The new year is a natural time for making plans. Some people make impossible New Year’s resolutions, which they abandon after a week or a month. I have never been one to think that a different number on the calendar will magically enable me to do what I have failed to do so far. However, I have sometimes used the new year as an opportunity to survey where I’ve been and where I think I should be headed. Sometimes I use this brainstorming to set goals or make plans for growth.
Today, we’re going to talk about making a plan for spiritual growth. The outline for the plan comes from 2 Peter 1:3–11. If you read it, you will gain important context for this year’s experiment. I also would like to point out a few truths from this passage:
- If we know Jesus, everything we need for a life that honors Him is already ours (v. 3). Therefore when God asks us to do something, we should not say, “I can’t.”
- We must make an effort to grow (v. 5). God works in us, but we cooperate with Him by working to grow in the areas He shows us.
- Refusing to follow God’s plan is disastrous. Refusal makes us ineffective, unproductive, spiritually nearsighted, spiritually blind, and forgetful of our cleansing from sin (vv. 8–9).
- Working to follow God’s plan brings great reward. Peter says if we follow his instructions, we will never fall, and we’ll be welcomed richly into the kingdom of Jesus (vv. 10–11).
As for the plan itself, we can find it in vv. 5–7. Here are the qualities in the cycle of spiritual growth:
- Brotherly kindness
In the previous weeks, I have been pondering faith. What is it? Where am I weak in faith? What specific practice can help me grow in this area? I have also prayed. And as I prayed, the answers became clear.
What Is Faith?
I am certainly no expert on faith. People ask a lot of questions about faith that I can’t answer. But as I look through many of the New Testament references to faith, here is what becomes clear: Faith is believing that what God has said, He will do. It is not saying with my mouth, “I believe.” It is actually believing. Actual belief will prompt action. If my “belief” doesn’t prompt action, I don’t really believe what God has said. (Some of the references especially helpful to me in understanding faith include Matthew 21:21, Romans 1:5, Romans 4:5, Galatians 5:5–6, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, Hebrews 6:11–12, Hebrews 11:6, and James 2:14–26.)
Where Am I Weak?
I recently finished reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I’m not going to review it here, but it was worth every minute I spent on it. I do not consider myself a pack rat, but as I read this book, God began to point out to me areas where I am holding onto belongings that could bless others. I am holding onto these things which were useful in the past because I think, What if I need this again? I’m not using them now, and I have no plans to use them in the future.
God says, “If you give to meet others’ needs, I will supply what you need” (based on Proverbs 22:9, Luke 6:38, Philippians 4:14–19, and 1 Timothy 6:17–19). If I really believe Him, I can trust Him to provide what I need when I need it. It’s OK to let go of possessions that others need. If I later need something I gave away, God can provide it again.
How Will I Practice Faith?
I knew immediately what experiment I would try for January—set aside a certain number of possessions each day which I no longer need, then give them away. Thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for providing this idea. (Read her book if you can. Her commentary on her experiment is more hilarious than mine will be. I’m sure of it.)
The hard part was picking the number of objects to set aside each day. Three was my first thought. That sounded doable. Maybe too easy. Seven (like in Jen Hatmaker’s book) did not seem doable for me. Not because I’m so heavenly minded, but just because I’ve moved a lot. Moving often makes you get rid of things so there’s not as much to pack. Besides, a third of the furnishings now in our house don’t even belong to us.
A number between three and seven, then. It must be doable, but it must be a challenge. Five? I don’t know if I will actually succeed in giving away 155 items this month. But I’m going to try.
If you need to trust God in this same area, I invite you to carry on this project with me throughout January. I’d love to hear your insights and comments as we spur one another along.
But maybe the area where you need to strengthen your faith is different than mine. Do you sometimes act like you don’t believe something God has said? What concrete change can you make this month?
If you choose a different project, I’d love to hear your comments as we go along, too. Let’s focus on spiritual growth and build our faith together.