Recently I asked you to tell me what results you most wanted to achieve. By letting me know the topics you want help with I can create posts to support your progress toward those desired outcomes. The most requested topic was how to strengthen your relationship with Christ in ways that work with who you are and your season of life. So, if you can, grab a journal or note pad and let’s start working on that topic right now! And if you can’t stop now to make notes, just print out the cheat sheet I’ve provided and work on this when you have some quiet time to reflect.
God Didn’t Use a Cookie-Cutter to Make Us
I used to think I had to relate with God the same way my spiritual mentors did. Unfortunately, they had totally different personality traits, learning styles, and lifestyles than I did. So when I forced myself to pray, study, worship, and serve the way they did, I never quite got the same results. For example, I had one mentor who was very contemplative. He could draw intensely close to God through things like prayer walking. But when I tried it, my mind wandered and I ended up frustrated and feeling farther away from God.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one can come to the Father except through him (see John 14:6). But Jesus is a person not a system. We come to our Heavenly Father through a personal relationship with Jesus not a religious style or set of rules or traditions. Finally, I realized if God made each of us with our own unique DNA and fingerprints, it seems like he probably designed us to relate uniquely with him as well.
Our relationships with our friends and family are unique. I don’t relate to my husband the same way I relate to my best friend. Yet there are still some fundamental aspects of all relationships that must be attended to if the bond is to be healthy and strong. For example, there must be:
- A certain level of understanding, and
- Some tangible demonstration of our love and commitment to the relationship.
The same is true when it comes to our relationship be with Jesus. While my relationship with him won’t look exactly like your relationship with him, there are some basic ingredients required and they mirror those four components of our human-to-human relationships.
There are at least four aspects of a relationship with Christ that everyone needs to nurture:
- Worship (privately as well as corporately)
- God’s Word (the Bible)
- Obedience (living out the truth and grace you’ve been given)
Keeping this basic framework in mind, let’s look at a process you can use to strengthen your relationship with Christ in ways that work with who you are and your current season of life.
Download Your FREE Cheat Sheet
I made you a little cheat sheet to help you walk through the process. If you’re a visual learner, you will especially like it!
Now for the steps to strengthening your relationship with Christ…
Step 1: Assess & Acknowledge
What’s the State of Your Current Relationship?
Before you can map out a process for getting where you want to go, you need to know where you’re at. So begin by reflecting on the current state of your relationship with Christ.
- Consider what is working. What helps you feel close to God and strong in your faith?
- Then address what is not working. In what areas are you feeling distance or even estrangement?
Wanting to know Christ more is not necessarily a sign of a cold relationship. The apostle Paul certainly had a vibrant and powerful rapport with Jesus, yet he desired an even deeper knowledge and oneness with him (see Philippians 3:8-11). Whether your relationship is hot, lukewarm or even cold, try to identify the specific ways in which you’d like to make it stronger.
Consider how you relate to Christ with regard to those four aspects I mentioned above. Focus on what you are experiencing and what you want in regard to your relationship with Christ.
- What are you doing to grow in each area?
- Are you neglecting any?
- What helps you in each?
- What hinders you in each?
What is Your Life Like Now?
When you’re doing this, keep your eyes on your own paper. It isn’t helpful to compare yourself with other people. Comparing ourselves to others isn’t helpful because we are all in different seasons of life and have different demands and constraints that go along with the particular season. A mother of young children has an entirely different set of challenges and opportunities than does a retired empty-nester.
So, as you consider how you are incorporating prayer, worship, study, and actions into your connection with Christ, identify the demands and constraints pertinent to your particular season of life. You might find it helpful to think in terms of the following areas:
The strength of our bond with Jesus can be very strong and yet look different as we move through our various life stages. Clarity about our capabilities helps us map out realistic plans to overcome challenges, shore up weaknesses, and capitalize on strengths.
Honestly assessing these areas can also reveal things we need to prune back or discard. What was appropriate in an earlier season may no longer work in our current one.
What Is Your Personal Style?
We have different personalities and preferences. God wired us to relate to him in a custom-made fashion, so don’t settle for an off-the-rack faith walk!
- Some of us feel closest to God and hear from him best when we approach him “head first” or intellectually through study.
- Others go “heart first” and discover deeper intimacy with Christ when relating with other believers.
- And others feel his presence most strongly when going “hands and feet first” by actively serving others in the name of Christ.
- Others find deep communion with God through a more “soul first” contemplative approach.
In actuality we are a mix of all of these styles, but I’ve found it helpful to identify my predominate one or two. Then I can consider that when choosing how I will spend my time and energy in prayer, worship, study, and action. The more intentional I am about cooperating with the way God designed me to relate with him, the better able I am to walk with him without constantly stumbling over the means of connecting.
Step 2: Recalculate and Resume
Review your notes from Step One and you will probably identify some areas in which you’ve been out of alignment with God. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, embrace God’s gift of confession and repentance.
Let’s use the analogy of a GPS navigation system in your car (or, if your car is older like mine, the app on your phone) to help visualize this process. God has an optimal route and destination for you. Through the Assess and Acknowledge step you “turned on your GPS” and saw the little blue dot was not on the best route. The Holy Spirit’s gentle voice says, “Recalculating… at the next possible opportunity, make a U-turn.”
