Helps for Christian Growth
While there are many important aspects to our Christian life, I believe there are some things that are “Foundational” and essential to our Christian growth and spiritual maturity. There are many elements involved to growing a healthy tomato plant, but water, sunlight, good soil and time are the basic essentials to this growth process. Without these things, the plant will simply not grow nor produce the desired fruit. These Christian elements I call “The Foundational Five”, are the starting point for the Christian life and essential for continued growth. They are the “water, sunlight, good soil and time” that is necessary for you to produce a FRUIT-FULL Christian life. These are not the only things you should focus on, but they are a good place to start. These things must be in place so you can continue to grow in Christ and produce other necessary spiritual fruits. These are the basic necessities you lean on in times of hardship or trials. These are the things you “just keep doing” when everything else seems too complicated. These Foundational Five things will keep your spiritual boat floating through difficult time.
1. Daily Bible Study
The Bible is God’s word to man. When we read it, we are reading the very words of God that he gives to us for our salvation, guidance and joy. Someone once asked Dr. Tom Malone how much Bible they should read in their personal devotion time, to which he replied “You should read until God speaks to your heart.” This could be two verses of scripture or forty verses; either way, it’s not the quantity you read but the quality of your Bible time. It is better to soak your hands in a few verses and have God really speak to your heart, than to rinse your hands in multiple chapters and receive little more than the accomplishment of much reading. The Bible is the instruction manual to life, read it much and you will fail little. (2 Tim.3:14-17; 2 Tim. 2:15; Psalm 119:9-11, Luke 21:33; 1 Pe. 1:23; 2 Pe. 1:19-21)
2. Daily Prayer
If the Bible is God speaking to man, than it is safe to say, praying is man speaking to God. “Prayer is Asking” said the great preacher Dr. John R. Rice. Prayer is you and I bringing our requests to the throne room of the Great God and King of the Universe. You can use the word ACTS when you pray to help you stay focused. This is not a form to follow, but rather food for thought that should guide our prayer thinking:
A = adoration, we should start our prayer time by adoring God for his greatness. Adore his beauty, mercy and grace. Spend time glorifying him with our mouth and heart; this is an act of worship that sets the tone of our prayer time.
C = confession, next we should confess any and all known sin in our life. David said in Psalms 66:18 “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” sin cannot spoil our salvation but it kills our prayer life.
T = thanksgiving, spend time thanking God for all you have and all he has given you. Use this time to reflect on his goodness toward you. Take time to name specific items you are thankful for.
S = supplication, finally at the end of your prayer time, ask God for what you need. Pray for your family, church and government. Pray for sinners and the power of God to fill your life. Pray for your relationships, financial needs and more. You should set several times, even “appointments” during the day when you will block off time and pray to the Lord.
Regular prayer will keep you from giving up and throwing in the towel. A disciplined prayer life delivers desired results. (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 18:1-7; Phil. 4:6; Luke 6:12; Acts 12:5; Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17)
3. Regular Church Attendance
The local New Testament church is Gods chosen vehicle for spreading his gospel message and was designed to be the centerpiece of the community. The church was founded by God and purchased with the blood of his son Jesus Christ. We should go to church more and not less in these last days. You will find strength, guidance and fellowship at church among Gods people. You will build lasting friendships at church, and find people who have been through similar difficulties as you have. These are the positive influences that will keep you focused and motivated through the tough times. Church is the primary place for religious instruction and public worship. We learn to work with others in a local church ministry. We learn to forgive, love and help those who are weak. Through the local church, we support soul-winning efforts both domestic and foreign. The local church is God’s army, collected together in smaller groups to accomplish smaller mission objectives in each community for the greater end victory. God has spread his army of saints around the world, to every little community and backwoods setting all for his glory and praise. From the city to the desert, God has placed his people in small operating bodies to do his work until he returns. Church is a vital part of your Christian life; go more, go faithfully and get involved. (Heb.10:25; Luke 14:23; Acts 2:47, 3:1, 11:26, 14:27, 20:28; Col.1:18; 1 Tim.3:15)
4. Tithing to Local Church Ministry
The financial support of Christ’s work is the responsibility of every Christian. To support your local church is to support the Gospel work abroad. God chose the local New Testament church to be His gospel vehicle. Winning the lost to Christ, discipling new believers, supporting missions, starting ministries, educating the body of Christ and much more, all center around and through the local church. If the local church cannot sustain, then the work of Christ will suffer.
