Don’t make any New Years resolutions for 2018.
If you’ve already made some, just forget ‘em. Statistically speaking, most people don’t keep their resolutions anyway. I quit making them several years ago because I didn’t keep them.
Resolutions are a little self-centered anyway, don’t you think? We resolve to lose 20 pounds or stop smoking or train for a 5k or cut gluten from our diets or get out of debt. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all good things. It wouldn’t be bad to determine to do some of them in 2018.
But, I propose we do something more God-centered in 2018. Let’s make a pledge with God, for God, rather than making resolutions with ourselves, for ourselves. Let’s pledge to strengthen our relationship with God this year.
How do we do that? Well, how do we strengthen a relationship with anyone in our lives: spouse, child, parent, sibling, co-worker, neighbor or friend?
Engage with that person. Talk with that person. Listen to that person.
Engage. Talk. Listen.
This is how we build and grow our relationship with God as well.
Engage with God’s Word in the Bible. Talk with Him in prayer. Listen to Him in quiet time.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us about God’s Word: The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Commentary in the English Standard Version says, “The Word of God then acts as God Himself, so that one’s innermost thoughts and intentions are exposed. This happens constantly in Christians’ lives.”
When you read God’s Word, it physically does things to you because it behaves as God Himself. To borrow words from the verse, it is alive, it is sharp, it pierces or cuts, and it discerns or judges. When you read God’s Word, it drives through to your very core and exposes everything to God – what you think, what you feel, what you intend to do, your fears, your values, your beliefs, everything.
What do you think will happen if everything in our hearts is exposed to God? He will give us grace and mercy, and He will change our hearts. He will align our hearts with His will, and when our hearts are brought in line with His will, our relationship with Him deepens.
Talking with God in prayer will also take us closer to Him. Sometimes people ask why we should talk to God when He already knows our thoughts.
Let me use an illustration I have heard so many times that I cannot give credit to the original source. Just know that it didn’t come from me.
Imagine you’re in a romantic relationship – married or dating. This is someone you supposedly care about very much. Imagine what would happen to this relationship if you never talked to this person. You sat beside this person on the couch and watched TV or you rode beside this person in the car and texted or you sat across from this person at the table and ate your food, but you didn’t talk. You didn’t share your feelings or reveal your fears or discuss your goals or tell this person you loved him or her.
Bottom line: this relationship would not last.
It works the same way with God. He wants us to talk to Him and with Him. He wants to hear from us. He wants us to share our fears and our desires with him. What’s more, the Bible assures us over and over that He is listening. And He hears our prayers.
One such verse is Psalm 34:15. It says, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears hear their cry.”
Talk to Him.
However, the most important way to go deeper in your relationship with God in 2018 is to listen to God.
Remember the scenario of the romantic relationship earlier? Well, let’s say you do talk when you’re with that person. You talk A LOT…about yourself: what you want, what you need, what you’re afraid of, what you think, what you don’t understand. But, you’re so busy talking that you don’t listen to the other person’s fears, desires, and thoughts. What will happen?
This relationship will not last.
Now, imagine this other person in the relationship where you’re doing all the talking is God – the Sovereign, the Most High, the Alpha and the Omega. He knows all – including the purpose for our lives, so it stands to reason that we ought to listen to Him, probably even more than we talk to Him.
In Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, King Solomon talked about our attitude toward God. He said, “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.”
Listening is imperative if we are going to grow closer with God. We have to listen so He can tell us His will. We have to listen so He can show us the way. Then, when we do pray, our hearts are in line with His will, and we will want what He wants for our lives. That should be our goal.
We listen in our quiet time. I’m sure you’ve heard this term, quiet time, before. This is time we spend with God just listening. Being still. Being quiet in mind and body and focusing on what He has to say to us.
Focus on what He tells you to do during this time. Who does He want you to talk to? Where does He want you to go? What does He want you to do? When you go to Him and are quiet, He will tell you. As you listen to what God has to say, He changes your heart so that you want what He wants.
This is my pledge for 2018 – to spend time with God – reading His Word, talking with Him, and most importantly, listening to Him. This year can be a year of spiritual change for you and for me if we will pledge to do these things to grow closer in our relationship with our God.
Do you spend time praying, reading the Bible and/or listening to God? If you do, what are some of the positive effects this has had on your life?
If you don’t do these on a regular basis, what do you think is keeping your from doing them?