As part of my teaching series called “Response-ability: Responding to the grace of God!”, I handed out a small card with these words: “Lord, I commit myself, with Your help, to making every effort to grow and improve in this area: _______________________”
How do we decide an area to grow in?
For some people it can be obvious. They are struggling in a specific area, like an addiction, or an emotional issue, or a money problem. But for others nothing really stands out.
I have found it helpful to look at some of the sample lists of the Jesus Way, and to pick one of those qualities to work on. 2 Peter 1:3-11 is one example:
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5?-?8)
Pick one quality from this list that you sense you need to explore further.
For me the word ‘self-control’ keeps coming up. I can think of specific situations where I need to exercise more self-control. So this is the area I want to ‘make every effort to grow and improve’. What area is it for you?
Once I make this commitment, I need to work out a strategy for how to grow. There are a number of steps I can take to work on this:
- Pray daily, and moment by moment, for the Spirit to strengthen you. I cannot produce this fruit myself, it is a fruit of the Spirit within me. Apart from Christ I can do nothing; but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
- Find out what self control is. Do word studies, do a google search and read articles about it, find a book that explains and helps with self control (I found several listed on Amazon). Spend time journaling or discussing with someone else what self control means and looks like in a person’s life.
- Find out what is behind my lack of self control. What are the underlying attitudes or fears that drive my actions. When am I most inclined to lose self-control. Spend time journaling or discussing with someone else the underlying roots of my lack of self control.
- Find centering practices for when I am tempted. There are specific exercises and disciplines you can learn to change your responses. Make regular, spontaneous prayer your first response. Repeat helpful phrases that re-engage your mind, will and emotions. Write helpful quotes and verses and post them around your house or workplace. Wear an elastic on your wrist, and flick it when you are feeling tempted to ‘lose it’.
- Find someone to offer support and accountability. Ask someone to ‘spot you’ while you are working on this area. Meet regularly with them to give them updates, to share successess and setbacks. Ask them to read the book with you, discuss it with them.
If this sounds like a lot of work, you are right. But it fits with Peter’s encouragement to “make every effort.” It takes sin seriously, as Jesus suggested, that we “cut off” whatever is causing us to sin. If the Spirit is prompting you to change in this area, He will also help you grow in it.
We have been given everything we need for life and godliness through our relationship with God and Jesus and the Spirit; we can escape the corruption in the world, and in us, caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:3-4). But we will not grow to be more like Jesus if we don’t make the effort. And we won’t make the effort if we don’t WANT to.
“Whoever WANTS to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) If the WANT TO is there, the ability is there too, in partnership with the Spirit of Jesus!