Although the days are warm, there is a chill in the air each evening that hints at the approach of fall. I’m back in the routine of packing lunches daily and doing endless loads of stinky laundry. Wrangling schedules to accommodate sports practices and games for both my boys seems like an ongoing topic of conversation. But this year these tasks are bittersweet because next fall, one of our boys will be heading off to college.
I see my sons every day, but I still marvel at how they’ve grown and matured. They tower over me and are able to carry on witty, insightful conversations with ease (when they’re in the mood to talk). Their physical and intellectual growth has been happening incrementally all along, but suddenly it’s more noticeable. My husband and I certainly aren’t perfect parents, but consistently nurturing our boys throughout their childhood has produced some pretty amazing results.
I started thinking about this in spiritual terms, trying to pinpoint what the keys are to consistent growth in this unseen realm. Here’s what I came up with:
Regular Time Studying the Bible
It seems obvious, but consistently reading the Bible is a vital key to spiritual growth. Imagine if the doctors and nurses handed me my first born at the hospital and said: “Don’t forget to feed him every day.” It goes without saying, doesn’t it? Yet, there are many people who proclaim faith in Jesus that are spiritually starving themselves because they haven’t made time for this vital discipline.
Jesus explained our need for spiritual nutrients provided in God’s Word by quoting the Old Testament: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 NIV)
Few of us look at eating as an obligation. It’s crucial to consume food regularly for strength and energy. Yet for many of us, we see time in God’s Word as a chore, something we “should” do to be “good” Christians. Others of us view it as a treat to savor—the reward we get once all of the “important” things have been completed. Yet studying the Bible is most effective when we do it daily. It renews our minds and helps us see things through God’s perspective instead of our own. It reminds us to root our identity in Christ and teaches us to live in a way that honors God and draws others to him. It guides our decisions and gives us wisdom beyond anything we conjure up on our own.
If you are participating in a group Bible study this year, think of the homework as a tool to access God’s Word rather than a task to complete. Don’t view it as drudgery like you did when you were a kid in school. Try approaching it as an opportunity to be guided through the Bible in a way that will deepen your understanding and expand your faith. Incorporate your studies into your daily time with God and watch how your consistency leads to spiritual growth.
Regular Time in Prayer
Similar to studying the Bible, praying enables us to share our hearts with God. There are several elements that prayer includes: praising God for his attributes, confessing sins, thanking God for specific ways he has worked in our lives and asking him to help others and ourselves. Communicating with God about these things enables us to deepen our relationship with him. As we spend time in his presence, we show him he matters to us and we invite him to move on our behalf.
It’s just like the time my husband and I have spent with our kids over the years. Our relationships have grown and deepened because we’ve been around each other. We’ve been available to guide and encourage them through challenging circumstances because they know we are reliable. We’ve been there to cheer for them when things go well. They trust us and respect our advice (even though they don’t always like it or want to follow it). We couldn’t have quality relationships with our boys without spending consistent time with them over the course of their lives. The same is true of our relationship with God.
Here is a simple prayer written by King David that you can use daily: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalm 143:8, NIV)
Accept the Invitation
As we head into fall, will you embrace these keys to spiritual growth? Will you prioritize reading the Bible and praying daily as vital for your spiritual health instead of seeing them as obligations, luxuries or haphazard activities? If your answer is “yes,” remember the key is consistency. Like watching children mature, it will happen slowly. Some days will be harder than others. And sometimes your good intentions will be derailed. But if you strive for consistency, you will see the fruit of your efforts in time. And when you look back, you’ll be amazed at the growth that has occurred in you.
Click on the link and be inspired by Lauren Daigle’s song “First,” Make it your prayer this week.