“Oh, you are a baby Christian.” Words sweetly spoken to me early on in my faith journey. I didn’t respond. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what that meant. How was I different, and a baby at that? I had repented of my sin and had come into a relationship with Jesus just as this person had.
It was a couple of years later, when my sister was going through the darkest of times, that this comment came back to me and I began to understand. She too was a brand-new believer. She wanted desperately to make it through the battle she was facing. As a new believer, she didn’t have any of God’s faithfulness in her past to draw on. She didn’t have any stones of remembrance to be able to say, “God, you have carried me through in the past and I have hope. I believe you can and will do it again.”
I began to see the importance of spiritual disciplines in the forming and growing of my own faith. I could see the truth of the words that had been spoken to me, and I could see that I was growing.
As I reflect over the years of following Jesus, there are several practices that have helped grow my faith, and there are those that have set me back. I firmly believe we are not stagnant in our faith. I am growing, or I am back sliding. There is no easy coast, auto pilot setting to growing in my faith. I also realized the more I came to know God, the more there was to know about Him. This journey is going to last a lifetime.
In Philippians 2:12, we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I have a responsibility here. I need to apply this salvation to my life. My relationship with Jesus needs to be seen. How can I do that? In becoming more like Jesus as we are taught in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Attending Sunday morning worship services weekly is vital. We need to come together with other believers to praise and worship our Lord, to sit under our spiritual leader and his teaching from God’s word, and to have time to spend with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us, “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
My own personal time in God’s word allows Him to speak directly to me, to teach me about Himself, and to instruct me. These times are invaluable. I need to feed on His word daily, or I will be feeding on the words of the world. I remember before I was in Christ, and even had a Bible, my understanding of God was very skewed. The decisions I made were based on what I thought, what my friends said, and what I heard in the media. All those things were constantly changing. I could see everything in gray. There was no black or white for me. I was truly lost. How I love having God’s never changing truth. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105).
Prayer has changed dramatically for me! I was raised in a denomination where we were taught rote prayers. We memorized the words. Nothing was ever explained to give meaning, or understanding, to the content. And so, I rattled off the words when in church or the times I prayed at home. To learn that I could go directly to God with my own words, with my questions, my frustration, my pain, my desires was wonderful and freeing to me. One of my sweetest memories of prayer was on a mission trip to Haiti when we sat in a time of prayer with our Haitian team. They prayed in Creole and we prayed in English, and I knew God was hearing each of us. Learning to pray about everything is a challenge I continue to struggle with. My independent flesh would many times prefer to just move forward, or make my own decisions, but how wonderful it is to take everything to God in prayer. How true I find Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Scripture memorization is hard for me. I used to use that as an excuse to not memorize God’s word. But I was challenged by a friend years ago to work at it. I was given different ideas and tools on how to memorize. It’s still not easy, but it is doable, and well worth the work to have God’s word hidden in my heart – to be able to recall His truth and promises, as I go throughout my day, in meeting with others and in prayer.
My spiritual formation is a choice I make. It is a discipline that starts with a desire to know, love and obey God more each and every day. I am far from perfect. I am thankful that God’s grace and forgiveness is available, and He continually draws me back to Himself when I get off course.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2