and to escape the chaos of your everyday life! But the hiding I want to focus on here is the hiding of God's Word in your heart. Memorize Scripture. Choose verses that are special or challenging to you and commit them to memory. You will benefit always from this practice.

Tip: As I read through my three chapters per day, I write verses down I come across that I want to memorize. I put them on 3 x 5 cards, a trick I learned from my dad.

Further Practical Steps:
1. During your devotional time, turn on a favorite hymn or praise song and sing along. Focus on singing the words directly to God, as your offering of praise to Him. Music is not even needed. Sing a cappella, if you wish.

2. Make time to read good theology, devotional, and Christian living books that will benefit you spiritually.

3. Find a good sermon online or from another source and listen to it as you complete daily tasks. Hearing the rightly divided Word of Truth will benefit you, even if you're just at home mopping the floor.


Tyra Lane-Kingsland said...

Thank you for the practical tips. Most of your suggestions are things I employ to keep my devotion time alive and not legalistic. BTW - love the penmanship on the cards. I like to write and am somewhat of a doodler so even taking extra time to be intentional about the way I compose the lettering helps the words sink into my heart. Happy to be your neighbor at Grace & Truth Linkup.

Erika said...

These are wonderful tips, some I had never heard of. Thank you so much for sharing. And your handwriting is beautiful! Glad you linked up at Grace & Truth. :-)