Goal setting and new year resolutions tend to occupy people’s minds when a year comes to an end. A new year is often seen as a time to reset or refresh with brand-new goals. A fellow Christian once posed this question, ‘How should we, as Christians, set spiritual goals for the new year?’ The simplest answer is that our focus should mainly be to aim for spiritual growth at any time of our lives and not wait until new year’s eve or the month of January.
Spiritual growth leads to spiritual maturity, and spiritual maturity can be attained by having some spiritual disciplines in our lives. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (NASB2020) reads ‘…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.’
Just like how sprinters exercise their bodies in order for them to run and finish the race well, we ought to train ourselves to be Christ-like. But if we are going to be Christ-like, we must then be disciplined and consistent in prayer, Bible reading, Bible meditation, Bible study and attending church services. These are listed below in a clickable format for your ease of navigation in this article:
- Bible Reading
- Bible Meditation
- Bible Study
- Attend Church Services
- Conclusion on Spiritual Growth
We can do this beloved, but only through Christ who gives us the grace to accomplish that which He intends for us to accomplish. If we use our own willpower, we will only go a short distance and give up. ‘The mind of a person plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.’ (Proverbs 16:9, NASB2020). Therefore, we should pray and ask the Lord for more grace to help us to be disciplined and consistent for godliness. Let’s now explore this in detail.
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB2020) that we should ‘pray without ceasing’. Being a Christian means that we are in a relationship with the Maker of the whole universe.
The success of any relationship is dependent, among other factors, on communication. Take a husband and wife relationship for example, for them to have a successful marriage, there must be regular communication (and here we mean communication that is constructive and not destructive). Any lack of communication leads to relationship breakdown.
On the other hand, if there is regular communication, the relationship becomes stronger as they get to discover each other more and better. In short, inconsistent communication leads to broken relationships.
Thus for us to grow up in our faith, we need to be in constant communication with God, and that is through prayer. The Bible tells us to pray at all times. Therefore, let’s make it a point to let prayer drive us from when we wake up in the morning until when we sleep at night. The more we pray, the more our minds will be focused on God and all things pertaining to His Word, thereby leading to our spiritual growth.
2 Peter 3:17b -18a (ESV) says ‘take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ To avoid losing our way in our Christian walk, we ought to grow in our knowledge of the Lord.
As with any meaningful endeavour, discipline is required to fulfill and accomplish it. So in the case of serious Bible reading, one has to set goals and tasks on how they go about it to accomplish this life-saving endeavour. As with any other athlete, they set plans on how they will accomplish their careers or in preparation for a competition. They wake up very early in the morning, they watch what they eat and they even have breathing practices.
The point here is this, if we are going to grow in our faith, we must be disciplined and we must have goals and plans. And so when we talk about Bible reading we are not talking about opening a page here and another there. No, we must have goals that we want to accomplish.
My recommendation is that you must read verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph and book by book (in that order). No one reads a letter from a loved one from the middle paragraph. They start from the beginning to the very end. If we are going to understand the Bible, then we must read and study it systematically with intention.
We must also understand that Bible reading is not an intellectual endeavor. The mind’s comprehension of the Bible must lead to a heart transformation otherwise the whole exercise becomes useless. To enable this to happen, we must look to the Holy Spirit who illumines God’s Word and gives us understanding. Only He can open our eyes to see the life-changing truth.
Once we become consistent and disciplined with our Bible reading, a hunger for it will develop in our hearts, this is cultivated hunger. It is a hunger that is not going to come by mere expectation as others would have us believe. The Apostle Peter reminds us that ‘Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation’ (1 Peter 2:2, ESV).
This same longing is the one that King David had when he said ‘As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.’ (Psalm 421:1, ESV). Maybe you may not be feeling that craving within you today. I would encourage you to pray to our Helper, The Holy Spirit, to help you discipline yourself and maintain consistency once you’ve started practicing these disciplines. This would then cause you to hunger more for the pure spiritual milk so that you may grow spiritually.
This pure spiritual milk is the Word of God. It is our spiritual food and we need it for our spiritual growth. The Bible tells us that ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB2020). Again the word ‘training’ reappears here. The scriptures are what will help us to mature in our faith.
Not only do we need to read the Bible, but we also need to meditate on the Word. To meditate is simply to ponder or reflect on the Word of God. The Lord gave Joshua these instructions which we can relate to:
‘This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.’
(Joshua 1:8, NASB2020)
God commanded Joshua to meditate on the Word day and night. It is a daily and frequent task that we need to carry out. This will increase our knowledge of God which will in turn strengthen our relationship with Him as we continue to grow in our faith. We are blessed beloved when we meditate on the Word:
‘Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, And on His Law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
(Psalm 1:1-3, NASB2020)
Again, here is another mention of day and night. When the Bible repeats words in this manner, it shows us how important that is. This teaches us that it is vital to make a habit of regularly having great pleasure in meditating on God’s Word.
Take time to reflect on what you have read in the scriptures. Ask yourself, ‘what have I learned from this passage?’ Most importantly, the very first question to ask is ‘what have I learned about God from this passage?’
Personal Bible Study
Another aspect of spiritual growth is setting time aside for some personal Bible Study. The scriptures tell us to ‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.’ (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). The NKJV puts it this way:
‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.’
(2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV).
