The new year always seems to bring with it new resolutions for how we live. For most people, this usually revolves around diet and exercise. Others think about paying off debt or getting a better handle on their personal finances. While those are good things, I’m going to suggest that there is something much more important — your relationship with Jesus. Regardless of our level of intimacy with Jesus, there is always opportunity to grow in relationship with Him. When we consider growing in our faith, most of us think about Bible reading plans for the new year. And, while that’s a worthy endeavor, the truth is that many of us won’t make it past Leviticus. That tends to bring with it feelings of guilt and failure. Instead of doing the same thing every year and expecting different results, what if we were to try something different this year? Here are a few suggestions for you to consider.
The first suggestion is memorizing a whole book of the Bible in 2021. I can feel you beginning to sweat at the prospect of this; but don’t panic! Take it from someone who struggles with memorization, I understand how this might seem daunting. But remember, you have the entire year. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. What would it look like to start with something small, like the 2nd or 3rd letter of John? Also remember that, even if you can’t recite the entire book at the end of the year, you would have spent a year speaking the truths of that book to your heart. Even if you don’t remember every single word, you have hidden them all in your heart to be used by the Spirit to encourage you.
Another suggestion is to take a book of the Bible and focus on one verse each day by meditating on it. I start by writing the verse several times in the morning until I’m familiar with it. That allows me to meditate on the verse throughout the day by asking some key questions. I ask things like: Who was this written to? Why was it written? What truth is this communicating that applies to my life? The next day I move on to the next verse. For 2021 I have selected Hebrews because it has about 300 verses. This gives me a few extra days in case I happen to miss some. But, you can do this with any book of the Bible. I have found that this kind of study really helps me internalize the truths of God’s Word in a deeper way.
Regardless of how you decide to study scripture this year, it is important that you are incorporating prayer into this time. Prayer is an essential spiritual discipline that is meant to grow us in intimacy with God. We have a real God who really listens to our prayers. I know that prayer can be very difficult at times. It can be difficult to stay motivated and consistent in our prayer lives. I have found a few things helpful in staying faithful to prayer. First, I try to write down all the things and people I want to pray for. This is helpful, because we tend to forget things quickly. This also allows you to go back and track how God is answering your prayers. Tracking answered prayer helps you in giving God thanks as He provides. Listing things out also helps you categorize your prayers (e.g. physical needs, salvation, family, neighbors, etc.). You can even assign each category to a specific day.
Another thing that is helpful is to keep a journal. This can be as simple as a prayer request journal (as mentioned above) or as complex as writing down everything that happened during your day and how you saw God move. Either way, it will help you in your walk with Jesus. It helps you process your thoughts and moves you to think about how you are believing, or not believing, the gospel. This discipline also helps us track how our relationship with Jesus is deepening over time. That is an important aspect because of the discouragement that can creep in as we are being sanctified.
One final suggestion to consider in the new year is how you are handling family discipleship. For those of you who have families, we must consider what the corporate expression of this looks like for our spouse and children. The truth is, that family discipleship rhythms are difficult and can be messy at times. But, it’s critical that we chase after health in this area. One of the tools that we’ve used is the New City Catechism. It is a series of 52 questions and responses about core theological truths. There are also verse citations for each truth and, in the kid’s version, fun memory songs. The best part about the New City Catechism is that you don’t need to buy a book. You can download the app directly to your phone or tablet for free. It’s incredibly convenient and user friendly. You can find that resource here: http://newcitycatechism.com/mobile-apps/
I pray that you find some of these methods helpful in growing your affection for Jesus in the new year. Regardless of what circumstances 2021 hold, our greatest need is to cling to Jesus in greater ways. I’m praying for you in this!