Four Ways to Grow in Your Faith in 2021
Let's ditch the stagnancy of a lukewarm Christian walk and resolve to pursue Jesus with passion in 2021. But how?
Below is part one of the series: How To Grow In Your Faith! So excited for a series on something so important that I need to be reminded daily. Let's grow together!
In March 2016 the entries of my journal sounded hopeless. I was crying out to the Lord to give me spiritual sight. I'd read my Bible every few days, watch sermons from megachurches on my laptop in my dorm room, I stumbled into a college ministry a handful of times, and I pursued dating guys who seemed Christian enough while at the same time sidestepping obedience and holiness.
Looking back to those early months of the Lord stirring in my heart, there was an obvious God-gifted desire to know Him. My only genuine Gospel exposure was in 2013 and I was riding off what I remembered from that season. I had no idea what to do to move forward. There have been countless times I have perused the dashboards of faith based community groups I am apart of online only to see the same words: sisters who feel stuck in a faith rut and gals who want nearness to the Lord. The desire is there but the plan is not, just as I was in 2016.
Now there are numerous reasons for my journal entries in 2016 and my sin was one of them. My sin was separating me from the Lord and I had not been brought to saving faith just yet. But I do know God was stirring in me a desire for Him, for holiness, and for His kingdom. So what do you do when you're in this space? How do you grow in your faith when you feel stuck, when you've stepped away from the faith, or when you aren't even sure if you have faith to begin with? Not only that, but how do you walk in faith continually as a Christian?
1. Get into the Word
When I desired to grow in my faith in 2016, there wasn't a true understanding of how desperately I needed God's Word. Scripture cannot be exhausted. As God's living Word, we can spend forever learning and growing in our knowledge of the Bible.
In early 2016, I'd half-heartedly approach the Word, I'd flip to random pages and read that day, and I'd go days if not weeks without reading. Now while all of God's Word is profitable for teaching and correction and is life-giving (2 Timothy 3:16-17), it's better to have a plan to really dig into Scripture instead of randomly opening it every day asking the Lord to give you something.
My pastor has said before that, "People are always desiring God to speak to them while failing to realize He already has." And he means the Bible. God has spoken to us through His Word.
So why do we need to read the Bible? (The following list is not exhaustive by any means)
- Because God's Word sanctifies us (John 17:17)
- The truth of Scripture will set us free (John 8:31-32)
- Abiding in the Word brings joy (Psalm 1:2)
- It helps us stand firm in our faith (Ephesians 4:13–14)
- Scripture gives life (Matthew 4:4)
Let's make a plan. Let's study the Bible. Let's drink deeply of what the Lord has purposed for passages of Scripture and what the writers intended for the people they were speaking to in context. Let's approach the Word with reverential awe. If we want to know God and grow in faith, we have to know His Word.
2. Evaluate your prayer life
How I have thought about prayer in the past is echoed by middle and high schoolers I have come across in student ministry. Prayer becomes something we visit at night before bed and we often drift to sleep before we say "Amen."
But what is prayer really for? Why is prayer going to help us grow in faith in 2021 or ever?
God commands us to pray, which means we must pray. To not pray would be to disobey God. Disobeying God leads us to be distant from God.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 calls us to pray without ceasing. So now, growing in my faith since 2016, I see prayer as constant communication with God, not simply a wink in His direction on my way to bed. It looks like thanking God for waking me up, acknowledging Him throughout my day, pleading for grace when my sin is revealed to me, praying on behalf of my friends, adoring the Lord for His goodness, and so on. It's okay to admit we need growth in this area. I didn't wake up one random day post 2016 automatically knowing how to pray. And I'm still growing.
The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. The Lord's prayer in Matthew 6 recounts Jesus's reply. It's not what we might expect, it's not intensely us focused. It's kingdom focused. Since 2016, my prayer life has morphed from "What do I want to wish my metaphorical genie in a bottle before bed" to "How can I pray that the Lord would advance His kingdom here and use me to be a part of it."
How does our prayer life look going in to 2021? Are we praying for the kingdom of self or are we seeking to glorify Jesus with every breath?
3. Get plugged into a local church
When I say this point I say it with every fiber of my being. Countless times I have heard the saying that "You don't have to go to church every Sunday to be a Christian," and if that's a phrase you would "Amen" I would love to talk more together.
God created us as communal beings. We need community. Even God Himself is a communal being, operating as the three-in-one, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a lone wolf Christian.
Why do we need the church? (Again, not an exhaustive list)
- To be reminded by other believers who we are in Christ (Matthew 5:13–16)
- To be known by other believers and confess sin to each other (James 5:16)
- To be accountable to other believers (Galatians 6:1-5)
- To encourage growth in each other (Ephesians 4:13–24)
- To use your gifts and serve others (Romans 12)
In 2016, when I was barely chugging along and scoping out the faith, I was not connected to a church family. I'd skate in and out of college ministries. Even when I came to faith I still struggled getting connected because I didn't want to be known. I didn't want people to know where I was struggling or what I was doing in my free time. I'd argue we all operate in that way at times. If people know us, they can call us out, reject us and judge us. But being a part of a healthy local church ought to be a safe place, not a perfect place, but a safe place, to grow in faith, to struggle with and fight sin and be prayed for, to learn from the Bible, and to fulfill the "one another" commands in Scripture.
We need the local church to grow. We need to be connected to community. We need to learn together, forgive one another, give grace to one another, exhort one another, sing and worship alongside one another. We need it.
4. Pursue holiness
Even if we dig in our Bibles, pray all day, and dive into the local church, if we aren't pursuing holiness, we won't have healthy growth.
We need prayer to grow in our desire for holiness. We need the Holy Spirit to do the work in us. But while we depend on the Spirit to work, we need to be actively killing sin, and that happens by the power of the Spirit.
In early 2016, I was running a muck. The Lord was beckoning me and I was in straight rebellion. I had misplaced identity in broken and hurtful relationships. My worth came from guys. I was once asked why I didn't take the plunge and call myself a Christian, and while I wouldn't admit my reason, I knew it was because I was actively living in sin. I was week-in and week-out continuing to do things that I knew God said we shouldn't do.
In order to grow, we have to obey the Lord. It hurts our selfish, human hearts. It's hard. We lose friendships and relationships. We give up the things we once enjoyed. The trajectory of our lives change.
But our lives change for the better.
There is more joy to be found in Jesus than anywhere in all the world. God is not a big fun-sucker seeking to ruin our lives. He is the Author of life and the rules He has set in place give us the freedom to live in the way He designed us to live. Don't you want to live life for the One who made it?
Not only that, but the obedience required to grow in faith is a work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit in us sanctifies us, aka makes us more like Jesus. So since 2016, by the Spirit, certain sin has been put to death in my life. Am I perfect? No. We won't be this side of heaven. But we fight sin, we depend on the Spirit, and you guessed it, we grow.
Do you want to grow in your faith in 2021? Let's get into the Word, let's evaluate our prayer lives, let's get connected to the local church, and let's pursue holiness by the power of the Spirit. Let's grow together.