As we enter 2012 there are many resolutions and goals that are placed before people. Some are useful, some are ridiculous, but all are geared toward something an individual considers important. Consider one question about those goals: are any of them spiritual in nature? Have you challenged yourself spiritually to become a better Christian? I am going to ask you to consider three challenges for 2012. These are challenges I presented to the congregation here yesterday morning. They are challenges my family and I will be endeavoring to keep throughout this year. Will you join us?
Challenge #1: Personal Growth. There is, within each Christian, the constant need for growth. It does not matter how old or understanding an individual becomes, there is always room for improvement. Peter admonished, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). He would also write, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever” (2 Pet. 3:18). The greatest means of Christian growth is found in the extending of knowledge and understanding. When the Christian understands more of God’s Word, his ability to implement it in his life is greatly increased.
Therefore, the challenge for personal growth in 2012 is to study God’s Word for 20 minutes every day. I recognize that is not much in the overall scheme of time, but for one who has not been accustomed to studying daily it is a good start. If one will commit to this every day, they will have spent a minimum of 121 hours in God’s Word by the end of the year! If one does not grow after 121 hours of reading and studying something, they haven’t been trying. Additionally, I would challenge you to keep a journal of your studies. Write down what you studied, where it was found, and one thing you learned, want to remember, or have a question about. As time goes by, you will then be able to look back, see what you have studied and the progress you have made, as well as bring to mind things from your previous studies that may influence further studies. This will heighten memory and the effectiveness of your study.
Challenge #2: Growth within the Congregation. Yesterday I laid out some challenges to our members to grow as a congregation. Though I recognize you are not a congregation by yourself, the implementation of this challenge can serve as a spark to influence congregational growth wherever you are. It is written, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). The word “consider” comes from the Greek word katanoeo and it means “to perceive, observe, consider attentively, fix one’s eyes upon.” In other words, we are to focus on one another to entice our brethren to love and good works.
Therefore, the challenge for growth in this area is to select an individual or family in your congregation that you are going to focus on each month. Make a list for each month of the people you select and focus efforts throughout the month on encouraging them and getting to know them better. This may be done through cards, calls, visits, or just making an effort to engage them in conversation at every service. It can also be done by inviting them over for, or out to, dinner; by asking them to participate in some mutual interest; or by simply stopping by for a visit. The ability to influence and encourage with a month of focus on an individual cannot be overstated. It does not mean you have to do something every day, but if a number of purposeful efforts are made throughout the month it will be noticed.
Challenge #3: Evangelistic Growth. The third area in which every Christian needs to grow is in the area of evangelism. Whether you are a preacher, elder, deacon, teacher, adult, teenager, man, or woman, as a Christian you have a responsibility to share the Gospel (Acts 8:3-4; 18:24-28). Many are uncertain or afraid of approaching people with God’s Word because of what might happen with rejection, anger, or contempt. But our responsibility is to sow the seed and let God take care of the rest (1 Cor. 3:6, 9; Mark 4:3-8, 14-20).
Therefore, this challenge is devoted to encouraging each of us to focus our efforts in evangelism. Every month, select one person outside of Christ with whom you are going to share the Gospel and keep a list. It may be a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, classmate, etc. but select someone each month as your focus and approach them in a number of ways. It may be with audio or video lessons, it may be by inviting them to services or to have a Bible study. It may be by simply taking opportunity to speak to them about Biblical things throughout the time you spend with them. But show them by your actions that you love them, care about their soul, and want them to be right in the sight of God. It may be your interactions with someone last more than a month because of a Bible study or continued interest: that’s great, but continue to select someone else each month to begin focusing on as well. Do not be afraid to ask for help from others if needed, but do not refuse to fulfill your responsibilities because you have to ask for help. Remember, if we get the seed in the hearts of men, it will yield results.
Each of these challenges focuses on a necessary area of Christian growth. Will you take up the challenge in your life this year? Will you share it with others and encourage them to do the same? I promise if you do it will not go without results, whether it be in your own life or the lives of others.