The end of a year is a popular time to talk about resolutions for the upcoming year. Often, this is because previous resolutions were not completed. The new year is a blank slate and we become eager to fill that blank slate with the idea of good things and improvements in our lives. For many Christians, improving our spiritual lives becomes a key goal.
The problem is: intentions alone will get you nowhere. You must put action behind your intentions in order to accomplish anything.
If I decide in my mind I need to exercise more to become healthy but do not make and follow through on a plan to exercise, my intention alone will not get me the result I want. I need to develop the goal (exercising three times a week), and then make a plan and execute the plan to meet this goal.
If I intend to eat less fast food and more healthy food and make a plan to cook my own food rather than buy fast food, but go grocery shopping and leave the food in my fridge while running to the nearest fast food restaurant because it became too late in the day, what good was my intention? My plan worked to a point, but I didn't follow through on the whole thing.
To improve your spiritual life, to really see results, you need a framework of goals, a plan, and action.
1. Set your goal. Decide what you most want to improve. What is your benchmark? Be specific.
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Twice in this passage he mentions that action is required. "Do this and you will live." "Go and do likewise." But the framework Jesus develops for us to center our own spiritual growth around is the concept of "loving God and loving others." If we focus on those two things as our growth areas, we will be moving in the right direction.
2. Make a plan. How will you accomplish your goal? Be specific.
In 1 Timothy 4:7-16, Paul teaches Timothy about the importance of discipline and training. We need to know what we are working towards and stay committed to that end. If you want to read the Bible more, make a plan to do so. For example, commit to reading one chapter each day before bed. Do not go to bed until you have followed through on that plan!
3. Take action. Intentions and plans are merely tools. They help you achieve but only when you take action.
Each of my examples so far has focused on the need to take action. In James 1:22, James spells this out clearly when he writes, "Do not merely listen to the word and thus deceive yourselves. Do what it says." We must put action behind our intentions and our plans.
To grow spiritually in 2016, create a spiritual growth plan that loves God and loves others, focus on the details of that plan, and take action on it.