Last Monday we looked at the idea of developing a spiritual health plan and how it can help us to “stay lit” when our circumstances threaten to “blow us out.” Let’s build on that today — by continuing to develop our plan, and by better understanding why we need to.
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:3-11, NIV).
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV).
• Why is staying connected, rather than being connected in stops and starts, so critical to bearing fruit?
• What regularly interferes with your connection—and your joy in Jesus?
• Think of someone who “disqualified” himself or herself in some way, or simply gave out, before his or her “race” was over.” Chances are, sadly, it won’t take you long. Looking back now, what were some warning signs that person—or you, on his or her behalf—could have caught earlier?
• Even though this is a negative example, what positive lessons can you take from it? What do you watch out for now, for yourself or others?
No Bible study can teach you everything—no, it’s true. Really. Still, I’d like to help give you enough equipment so you have what you need to continue walking out the next steps God’s placed before you—even the ones you don’t know about yet. Everyone has the opportunity to “finish well,” no matter how they’ve stumbled during the race.
Last week, we looked at the struggles we’re already facing, and how to face them even better with God’s help. Today, we’re going to look at how to become more proactive in our own spiritual preparation and growth—how to be ready before we’re overtaken by circumstances, or simply reacting to whatever comes our way.
Our lives aren’t made up of a series of separate compartments; every part affects every other part. When our weaknesses are shored up, we can focus more on our strengths. And even when our strengths give out—because we all have our limits—we’re able to draw from where God has strengthened us in other parts of our lives.
Whether you worked through it or not, I’d like you to check out last week’s “Spiritual Health Plan.” Focus especially on the answers to your last two questions. I’ll repeat and rephrase them here:
• Where do you most need to “get healthy” right now—whether it’s spiritually, personally or leadership-wise? What would you say are your top three priorities?
• Who specifically can help keep you accountable, connected to Jesus, and growing?
Hopefully this time of reflection has lifted you up. Still, you might be reflecting on what God’s shown you and thinking, “How am I going to do all that?”
Here’s how: You’re not. If there’s one thing you take away from today, let it be this: When God provides the vision, God also provides the means. We simply need to prepare ourselves to receive it. We need to trust God.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV).
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33, NIV).
• How does Paul’s guidance in Philippians help us live out Jesus’ command in Matthew?
Right now, take a couple minutes to ask God to show you at least one thing about himself that’s true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise. Thank God for it, and ask God to continue revealing more of himself to you. And may God give you the strength, wisdom and friendships to help you walk it out together.