It’s the week between the Christmas and New Year holidays. For many of us (including your pastoral staff), this means time out of the office. If you’re anything like us, however, it’s also downtime with an eye on the future. We’ve been working on personal and team goals, thinking, and planning for the coming year.
In every area of life, growth happens best when it’s intentional. Education, finances, and retirement; they’re all most successful when there is planning involved. Your spiritual life is no different.
In a recent podcast, James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, was discussing the science and practical steps behind forming new habits and reaching our goals. Clear mentioned one of the people he studied during the research phase of his book—we’ll call him Steve. Steve had a goal of making time to go to the gym every day. He knew that it was a change that was necessary to improve his health. Yet, throughout his adult life, he’d never been able to convert that goal into a repeatable habit. James challenged Steve to start in small steps. He encouraged Steve to take small steps, such as sleeping in what he would wear to the gym and packing a change of clothes for work into a bag the night before. However, it was the next step that surprised me. James encouraged Steve to drive to the gym and sit in the lobby for five minutes. No sweating, no workout—he didn’t even touch the equipment! James suggested that Steve do this for a full week before taking the next micro-step, where he completed a 5-minute workout on one of the machines before going home.
You may be wondering: “How does driving to the gym but not working out help Steve reach his goals?” I was wondering as well. The answer, it turns out, is that through a series of small, repeatable micro-steps, James was able to help Steve to reach his goal of daily gym attendance and, ultimately, better health.
Whether or not you’re interested in reading the book, the premise of Atomic Habits applies to our spiritual lives. Often we feel pressure to make significant changes in our lives, and sometimes big changes are required. But how we make those changes is often unsustainable. As you consider spiritual growth in the coming year, ask yourself this question, “What can I do every day to make sure that I’m growing in my relationship with Jesus?” Time in prayer and scripture reading are both essential components of personal spiritual growth. What’s getting in your way? Is it a lack of time? Maybe work and/or family obligations?
Let’s frame the question a different way: what small change can you undertake that would make completing these steps more likely each day? Perhaps it’s something simple like moving your Bible to your bedside table. Or taking your cell phone to the nearest large body of water and throwing it as hard as you can (I’m kidding about that last one—kind of). Maybe it’s something as easy as turning off the notifications for the apps on your phone, so you spend less time on email and social media each day. Whatever the easiest, first step is, take it. Be intentional and set yourself up to complete that step every day. Then, build on that by taking the next easy step, and then another, then another.
During this time of goals, planning, and resolutions, we want your spiritual growth to take a front seat. With that in mind, you’ll want to join us this Sabbath as Pastor Chad shares a message that is very much related to this topic titled, “Am I Growing?”
It’s our prayer that each of us will continue to grow spiritually in 2020. After all, personal spiritual growth leads to corporate spiritual growth, which leads to a healthier church. Friends, God has a mission for each of our lives just as He has a mission for His church. Nothing is required beyond the tools that each of us has been given already; prayer and scripture. Ask Him to show you how to make it a larger part of your daily life.
Will you join me in taking that first step?