What works

Last month I wrote a post called Love Wins, which discussed the way that church programs actually don’t make a large difference in people Christian growth, but loving relationships do.

In this post I have reflected on my own 26 years as a Christian and posed the question, “what has actually helped me grow?”

Here are the top 3 things that have made the most difference in my life:

1. Having a spouse and close friends who love God with everything.

I remember as a teenager hearing this sermon illustration on many occasions – when a campfire is burning brightly, if you then take a piece of wood and put it into the fire then before long that piece will be burning brightly as well. However if you do the opposite – if you take a piece of wood out of a roaring fire and put it by itself then it will be burning brightly by itself. But come back in a few minutes and the piece by itself will have stopped burning. After a few minutes more it will no longer be on fire at all. The rest of the fire will be be roaring, but the piece by itself will grow cold. In the same way, a person who is surrounded by those who love God will do well in that environment. They will maintain their fire for God. But even if you are the most committed Christian on the planet, when you remove yourself from the company of God’s people, over time your love for him will get colder and colder and colder.

I think the point is spot on. What I have noticed as I have gotten older is that it is just as true of adults as it is of teenagers. And therefore my own walk with God has been greatly enriched by the fact that I have Catherine as a wife, and her deep devotion to serving God. Catherine, you have been and continue to be an inspiration. Similarly, having friends who love God is powerful assistance in my own walk. When you see someone more fired up than yourself, my natural reaction is “I want to be more like that!” And once you do head in that direction a friend who is doing the same is a great encouragement to you, and you to them.

2. Worship music and prayer

I natuarally felt that I should say something about my own devotional life, since I kind of assumed that my own habits of bible reading and prayer have been foundational for my growth. But as I thought about this further I realised that it’s not so much prayer and bible reading but Christian worship music that I have found to be extremely helpful. This morning on the train I was listening to a recent worship CD and was inspired by the music and thanked God for his love and his greatness. I think that is an even more powerful than prayer, because I find that my mind often wanders during my prayer times, and often they are focussed on my needs rather than God’s glory and wonder.

I am very grateful to live in a time when we can carry recorded music around with us, and there is so much great, contemporary worship music around. Most Christians throughout history could not have even conceived of enjoying Hillsong United on an ipod. So to all you worship leaders and musicians out there…keep going!

3. Knowing your gifts and using them.

It has been one of the revelations in my life to realise that God wants me to focus on what I am gifted at. Working out precisely what that role is has been a long journey, but I am so glad to be on it, and so glad to have made the progress that I have. One of the gifts that I have is teaching / preaching. To find out that something that I taught has been useful in someone else’s growth is a magnificent thing. How can you really have a better day than to do something that moves people closer to Jesus? Serving and making a difference in people’s lives is really the ultimate way to spend your time.

So what about you? What has helped you actually grow as a Christian? Leave a comment and let us all know….

John

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