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Our goal as believers is to grow in our relationship with God and to have our character formed into Christ’s image. How does this happen? It is true that God makes us grow, but we also have a role. “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” ( Philippians 2:12-13). The spiritual disciplines are a way that we can cooperate with God in our own spiritual growth. By practicing them, we willingly place ourselves in God’s hands so that he can mold us into the likeness of Christ.

How do we practice the spiritual disciplines? Here are some general steps that will guide you through the process.

The first step is to find out what areas of your life need change. This step will take some honest and prayerful reflection on your life. One way to do this might be to open your Bible to a passage that teaches on godly living, such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or a chapter in Proverbs. Read through the passage slowly, asking God to bring to mind anything in your life that needs attention.

Another way to determine where you need change is to consult other believers. Find someone you trust who will be both truthful and loving, and ask that person where you need growth. Then take the advice you receive to the Lord in prayer.

The second step is to find out what kind of spiritual discipline will help you to grow in this area. Spiritual disciplines take many forms. A typical list of disciplines might include prayer, fasting, meditation, study, service, sacrifice, celebration, confession, worship, and fellowship. As in the first step, this second step requires prayer as well as thought.

One question that can help you decide on a discipline is whether the need in your life is to do more of something or less of something. If, for example, you discover that you are watching too much television and neglecting other tasks, you might consider fasting from television for a while. On the other hand, if you find that you lack compassion for the poor, you might dedicate the next few weeks to serving the needy in some specific way.

Finally, you must practice the discipline. It may be a challenge at first. You will make mistakes. Have faith that God is still working in you, and follow Paul’s example: “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14).

This article is adapted from Practical Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987).

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Judson Baptist Church
Oak Park, Illinois

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