When my husband, then boyfriend, announced he purchased a house that rested on 25 acres, it was a struggle to share in his excitement.
To me, 25 acres meant work and lots of it. Ironically, it meant the same thing to my husband, but instead of dread, he was eager. To him, this was an opportunity to cultivate something new. The work of preparing, planting, and picking a garden is laborious and time-consuming. But, oh, the joy when you see (and taste) the fruit of your labor.
I think about how this applies to the Christian walk. We acknowledge that following Christ is costly; there are sacrifices, investing today’s resources for tomorrow’s (eternal) investment. But, too often, we shirk our spiritual responsibilities, and we find our spiritual gardens overrun with weeds, in desperate need of pruning.
Following Christ is a daily commitment to choose the things of God, stewarding our resources in a way that honors Him. Below are a few ways we can cultivate a God-centered life:
1. Prioritize a daily time to pray and study God’s Word.
I recently heard that Satan has become quite innovative in his attacks to keep us from advancing in our spiritual lives. He uses things like Netflix, Facebook, e-mail, our jobs, even our families to keep us from prioritizing time with God. Spending time in prayer (talking to God), reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture (listening to God), is every bit as important as maintaining a healthy diet and workout routine.
Now, you wouldn’t miss a workout, would you? Why? Because over time, the consequences of neglecting to exercise will be evident in your jeans! Likewise, there are consequences for not spending time with the Lord. They may not be so apparent today or even tomorrow, but over time, not prioritizing our spiritual walk wreaks havoc on all our relationships and personal well-being.
We must treat our time with God as non-negotiable. Blocking off time on my calendar, having an accountability partner, and telling myself that even if it is just for five minutes that day, helps me be more consistent. We must not let the “business” of life distract us from nurturing our souls by means of time with our Heavenly Father.
2. Regularly confess (and turn away) from sin.
We are sinners, born into sin, and we will continue to sin against God until we die. For salvation, we must confess our sin (our general sin nature) to God, asking Him to save us by believing in Jesus Christ. But, confession shouldn’t stop there. God desires us to not only confess our sin, but turn away from our sinful behavior (Proverbs 6:16-19).
We sin every day, and therefore, we need to seek forgiveness daily. It’s not enough to just confess your sin; you must change the way you live. We are called to put off the things of this world and put on the things of God (1 Peter (2:1-25). Faithful followers of Christ will deny themselves and take up their cross daily (Matthew 16:24-26). It can be costly, perhaps regarding friendships, careers, or even our lives, but an eternity with our Heavenly Father is well worth the cost.
3. Be active in a local church.
The Bible doesn’t present face-to-face communion with other believers as a mere suggestion; it commands us to fellowship and commune with one another in the flesh. This encourages discipleship and accountability, which produces a steadfast and confident faith. Seclusion puts us in danger of “falling away from the faith,” as Hebrews warns. Isolated is precisely how the enemy wants us. Our enemy has one objective: to destroy the child of God (John 10:10). He knows that separation from sisters and brothers in Christ and absence from the preaching of God’s Word cause our faith to waver and our resolve to weaken, thus making it easier to succumb to sin.
We must not fool ourselves into believing that we have “done our Christian duty” by showing up on Sunday mornings. We are called to serve the church; Hebrews 10:24 urges us to “encourage one another to acts of love and good works.” Being a part of a church body invites others to be a part of our lives. Godly friends speak truth when we have gone astray and offer us biblical encouragement under challenging circumstances. We need other believers to help us grow in our faith, attend to our souls, and walk with us as we become more like Christ.