You are Here (not There)
When we acknowledge we are out of step or going in the wrong direction, we’ve take the first step toward a better, stronger relationship with our Lord. When the Holy Spirit points out things we need to change and we arrive at a point where we agree with him, we are engaging in confession. Confession is a religious term for agreeing with God’s assessment of us. We need to acknowledge what needs to change.
Agreeing with God that our current position is off-route has to happen before a successful recalculation can occur.
Map the Route from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
Once we know where we’ve gotten off track, we can make a plan to get from that place to the place God wants us to be. So, using the insights you gained from the Assess & Acknowledge stage, do some recalculating.
Make some plans as to how you can strengthen your prayer life, worship, understanding of the Scriptures, and putting God’s grace and truth into action in the world.
Make the U-Turn
Once you know your route, then take action.
I once heard a seminary professor describe the process of repentance like this: Your desired destination is Dallas and you’re in Austin but driving south toward San Antonio. You can be remorseful and say you’re sorry but keep driving south and guess where you’ll end up? San Antonio. That is not repentance. But if you exit and make a U-turn and then keep driving north, guess where you’ll end up? Dallas! That change of direction is repentance.
So, now that you know where you are and you’ve recalculated where you want to end up, exit and make a U-turn. Take those plans and put them on your calendar; sign up for the study, prayer group, or service project you identified. And enlist some other believers to hold you accountable.
Resources to Help
Following are some resources I’ve found helpful in strengthening my own walk with Christ. Please jump in the comments and leave suggestions about what has helped you. That way we can all support each other in strengthening our walk with Christ.
Your Local Congregation
Active participation in a local church is vital to a growing relationship with Christ. If you have a church home, make full use of the various ministries, programs and opportunities to help you fill in your four part framework of prayer, worship, study, and service. Review your bulletin, website, or make an appointment with a staff member or volunteer familiar with what your church has to offer.
If you don’t have a church home yet, make it a priority to find a good fit. Look at websites and ask friends and neighbors about their churches. Then go visit some that seem like they may be a good fit. Visit more than once since everyone can have an off day.
If you’ve been hurt by the church, you might be tempted to “drop out” and “go it alone” but don’t! I get it and I’ve felt that way before. There is no such thing as a flawless church (they are all full of flawed humans, after all). But being a part of a body of believers is God’s design so don’t give up on it.
Make sure the essentials are there (sound doctrine, healthy unity, compassionate and genuine concern for each other) and then don’t expect perfection, but do expect authenticity. (By the way, I found it helpful to take the chip off my shoulder and not project the hurt I received in one church onto every other congregation I visited. I’m just saying…)
Blogs are a good resource (granted, I’m a little biased in this area). Some of my favorites are: Wayne Stiles, Michele Cushatt, Kathy Howard, Julie Sunne, Anne Marie Miller, Marisa Shadrick, and Proverbs 31 (there you will find links to the various individual blogs of all their speakers, too.) If you’re struggling with grief, check out Susan Mead’s blog.
There are several helpful online bible sites I use regularly. My favorite is www.BibleGateway.com. Others I like include: www.BlueLetterBible.org, and the NETBible (I prefer the classic version, but you might like the new version). And when I want to look up verses that relate to a topic, I start with this topical bible site.
For help with your prayer life, I highly recommend Let’s Pray Today Ministries site. Most of their resources are FREE to download and they are fantastic.
Online Bible studies can be a great option if you find it difficult to work in a group study to your schedule. I did a pilot version of In the Word Wednesday last summer and will be offering some other online courses soon. You might also consider the Proverbs 31 OBS.
There’s an App for That
You can search in your app store for apps to help you when you are on the go. My favorite apps for my phone and/or tablet include:
- YouVersion which has multiple translations of the Bible, about a billion different reading plans, and cool features like being able to make and share a pretty picture version of your favorite verses via social media.
- The Bridge KTXW radio app. This is a live-streaming app of our local Christian talk radio station. Just check the program guide and listen to sermons from people like Chuck Swindall, Charles Stanley, Tony Evans, R. C. Sproul, and David Jeremiah. And check out the following shows: The Eric Metaxas show, Focus on the Family, and Love Talk with Evelyn Davison and my friend Cathy Endebrock.
- I just found the Abide prayer app this week. So far, I’m loving it! You can pick your topics and even get a reminder at specific times during the day.
Conferences and Retreats
Again, your local congregation is the best option for a meaningful retreat. But things like Living Proof Live, Awaken, or similar events in your area are a great way to recharge your spiritual batteries. And if traveling is not an option, many events like these offer a simulcast option so you can gather a group of friends in your home or church and watch online.
I’m gathering information about hosting a group to the farewell tour of Women of Faith in Dallas October 2 and 3 (Friday/Saturday). Watch for more information if that is something you might enjoy.
Don’t Forget Your FREE Cheat Sheet!
This has been a LONG post, but I hope you’ve found it packed with helpful information that will strengthen your relationship with Christ. Don’t forget to download your free cheat sheet.
My prayer for you…
I’m praying Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus for you today:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21, ESV)
And it is from that prayer that I’ve chosen Scripture Memory Verses 14 and 15. I’m working on committing Ephesians 3:20-21 to memory.
Your turn: What helps you strengthen your relationship with Christ? You can leave a comment by clicking here.