We should study the scriptures diligently and systematically. Being diligent is ‘characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort’(Merriam-Webster. n.d.). This means we should continuously be at it, giving all of our effort into studying the Bible. This can be illustrated as trying to find treasure. We keep digging and digging into the Word so that we can find gold.
Being systematic means that we are studying the Bible with proven methods. It means there is a plan and end goal to the study, that is, we start with 1, and then go to 2 and then 3……10. It means to be coherent and organised. This approach is a fruitful labour.
Finding the gold would mean that we refer to other Bible translations, and for further insight, we consult some Bible commentaries, concordances and dictionaries, so that we can grasp the full meaning of passages that we struggle to understand. The extra Bible study resources that I have come across, which I find useful are below. Hopefully, you can find them beneficial too:
New Bible Commentary:
New Bible Dictionary:
When we earnestly study the Word on a regular basis, we grow spiritually. And as the verse above states, we would be able to correctly handle the Word of God.
[There is a free pdf guide for recommended Bible Study Resources that you may find beneficial. It can be downloaded below]:
If you want to learn more about how to study the Bible, please see the ‘recommendations’ section at the bottom.
Bible Study Groups
In addition to your personal Bible Study, it is also of great benefit to attend either:
- your church’s Bible Study sessions,
- join Bible Study groups in your local area or online, or
- meet up with a group of Christian friends to study the Word.
This helps us gain further insight into the scriptures. The Lord has given us other fellow believers in Christ to fellowship together with. Let’s join in and be a part of the Bible Study groups so that we learn from each other. ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)
We may discover that another person read the same verse you read, but they got an understanding of it that maybe you didn’t capture, and vice-versa.
Attend Church Services
Make it a point to regularly attend church services; ‘not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ (Hebrews 10:25, ESV).
No one is saved to individualism but we are given to one another as a church. The definition of the church is a group of individuals that have been saved by Christ and belong to Christ. The Book of Acts gives us an illustration of the church:
‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ (Acts 2:42, ESV)
‘They‘ are the group of people. No one person on their own is they the church.
As we have previously seen in the last section, being together with other believers in Christ can help us draw more Biblical knowledge, thus developing our spiritual growth. The above verse reminds us not to disregard meeting with our fellow brethren.
When we attend church, we do not only grow spiritually through the sermon being preached by the Pastor or elder of the church, but we can also grow when we hear of other believers’ testimonies of how God came through for them in different situations. This would teach us a thing or two about God, or we might learn how we can apply their experiences to our lives. As a result, we would be drawing in more spiritually, hence increasing our spiritual growth.
Singing biblically sound songs in church is also important for our growth as Christians. We are encouraged in so many ways through Christian songs. Gospel songs can get us to a point of worship and exaltation of our Maker. The more we worship God, the more our love for Him deepens, and the more we long and crave for Him and His Word; because we’d want to know Him more and more.
Let’s be reminded of this verse that states, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’ (Colossians 3:16, NKJV)
Talking about sermons, it is always a great idea to jot down sermon notes, since you can go through them later and be like the Bereans. The Bereans ‘were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.’ (Acts 17:11, NKJV)
You can have a discussion after church with your family or friends about the sermon. Having regular sermon discussions after church can also be great for your spiritual growth as you’ll be learning from others in terms of what they took from the sermon.
Here are some recommended note-takers that I found to be great for taking sermon notes:
This is a fantastic all-in-one Christian planner that has loads of space for taking sermon notes. You can also track your Bible reading, journal your prayers, memory verses, weekly devotions and yearly goals. As it is a planner, it has a daily, monthly and yearly planner included. You may find that it is a bit bigger than standard planners because it consists of many things, but it is worth it.
Matilda Myers Notebook:
This is a beautiful A5 lined notebook that has loads of pages. So it can be used for jotting down your sermon notes or anything else you like. The notebook covers and pages are of great quality. There are different colours that you can choose from too.
Hopefully, these will be of great benefit to you.
Conclusion on Spiritual Growth
It is all well and good to seek spiritual growth by establishing a prayerful life, reading and meditating on the scriptures, doing Bible studies plus attending church services. However, if we do these things and don’t put the Word into action then our faith is dead. The Bible says that ‘For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.’ (James 2:26, NKJV).
Therefore, let’s ask God to grant us discipline and consistency so that we can mature in our spiritual lives.
May the Lord help us all. Have a blessed day and all the best.
P.S. Feel free to share this article with your loved ones by clicking the social icons below. Also, let me know which spiritual discipline you are planning to work on that you have struggled with, by leaving a comment below. We are in this together to help each other out beloved. Thanks and God bless.
If you are new to the Christian faith and you are not sure which Bible version to go for, please see the recommended Bible translations we have.
Book – How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
This is a concise and very beneficial book that teaches you how to read the Bible, really for all of its worth. You will learn about the different genres of the Bible, its cultural or historical context, and how to apply it in your personal life today. This will help you to grasp how to properly interpret the scriptures. The book will also help you avoid the mistake of quoting Bible verses out of context to support your beliefs.
Book – Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible
This is a very good book that will teach you the 3 simple, fantastic and structured steps of how to study the Bible, which are:
It is great for personal Bible study but can also be used in a Bible Study group.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, King James Version. Cambridge Edition: 1769; King James Bible Online, 2022. www.kingjamesbibleonline.org.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Diligent. [Online]. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diligent (Accessed: 29 December 2022)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.