1. Read your Bible.
The Bible is the infallible Word of God. It was breathed out by God for teaching, training, and correction (2 Timothy 3:16). I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to read God’s Word. It is His clearest way of talking to us. Not only do you get to know Him through His Word, but you will begin to look at the world, look at life, and look at people the way He does. There is absolutely no way that my thinking (and ultimately my ways) would have changed if it wasn’t for the Word transforming and renewing my mind. I started out reading a verse here and there, and maybe the “verse of the day” on my Bible app. While it was good that I was getting some Word in, it didn’t have that much of an affect on me. I was still doing the same things, living the same life. The only difference was that I was more involved in church. I was in church every Sunday, and even throughout the week but I only had relationship with church, not God. And because my relationship was not with God, I would forget about everything that was preached to me on Sunday and get right back to doing the same things on Monday. And sometimes I didn’t even wait until Monday. I was back to it that same day, Sunday evening! Deep down I wanted to change, but I still wanted to drink, party, and satisfy my flesh too. But then…. I started reading my Bible. I mean really reading it, and my thinking started to change. I began to feel conviction in my heart about the things I was doing. And I started developing real feelings for God and wanting to live a life that would be pleasing to Him. It wasn’t church that transformed my mind, or a Pastor, it was getting to know God through His Word.
I’ve been told by a couple of my friends that they have a hard time reading the Bible because they can’t understand it. And I get it. The first few times I tried to read from the beginning, I could never make it past Exodus (the second book of the Bible). So if this is you, try reading a Bible storybook first. I read the same storybook a few times so I was familiar with most of the stories in the Bible. When I finally committed to reading it through, it was like reading an extended version of the shorter stories I had already read. I found myself enjoying it and looking forward to reading more. You might be thinking, but storybooks are for children! I don’t know where that rule is written but I believe that you are never too old for a storybook. You have to do what works for you. And that may mean reading the Bible in its simplest form– a storybook. I’m sure that once you are familiar with people and events in the Bible, it’ll be easier to understand when you sit down to read the actual Bible. Also, you can try Bible plans if you have a Bible app on your phone or other devices. I use the ‘You Version’ Bible app and they have plans that guide you in reading. In some plans there are even videos of different Bible stories. There are also plans that help you study as you read. Whatever you have to do to get into the Word (storybooks; Bible plans, etc.), please do so. It will help you live a better life (Matthew 5:16), have a closer relationship with the Lord (John 10:27), and know His Will for your life (1 Thessalonians 4:3); and it will help you stay on guard against the enemy (Ephesians 6:11-17).
Merriam Webster defines communication as “the exchange of thoughts, feelings, and ideas between two people”. It is a key ingredient in any healthy relationship. Have you ever been in a relationship in which there was no communication? Either one person is doing all the talking and the other never gets a word in. Or, both people are constantly talking so nobody hears anybody. Or even worse, nobody is talking at all. Relationships thrive on effective communication. The same goes for our relationship with God. In order to strengthen your relationship with Him, you must have ongoing communication. While reading the Bible is God’s clearest way of talking to us (as mentioned above), our way of talking to Him is through prayer. Prayer, if I can put it simple, is talking to God. During prayer we express our thanks and gratitude towards Him. We thank Him for who He is and everything He’s done. We also make our requests known to Him (supplication) through prayer (Philippians 4:6) We can use our prayer time just to talk and spend time with Him. I often hear people ask about the “right away to pray”. Because people think that there’s a “right way” to pray, they get discouraged about praying for fear of not doing it right. The Bible does not specifically give us a “right way” to pray. The closest thing to a formula can be found in Matthew 6. But even in Christ’s teachings on prayer, He did not say that you must be on your knees, or standing up, using big words, at a certain time of day, or in a certain way. I encourage you to just talk to him from your heart and be real with Him. He already knows anyway. Don’t stress yourself out trying to find the right words to say. The more time you spend talking to Him, the more natural it becomes. You’ll soon start to look forward to your quiet time with the Lord, away from the noise of the world. Jesus Christ set the best example of what our prayer life should look like. Even in His busy life teaching, healing, and casting out demons, He made sure He spent time with the Father. Prayer seemed to be as natural to Him as breathing. Not only did He pray, He fasted consistently (Matthew 4:2).
