As Christians, we wouldn’t want to get into the legalistic practice of creating “to do lists” that we must follow to define ourselves as believers. However, at the same time, there are things we can do each day to keep walking by faith.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
If we merely study God’s Word, but don’t put it into practice, then our faith is nothing more than an intellectual exercise. It is what we do every day that defines and demonstrates our faith and for that reason, we need to be intentional about how to go about it.
There’s no 12-step plan when it comes to Christianity, but consider these seven things that can make a big difference to your daily spiritual growth:
Our prayer life is our personal time with God. This is the time we block out the distractions of the world and focus our attention on our Creator. By connecting with God in this way, every day, we put ourselves in a better frame of mind to deal with everything we face in our lives.
This is something we should look forward to as well. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who equips us and protects us to go out into the world and live our faith. If we miss this step too often, our faith can quickly become superficial.
2. Read your Bible
In order to consider ourselves as “believers,” we need to be absolutely clear on what it is we actually believe in. We can do this through prayer, personal reflection, fellowship, attending church, participating in faith-based activities, and even through supplemental study.
The Bible is the Word of God – the source for everything we believe in. You should be purposeful about studying the scriptures each and every day.
Of course there are different doctrines in Christianity. For this reason, we must study what the Bible says – and what it doesn’t. This is the only way to we can determine what we personally believe.
3. Be thankful
It’s all too easy to sink into self-pity – in fact, it’s practically the way of the world (just watch TV talk shows if you doubt that). There’s plenty happening in your life and in the world to regret or be bitter about. It’s important that we understand that as Christians we are called to be different. Rather than immersing ourselves in the negativity that surrounds us, it’s far more important that we practice thankfulness each and every day.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. A thankful heart is a changed heart. It forces you to focus on the good things that God has given you in your life (starting with eternal life), rather than on the missed opportunities and unfortunate circumstances that we’ve all witnessed. A thankful heart also makes it easier to witness to others. The answer to mankind’s problems can be found by seeking out God.
Being thankful to God is also a form of positive thinking. It forces you to think about all that’s good in your life, rather than spending time ruminating over your problems. We need to be people of hope, and the only way to do that is by being thankful. That’s an attitude that is developed on a day by day basis.
One final point: Being thankful is a form of worship – the kind that comes from the heart.
4. Be forgiving
In Matthew 6:14, Jesus tells us “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
If Jesus is truly our Savior, then we must be absolutely serious about this practice. A forgiving heart is another of those qualities that doesn’t come naturally. It’s something that comes through practice. We can practice forgiving people each and every day. Once you get into the habit of doing so, it becomes second nature like any good habit.
It’s a habit that we need to develop. In our sinful hearts, we desperately want to see the flaws in others, while expecting complete forgiveness from others for our own shortcomings. We cannot expect forgiveness from others until we are ready to freely give it to them. God requires this of us!
5. Reflect on your shortcomings
In order to worship a holy God, even to consider the whole concept, we first have to realize our own inherent sinfulness. That means we need to own up to what we’ve done wrong in the past, and what we’re doing right now. It’s only when we realize the true depth of our sinfulness that we can truly appreciate the need for a Savior.
While doing this, don’t merely concentrate on specific past sins. Rather, focus on the overall state of your heart. That includes your evil and selfish desires, which reveal the true state of your heart. God sees what’s in your heart, no matter how righteous you or others may think you are.
Realizing our own sinful nature is probably the start of all forms of worship. It’s a form of coming to the end of yourself, and that sets the table for true worship. It also makes it considerably easier to forgive others when you realize the depth of your own sin.
6. Be ready to help where there’s a need
While we’re busy being wrapped up in our own lives and problems, there are people with needs all around us. While it is impractical to spend all day every day helping others with their problems, you can help one or two people each day.
Focus on the people around you and try to be sensitive to any issues that they may be going through. A kind word or helpful gesture from you could be all it takes to get them moving forward. It will also help them to begin seeing you as a follower of Jesus Christ, and not just another insensitive face in the crowd. Opportunities for more direct witnessing can flow from these encounters.
7. Be a witness
Be mindful that your behavior is your most powerful witness to others. In all that you do, understand that your behavior is your most powerful witness to others. All of your best words will be meaningless if they don’t line up with your actions.
Whether we like it or not, the world holds us to a higher standard because we are believers. They are moved when we practice what we preach, but turned away when we do the opposite.
Each day, consider how your actions may impact others for good or for evil. Put greater emphasis on your more positive behaviors and eliminate or gradually reduce those that could be perceived as a negative witness.
Do you put any of these into practice on a regular basis? Are there other steps that you suggest that would help us all to live our faith?