One I do remember and a resolution I know many set, is to begin a new Bible plan. Read through the Bible in a year, or two years, or the New Testament in 6 months, so on and so forth. I think it's great that many churches encourage a Bible reading plan as part of your New Years Resolution. What better practice to start off your year then to dig into a book that contains all the wisdom you need, comfort for every circumstance, and a holy experience when you commune with the Spirit as you read.
Has it become like every other New Years Resolution though? Does it die off after the first three weeks?
So, okay story time. When I was a freshman in college and had just re-dedicated my life I went through a bit of a roller-coaster with my faith. I went from radical/highly emotional, Pentecostal-esque believer to luke-warm Christian to questioning Christian within the first two years. I had been through a similar experience within the last decade, fluctuating between fully following Christ with all my heart to doubting it all and preferring intellectualism. I started to wonder whether I would be stuck in this roller-coaster faith my whole life. One day, a member of my sorority stood up in front of one of our meetings and shared with us that she had been struggling with an eating disorder and had fallen into depression. She told us about how she experienced the redemption of Christ and had found healing when she finally decided to take her faith seriously.
I was really humbled by her honesty and it struck a big chord in my heart.
Later, while at the bottom of my roller-coaster - I messaged her and asked what was the turning point? What did it mean to finally "take faith seriously?" I thought I had taken God and my faith seriously so why was I still facing doubts and a constant fluctuation in my faith? She gave me a piece of advice. She told me that I needed to start getting into the Word daily. Not in a legalistic, read 15 chapters a day kind of way; but in an obedient, genuine, I want to know more about Jesus kind of way. She warned me that I wouldn't always feel like it, I wouldn't always be happy when my alarm went off an hour earlier than usual; but that's okay. Our relationship with the Lord is deeper than feelings, but the more obedient we are to spending one-on-one time with Him the stronger our relationship will grow. With that, comes a stronger desire to be in the Word, a better ability to learn how to be still in the presence of God, and a stronger sense of His Spirit that develops within you His wisdom and goodness and love.
When I decided to commit myself to the Word, my faith grew leaps and bounds. When new believers approach me now and ask me how to get started on this faith thing, I smile because I see myself.
We have been designed to need a constant re-fueling of the Lord and His grace. I once heard an analogy that we are like a car and the Lord is the one behind the gas pump. We are designed to run out of gas. It's a wonderful thing, because if we weren't we might drive off into the distance and convince ourselves that we're the ones in charge, we've got this taken care of. But eeeertt, that's not how it works. We must always return to get out tanks filled again and again, which helps continually reminds us of who is the One behind the gas pump and ultimately in control of our journey.
So that's why it is absolutely necessary that we spend time with the Lord and in His Word to be re-fueled and to grow. In Mark 4, Jesus says that many will see but not perceive, hear but not understand. The parable of the Sower describes that some may hear and receive the word, but will fall away quickly because they have no root. Others will hear but the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth, and desire for other things will come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. And yet others, will hear the word, accept it as truth, and will be fruitful up to a hundred times what was sown (Paraphrase v. 12-20). When we are deeply rooted in God's word, we can finally get off of our roller-coaster and grow steadily in faith.
Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Though it is the smallest of all seeds on earth, when it is planted it grows and becomes the largest of all plants. "He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything" (Mark 4:34). Jesus grew His disciples in wisdom and understanding in times that He was alone with them. Likewise, it's in our personal time with the Lord and in His word that He grows us and keeps us deeply rooted in Him.
Tomorrow starts the season of Lent. I'm not Catholic, but I like the idea of Lent and have participated it the past few years - either adopting a new behavior or fasting from an old one to grow more dependent on the Lord and be more intentional in my time with Him. I'll be giving up make-up this year and adopting a vegan diet (giving up cheese and eggs will be a big stretch for me!). Along with that though, I have a few prayer practices that I plan on incorporating into my week and want to start being more intentional with having time for prayer and silence before bed at night. I encourage you to think about how you might spend this Lent season! Whether it's picking back up that New Years Resolution to dig into the Word of God, fasting from something that may keep you from personal devotion, or trying out a new prayer or journal practice - it is never ever too late to be intentional with your faith.
Imagine the trees that could grow if we all surrendered our lives and our time to be deeply rooted in the Lord! Together we would form such a beautiful garden and our strong branches would be an even stronger testimony to the world - how God could take such tiny mustard seeds and grow them in a way that would display the fullness of His glory.