Fasting starves your flesh of things that it naturally craves, like food and water. When we fast, it allows us to focus only on God instead of the physical things of the world, including our physical need to eat and drink. It is very important to pray and spend time with God during your fast as your mind will be clear and you will be open to receive whatever Word He may have for you. You can fast from food and water for an entire day. Or, you might choose to fast for only part of the day. You can fast from certain foods or from food entirely. You may decide that you will fast from all meats, sweets, and sodas and just eat a veggie diet for a period of time (known as a Daniel Fast). If you are new to fasting, you can take baby steps if you need to. I suggest fasting for only part of the day, let’s say from 6 am to noon. And as time goes on, you’ll move on to fasting for an entire day. Some people fast from the internet, social media, television, sports, etc. The idea is to give up something that you normally cannot do without. I’ve heard it referred to as “starving your flesh so your soul can eat”. I have a set day and time that I fast from food and only have water. During that time I also fast from social media. I do this one day a week, and sometimes more if I feel I need to. I fast consistently for two reasons. 1. I do it to rid myself of all distractions so that I hear and feel God. When I have less distractions, I am more in tune when reading the Word and while praying. Sometimes I’m seeking God for answers so I fast and pray for discernment. Sometimes I fast with and for other people. 2. I fast to practice discipline and self-control.The more we practice discipline and exercise our self-control muscles, the easier it is to starve the flesh of other cravings such as sin. If you are unable to starve your flesh in one area, chances are you will not be able to starve it in other areas. Our flesh wants what it wants but we have the power to overcome it. And fasting is a sure way to practice not giving in to it. The more you can resist what your flesh wants, the stronger you become spiritually.
3. A change in your environment.
It is a fact that as human beings, we often become products of our environment. We pick up both good and bad practices from the people around us, including family and friends. If you truly have a desire to live a new life but being in certain places and around certain people causes you to revert back to your old self, you may need to change your environment. When I made the decision to quit drinking alcohol, I had to stay away from clubs, parties, and any place where there could be alcohol served. I actually had a really bad fall out with a good friend because I didn’t go out with her to a club for her birthday. I offered to do something with her during the day as opposed to going to the club that night because I knew without a doubt that I would have had wanted to buy a drink. And I didn’t want to put myself in any tempting situations. It upset her, but I had to do what was best for me at that particular time. Eventually, I became strong enough to be around people drinking alcohol without being tempted to have some. I talk about this in Trying To Fight An Addiction?
There’s going to be a lot of people who will not understand the change you’re trying to make. This is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who are on the same path you’re on and definitely those who are already where you want to be. For me, it was even more motivating when I was around people who were already where I wanted to be spiritually, people that I could look up to. This included an older woman from my church who I refer to as my “spiritual mother”. She taught me so much about fasting, meditating on God’s Word, and spending time with the Lord in prayer. I had prayed for Him to bring people like her into my life. I had also prayed for Him to remove people from my life who would hinder me. And I must say, He did just that. Losing friends is a part of the growing process. You might even lose some family along the way. It may hurt but you have to understand that not everyone is meant to go where God is taking you. I assure you that God will replace any persons you lose with new friends and family who are a part of His Kingdom. Now, I’m not telling you to stop being friends with every single person who is not on the same path you’re on. Besides, you do want those people to see your new life and want to know what they can do to be saved (Acts 16:30). We are all called to bring souls to Christ by spreading the Gospel (Mark 16:15) and by living it out (Colossians 1:10). What I am saying, though, is that if you truly want to grow spiritually, and strengthen your relationship with God it requires a shift to a more positive environment that will nurture your spiritual growth and not hinder it. You may find that some people will support your decision even if they feel like it’s not for them. They’ll even encourage you when you’re down, make sure you’re reading your Bible but will never pick it up themselves. Ironic right? I have a couple of those type of people in my life. But then you’ll have some people who are not happy about your change and will try to get you back to your old self. I had a “friend” who would say things like, “I miss the old Kendra”; “I just want you to go back just for one day”; “Our conversations aren’t even the same.” This same person also told me that she does not want to keep hearing about God. Needless to say, she is no longer in my life. If you have someone in your ear constantly trying to get you to go back, that person does not have your best interest at heart. In that case, you should distance yourself from that person. You can find new friends in your church, local Bible studies, or join some Christian networks online. Earlier this year, I met a woman in one of the Christian groups I’m in on Facebook. We connected in the group and found that we lived about 40 miles from one another so we decided to meet up. Our connection in person was even stronger than the connection we made online. We instantly became friends. And now we talk just about every day. We pray for and encourage each other. We attend conferences almost monthly as we are highly encouraged by them, and have even become “accountability partners.”An accountability partner is someone you trust and can count on for support and motivation. Having someone beside you to grow with, pray with, and learn with makes this path so much easier to walk. When one person is weak, the other is strong.
Lastly, changing your environment doesn’t just stop at changing your surroundings. It also includes changing some of your practices like not watching the same things on TV, not reading the same books, and not listening to the same music as before. Some people will read what I just wrote, and think that’s too much! Yes, it does seem like a lot at first. And it may seem impossible. It was only recently that I was able to quit watching a show that I absolutely lived for. I couldn’t miss one episode, I watched reruns on Netflix during the off season, and I was completely engrossed in this show. But when I realized it was stirring up certain things inside of me that were not good, it was time to let it go. It’s not easy but sometimes it’s necessary. I’m going to write a separate post detailing specific reasons why, but for now just think about this: how much influence does what you watch, what you read, and what you listen to have on how you look at life, at people, and at yourself? How much influence does what you watch, what you read, and what you listen to have on your spiritual growth or lack thereof? Just think about it.
I pray that this post was helpful to you in some way. As always, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or prayer requests.
Love, Mizz K ♥