While reflecting on 2022, my wife asked me: “what would you like to achieve in 2023?”. My immediate response was: “Spiritual growth”, that is, deeper intimacy with God. I promise you I wasn’t being sanctimonious. The overriding revelation from the last few years of my Christian experience is that spiritual growth results in a better relationship with my wife, kids, family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. It means less anxiety about my finances, health, security, the well-being of my loved ones and even the political and economic upheaval ripping through our world. Spiritual growth engenders peace of mind – mental and emotional stability amidst chaos, and I believe it’s directly related to our quality of life.
The notion that pursuing God means waving goodbye to everything that pertains to our welfare and enjoying life is a demonic deception. It’s anathema to what Scripture teaches [Matthew 6:25-33, 3 John 1:2]. Sadly, many of us have bought into the devil’s lie and don’t believe God is committed to our physical, psychological and spiritual flourishing [2 Peter 1:3]. As such, some abandon God, while others seek Him half-heartedly – distracted by the cares of this world [Matthew 13:22]. Unfortunately, the apostate and the lukewarm Christian will miss out on experiencing those conditional promises of God obtained through faith and righteousness.
Everything we need and desire can be found and satisfied in Jesus. The first time God introduced Himself by name to anyone in Scripture, He called Himself El – Shaddai [Genesis 17:1], which means The All-sufficient God – God Almighty. I find it interesting that of all the names God could have chosen to describe His nature and character in this encounter, He used this one. God was essentially saying: “Abraham, you don’t need to go anywhere else to satisfy your needs and desires”. Instead, “just walk before Me and be blameless” – that is, live by faith with integrity, and “I will fulfil My covenant with you” – that is, I’ll keep every promise I’ve made you [Genesis 17:2]. That’s an unbeatable deal when you consider those promises. Nevertheless, it’s worth stressing that while God’s promises are worth coveting, knowing and loving Him must be our ultimate pursuit [Deuteronomy 6:5, Jeremiah 9:23-24].
Hopefully, you agree spiritual growth is a worthy quest this year. So, I’d like to share four growth areas I’m targeting in 2023. The first is giving more time to worship, prayer and thanksgiving. I’m a visual person; I imagine what I hear, which makes what I listen to incredibly important. When I’m listening to a Christ-centred worship song, for instance, it changes my perspective on my situation and informs how I pray. My focus shifts from my challenging circumstance to who God is and what He says about me and that circumstance. In that atmosphere, anxiety dissipates. I become more concerned about God’s agenda than mine, hear God better, and pray more for others. These occasions are wholesome and enjoyable and have made a tangible difference in my outlook on life.
The second growth area is studying God’s word consistently. The Bible is immeasurably rich. It reveals God’s nature and character through historical events and the lives of ordinary people and gives us His perspective on life, that is, ultimate reality. It’s also full of life-applicable wisdom. Anyone who studies it prayerfully can’t but become wise – which, in turn, makes life much easier to navigate [2 Timothy 3:14-17]. With each new year, life gets more complicated, so wisdom becomes ever more indispensable [Proverbs 4:7]. Therefore, it’d be unwise to neglect the source of ultimate wisdom [Proverbs 1:7].
The next area flows from the second, and it’s the art of meditating on God’s word. Scripture is like an unending onion; the more you peel away, the more layers you find. There’s a marvellous promise for those who meditate on God’s word [Joshua 1:8]. But meditation is often a prerequisite for understanding and revelation, which are imperative for wise decisions. Jesus’s words can’t live in us if we don’t meditate on them, and if they don’t abide in us, we cannot bear fruit [John 15:1-8, Matthew 13:18-23]. Therefore, it’s critical to meditate on God’s word prayerfully until it traverses from our heads to our hearts. These are the words of the Creator of the universe; they matter in every possible way. My aim in 2023 is to dwell on a verse or passage the Holy Spirit highlights to me until it seeps into my subconsciousness [Colossians 3:16].
The fourth growth area is fasting. I’m prone to snacking, so fasting helps me curb my appetite – which is healthy. But, I’ve found that something inexplicable happens the longer I fast: my cravings dissipate, and my focus on spiritual things increases. I’ve also noticed that when I incorporate worship, Bible study and meditation into my fast days, my intimacy with God grows, I experience unusual joy, and my prayer life deepens. I want more of that this year. I once heard a preacher say that fasting enhances our spiritual capacity. I think he was onto something. Moreover, the experiences of people like Daniel [Daniel 9], Nehemiah [Nehemiah 1] and Esther [Esther 4 and 5] emphasise the importance of biblical fasting in attaining particular results.
The power of God apportioned to accomplish great things in our lives follows His word [Ecclesiastes 8:4], and His word is His will. Spiritual maturity is necessary for anyone who wants to understand and act on God’s will [Ephesians 4:11-16, Hebrews 5:12-14]. Nevertheless, we can’t grow in our strength. But, if we desire to grow and pursue it, God will supply the grace needed to attain it. So, irrespective of what life throws at you in 2023, I guarantee that committing to growing spiritually in the coming year will position us to experience God’s faithfulness.