January is such a good time to reflect back on the year and see what's changed, how far you've come and grown, and to set new resolutions for the year to come. Each year, I take the time to marvel at all God has achieved in and through me all in just 365 days.
For 2016, I had resolved to be more disciplined in the time I dedicate to reading the Bible and spending time with God in prayer. Sounds reasonable, sounds like I long to seek to be godly.
It's true that being in the Word and in communication with God are great things, but I believe it's time to reshape spiritual disciplines—and I've got two good reasons why.
Focus on loving
Firstly, it's commonly understood that the way we think about something has a big impact on our attitudes towards it, and our subsequent behaviour regarding it. So to think about my relationship with God as a discipline is setting me up to fail. It's just simply not my style to do the same thing, the same way, every day. When I eventually miss a day, I'll feel guilty, and likely the guilt will stop me from just picking myself up and jumping back on track.
In the end, this detracts from the goal I'd like to achieve by spending more time with God. My goal is to love God more, to be more dependent on Him, and less on myself, and to live a life that glorifies Him no matter what my vocation or location.
Focus on relationship
Which leads to the second reason: God isn't a cranky dictator who will punish me for not being disciplined, in fact that's not even what He wants! God is a loving Father who longs for relationship with me, and with you. Key words: longs for; relationship.
A reshaped resolution ditches the word discipline and replaces it with desire. You could even go so far as to cross out 'reading the Bible and praying' and use 'to love and know God more'.
Instead of resolving to be more disciplined in the time I dedicate to reading the Bible and spending time with God in prayer, my reshaped resolution is to have a growing desire to love and know God in a more intimate relationship.
There is no doubt that a growing, intimate, deepening relationship with God requires a believer to spend time reading His Word, seeking the Spirit to guide and reveal who God is in and through the Word, and by time in prayer petitioning and listening to God.
It is my belief that these things are most effective when they come from a heart which desires to know God, rather than one that feels obliged to go through the motions.
Do your New Year's resolutions need reshaping to reflect the true character of God and your ultimate goal for 2016? Get your red pen or a black marker out and cull all those words which are negative or set you up for guilt and failure!