Duane Vander Klok
I sometimes talk with Christians who say they are disillusioned or disappointed with their faith. They thought the Christian life would somehow be different, that it would be better. I always tell them that the problem is not with Christianity.
The real problem is that we sometimes make the assumption that all we need to do is pray a prayer, receive Jesus as Lord of our lives, and that’s all there is. Spiritually speaking, those who stop there will miss out on much of what God has for them.
You see, Jesus came to make followers (Matthew 28:19). A follower is a student who is becoming like his or her teacher – and that doesn’t happen automatically. Think about it: when you were a child, did you just wake up one day and brush your teeth, comb your hair, get dressed, and make your bed? No. You had to learn and develop those habits. Likewise, a fulfilling spiritual life results from becoming more and more like Jesus.
This article is for those who want more from their relationship with the Lord. It takes us back to the basics, giving a brief introduction to six spiritual activities that you can put into practice. As you do, they will help develop you as a follower of Christ and live a life that is deeper, stronger, and richer than you may have thought possible.
#1 – Studying the Word of God
According to Psalm 19:7-11, God’s Word helps you think right. It makes you wise and causes your heart to rejoice. As you hear God’s voice through the scriptures, your life is enriched, you receive direction and correction to keep you on the right path.
In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” It’s true. Just as your physical body needs proper nutrition every day, so your spirit needs a steady diet of God’s Word. Reading your Bible every day – not once in a while, not hit or miss, but every single day – feeds your spirit.
You might say, “But I don’t have time for that.” The truth is, we all make time for the things that are important to us. When we say we don’t have time to read the Bible, what we are actually saying is that God’s Word is not a high priority in our lives.
If you want to experience a more rewarding Christian life, there is no substitute for reading God’s Word every day, speaking it, meditating on it, and living according to it (James 1:22-25).
#2 – Praying
Prayer is also a necessity if you want to develop more fully as a follower of Jesus Christ. He said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Notice that Jesus said, “When you pray,” not “If you pray.”
God desires a close, vibrant relationship with you even more than you want one with Him. As you spend time talking with Him, He wants to hear your heart and your requests (Philippians 4:6). And He wants to speak to you as you listen (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Jesus didn’t just talk about prayer. He lived a life of prayer, and He taught His followers to do the same. As a disciplined student who wants to be more like Him, prayer should be a priority in your daily life.
#3 – Giving
Jesus not only said, “When you pray…”. He also said, “When you give to the needy…” (Matthew 6:3). While giving is not a popular topic today, it was an important one to Jesus. He talked more about money and possessions than any other subject.
According to Jesus, what you do with your money affects your heart, and it is an indicator of where your priorities are. In Matthew 6:19-21, He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He also said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
You see, giving is not God’s method of raising money. It is His way of raising people into the likeness of His Son. Your flesh may resist the idea of giving, but it is a powerful, necessary spiritual activity. When you give, you are saying to God: “Everything I have is from You. It’s Yours, and I’m honoring You by putting Your kingdom first.”
#4 – Worshiping God
Many Christians do not understand worship from God’s perspective. Jesus said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23). God is looking for those who will worship Him on His terms. You see, worship is not about what we like, it’s about what God likes.
The heart of worship can be seen in Romans 12:1 where Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” So, worship is more than singing a few songs in church. It is living a life led by your spirit and presenting your body to God. It is recognizing who God is and offering your praise, honor and adoration to the One who is altogether worthy.
You were made to worship God. In authentic Christian worship, your spirit touches God. As a result, your heart is softened and you become more receptive to what He wants to do in you and through you.
#5 – Being in Community
When you became a Christian, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 says the Holy Spirit placed you into the body of Christ. You became part of God’s family, the community of believers, and it is not His will that you live your Christian life alone.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” In other words, we need one another!
According to Ephesians 4:11-15, God placed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in the church to equip you for ministry and to help you become more like Christ. As we are in community with one another, we grow together in our experience of God.
#6 – Fasting
Fasting is giving up food or something precious to you in order to spend time with God. While it is not a particularly popular practice today, Jesus made it clear that fasting should be a normal part of a believer’s life. He said, “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:17).
As you are fasting, you are saying “NO!” to your flesh. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul said, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” A typical fast lasts one day – from sunset to sunset. However, even fasting one meal dethrones “King Stomach” and crucifies your flesh.
An important thing to remember about fasting is that it is more than just skipping food or giving up something special to you. In fact, a fast without prayer and Bible reading is really only a diet. Fasting says to God, “I want to draw closer to you and have the joy of knowing you more. I’m humbling myself, pushing away the plate, and I am not going to let food or my flesh rule my life.”
Jesus taught all six of these spiritual activities. He lived them, and He modeled them, not because they are rules and regulations, but because they are all necessary for a deep, strong, rich relationship with God.
Won’t you join me in pursuing His best? It is a journey that begins with a decision to go deeper. You can start right where you are to incorporate these activities into your life. As you do, they will become a delight to you, and you will experience much more from your relationship with God!
(All scriptures are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)