It is the close of one year and the opening of another. Many appropriately pause in their schedule to listen for prophetic insights concerning the year ahead. Whether it be a prophetic word from a leading church figure or a personal prophesy from a friend, we all crave foresight. We long for God’s wisdom to influence our forward gaze.
In light of this, social media streams are flooded with first-of-the year buzzwords. Prophetic people of all kinds declare, “This coming year will be one of acceleration, divine breakthrough, unusual favor, financial abundance, etc…” I cringe a little as I hear the annual repetition of the same superlative promises. These proclamations tend to be applauded by the masses, but they remain unfulfilled throughout the year.
Let me make a disclaimer. I believe in the prophetic nature of hearing God’s voice. I don’t want to seem overly critical toward those who search for prophetic words. But what if there is a regular way in which you can be daily directed by God’s voice? What if there are practical disciplines to unlocking your destiny?
The consequence of leaning primarily on prophetic words for guidance is that one can develop an unhealthy dependence on prophetic people. This fosters a lottery ticket mentality when one hears God’s voice. Rather than daily hearing from Jesus, we can get trapped in the laziness of waiting for someone else to reveal how we should live. Even when we receive a legitimate prophetic word, it cannot be realized unless we already have the personal disciplines of believing and obeying what we hear. Do you want to experience Jesus in the year to come radically? Let me steer you toward a few healthy disciplines. These disciplines can serve as a doorway through which your destiny can be reached.
- The Discipline of Meeting with Jesus
You need regular times of meeting with Jesus. Our transformation depends on this discipline. We know our old character progressively changes into the new, but the catalyst for this growth is found only in the frequency of our time with Jesus. Keep your meeting time with Him simple. Keep it consistent. The easiest and most effective pattern I’ve found is to worship, then read a passage of Scripture, and then write what I feel God is saying to me. For a little help with this discipline, check out a previously published blog, “When I meet with God.”
- The Discipline of Loving People Well
Like a scheduled doctor’s appointment, you can make it a priority to show care for someone who needs it. This year’s schedule into your week opportunities to serve others. Yes, it is inconvenient. Yes, it will cost you money. Yes, you will possibly be treated with ingratitude. However, choosing to set a regular time to serve others will keep your heart soft. You will also discover the brokenness of those who need to experience unconditional compassion. Whether it means helping someone with a ride to work or volunteering in your church’s childcare, find opportunities to serve others. Do this often, and you might find your dependence on the Holy Spirit’s voice will also increase. When you feel the pain of others, it will drive you to your knees in prayer. When you see your own struggles in light of others’ pain, you may also gain a sense of deep gratitude.
How do you find an opportunity to serve? Ask your pastor or church staff how you can serve the needy in your community.
- The Discipline of Making Disciples
Even though you may feel compelled to go and reach the lost for Jesus, numerous mental hurdles may arise. You may feel disqualified because you lack theological knowledge. You may not have time to engage in any more demanding friendships. Or you may feel that you need to get your life straight before helping others. Regardless of your reasoning, Christ’s commandment remains. We are to go and make disciples. He is not waiting for us to feel qualified or to find a convenient time or even to have it all together. Looking closer at Matthew 28:19, the text in the original language implies, “as you are going, make disciples. . . .” This means as you are at work, at school, or at the grocery store, you can look for opportunities to make disciples. This doesn’t mean pulling a quick supernatural trick out of your bag and impressing someone with a spiritual gift. Many ministries promote this form of hit-and-run evangelism as effective, but it’s not. It’s not effective in the long run. If we don’t take the step of inviting non-believers into a friendship with us, we will most likely fail in bringing them into a relationship with Jesus.
Of all the hindrances, feeling unqualified is the most common. Maybe this year, you can take a step forward with tools to equip you with the goal of making disciples. A great resource that aided me in communicating the gospel is Ravi Zacharias’ Core Module. It is offered at https://www.rzim.org/training/rzim-academy/about-academy.
Let me add another thought to this. Making disciples begins at home. Parents and grandparents, we are given the exceptional opportunity of making disciples of our children. How we model God’s love to our kids will either empower them to love Jesus or force them to despise a powerless faith. In his book, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism,” Paul Vitz unveils a disturbing discovery. He proposes that every well-known atheist cultivated their disbelief in God due to the deficiencies of their fathers. Because each atheist experienced a distant, uninvolved, or abusive father, they believed God to be of the same nature. Atheists like Nietzsche, Hume, Russel, Sartre, Camus, and others experienced this common angst. They all had a stern, unloving father. Some fathers were preachers, others were hedonists—but the result was the same. The broken nature of their fathers caused them to see God as likewise untrustworthy. Parents and grandparents, we have a voice that will shape our child’s perception of God.
One more thought. Praying for God to reveal Himself to your children in a way that you fail to do is a futile prayer. God has entrusted us with making His image clear to our kids, and when we willingly pass this great calling off to a youth pastor or preacher, we are neglecting the greatest call we have in making disciples.
This year, if you can lead one person into a relationship with Jesus and teach them how to make a disciple, you may be surprised how strongly your own walk with Jesus will grow.
- The Discipline of Taking the Time to Grow
Though spiritual gifts can be transferred through a simple prayer, the character to sustain that gift cannot. You have a better chance of winning the Texas lottery than of transforming from a nominal Christian to a world-changing revivalist as the result of a single book or conference. Biology tells us that rapid and abrupt growth is harmful. Fast-tracked spiritual growth is even more detrimental. If you want to build a strong spiritual and emotional foundation, take it slow. Chart the course of your learning, and practice what you learn. Yes, it does take time.
This is why regular church attendance is vital to spiritual growth. Sunday morning participation is a given when it comes to cultivating your soul. But take your church tradition a little further. If you want to get closer to Jesus, cultivate relationships with those who are close to Him. Whether it’s in a small group or mid-week service, this is where you’ll find those who can offer a meaningful, healthy relationship. It is in these relationships that you’ll experience Jesus in a practical and powerful way. Find individuals with whom you can discuss your ideas and experiences. There is a price tag, however. The cost is in the currency of your time. It will be inconvenient. Like everyone else, you’re busy. You can choose to sacrifice your spiritual growth on the altar of bigger paychecks or personal convenience—or you can choose to pay the price for spiritual growth. If you don’t pay the price now, the cost of spiritual immaturity will come at a premium later. The faith race, as we have often heard, is a marathon, not a sprint. Warm-up well, condition your soul for the long run. Get into the discipline of taking the time to grow.
This list of disciplines could be extended, but it comes down to this truth. You can foolishly wait for events to usher you into your destiny haphazardly, or you can make this year one of ensured growth by utilizing these disciplines. We should rightfully look forward to an incredible 2020, but having a fulfilled year will take more than spiritual optimism and a few prophetic buzzwords. There is a difference between those who will fulfill their destiny and those who will indefinitely wait for a miraculous manifestation of it. The difference is discipline. Destiny makers are disciplined.