God has formulated a wonderful plan to fund and continue His work. Every believer is encouraged to give at least 10% of their gross income (or first fruits), as well as give additional offerings (amount varies according to ability) to various needs either in the church or other. The 10% tithe is not the max gift but the minimum, much like a starting point to grow from. The New Testament principle of giving is; give as much as possible and give it cheerfully. If every working Christian would tithe and give offerings of all they receive, there would be enough to supply all the needs of the church as well as fund missions and other helpful ministries in the community. God’s plan is sufficient if it is followed faithfully. When a Christian makes a financial investment into God’s work, there is a sense of partnership with God. It feels good when you know your money is going to help others and to distribute the eternal word of God. Every gift to Gods work is an investment toward eternity. God has made wonderful promises to those who trust him with their finances. There are many blessings and benefits when we obey Gods word concerning our finances. Here are a few things to remember about finances:
- Everything belongs to God anyway.
- You can never out-give God.
- God will always provide for your needs.
- God always blesses a cheerful giver.
- Your financial gift is important to the plan of God.
Trusting God with your money will be one of the greatest challenges to your faith. Money is a rare and precious life-resource; with it we feel safe, and without it we feel helpless. God has all wealth so he doesn’t need our money to survive, but he does want our faith in him to grow. He wants us to trust in him, and releasing our finances into his control accounts for much of that trust. When we learn to trust God with our money, we will learn to trust him in every other area of our life. If you desire to grow in Christ, then financial support of Gods work is a necessary step. Start today, and start receiving God’s blessing! (Lev.27:30-32; Ex.35:5, 24-29; Malachi 3:8-10; Acts 4:34-37; 2Cor.8:1-5; 2Cor. 9:6-15; Phil.4:19)
5. Christian Service
The great missionary C.T. Studd once said, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Christian service goes beyond just filling a position or holding a church office. The service God is most interested in starts in the heart; that is Heart Service. Christ wants more from us than just “doing the job”, he wants us to serve from our heart. Christian service starts with the right motives. Serve him for his great and sacrificial love for you, serve him because it is right, serve him for eternal rewards, and serve him because it brings inner satisfaction and lasting joy. There are many reasons to serve Christ, but the greatest and most noble reason is love. Keep this “Love Motivation” at the forefront of your service. It will need to be refreshed from time to time, especially when you have been a long time in the work or after trouble hits. You will need to remind yourself of why you are working in the first place.
Keeping active in our Christian service will also keep us out of trouble and sin. People who are busy for Christ usually do not get involved in the gossip circle, and do not frequent the complaint department. These faithful workers are generally not the cause of church problems, but rather work hard to keep problems out! If you are going to grow in Christ and excel in the Christian life, you will need to develop this area of service. Once your motives for service are in place, it’s time to start working.
Areas of service would include but are not limited to: Soul-winning, teaching the saints, encouraging the downcast soul, going after the lost sheep, using talents such as; music, writing and teaching. Being there for your friends and family, and helping around your church and community are just a few. God has given us all talents, but it’s up to us to use and develop them. Remember, you will seldom start out good at something, so you must work at it till you get your feel for it. If you fail and fall, then learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward! Never give up or quit on God, keep at it! There is much to do in the work of Christ and sadly there are not enough workers. If you will be willing and available, God will use you in greater ways than you could ever imagine. Start today, ask your Pastor where you can serve, and then use the talents you have. As you serve, pray for God to direct you into more service areas. Serving Christ is the most satisfying service you will ever be involved in. (Matt. 5:16; 9:37; 25:13-30; 28:18-20; John 9:4; Acts 1:8; 9:36; 1Cor.3:9-15; 15:58; Eph.2:10; Col.1:10; 2Tim.2:21; 3:16-17; 4:1-8; Titus 2:11-14; 3:8,14)