Happy New Year! 2017 has officially begun and this should be a time for new beginnings—a time to start over, and to grow. Of course, a fresh start is easier said than done. I always find myself making promises, then growing lazy and not keeping them. In 2017, I hope to break that pattern and, with God by my side, I really think I can, and you can too! Here are some practical tips to help you grow in 2017.
1. Pray. Every day. I’ve noticed in my own life that I’m much more motivated and determined when I spend more time in prayer. The time I spend in prayer every morning carries over into all other areas of my life, helping me be calmer and feel more in control. Life is easier with daily prayer. And it’s important that it’s daily because every small “no” to spending time with Jesus (that seems like it’s not a big deal), adds up in the end and creates distance between the Lord and us. Take the time to talk with Jesus daily and watch for the little changes that take place in you as you go through your day.
2. Form good habits. Habits can be good or bad, and they aren’t formed overnight. It takes time and patience to boot out the bad habits and usher in the good ones, but nothing is impossible with God. The first habit you should form (if you haven’t already) is definitely daily prayer. Prayer will help you as you endeavor to break bad habits and create good ones. Once you’ve formed those new, good habits, life will start to flow a bit more easily. However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t do things like praying, reading Scripture, going to church or spending time with faith-filled friends, just because they’re habits, or something you can check off your to-do list. Good spiritual habits require true dedication and attentiveness to remain truly good and fruitful. Just going through the motions won’t help you much—believe me, I’ve been there and done that.
3. Identify the lies and then cut them out. The Devil is always whispering lies to us throughout the day. It’s important to recognize the ugly thoughts and feelings within us, like jealousy, anger, annoyance, self-hatred, etc., and realize that they come from Satan. My mantra during the day, whenever these negative feelings start to rise is to say, “In the name of Jesus, I reject you, Satan,” or “In the name of Jesus, I reject the spirit of (comparison, frustration…)” Some days I get even more specific as I battle the Devil, with words like: “In the name of Jesus, I reject the lie that tells me, I’m not good enough, I can’t do it, I’m not lovable, etc.)” The lies he tells are constant and tailored to you. Learn to recognize them and then choose to not believe them. They occur often, but as you learn to recognize their source and rebuke them, their power over you will diminish. I struggle every day, but Jesus helps me overcome temptation a lot more easily now than when I tried to do it on my own.
These tips are the building blocks for your spiritual foundation. Once you’ve mastered these things, doing other things will become a bit easier. Saying “yes” to these small things will make it easier to say “yes” to the bigger things that God asks of you. While there’s no magical fix to life’s problems, we can be prepared, with God’s grace and strength for what life throws at us. So, make your New Year’s resolutions, adding in these three pointers, and then actually keep them. Don’t get discouraged by any failures or mistakes. Don’t give in to the temptation to turn away from God when you mess up or when life gets hard. Keep trying and one day it will all pay off. Have a blessed 2017!
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9