This is the fourth, and last, post in our series on Giving Like Jesus Gave. The first three dealt with obstacles in our way, principles of Christ-like giving, and the power to live it out. Now, we finish up with practical ways to move forward. I hope you’ll add your own in the ‘comments’ section.
- This might sound depressing, but there’s nothing you can do to force Jesus to seem more real. He’s not like a vending machine, but would you really want him to be? In that case, we’d be God and that would really be depressing. Besides, even our other relationships don’t work like that.
- At the same time, once we get that, we can stop trying so hard and put our trust in God’s timing. He wants to become more real to us and we can trust he’s always up to that in our lives. (See Philippians 1:6).
- Read your bible prayerfully. Yup, it’s a Sunday School answer, but it’s true. Isaiah 55:11 says, ‘my word be that goes out from my mouth… shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’ Even when we can’t feel it, God’s Word (found in the bible) always does what he wants it to and we should ask for that when we read. Do you read your bible consistently and expect God to show up?
- Keep praying no matter what. If you’re dry or God feels far away, don’t stop asking him until that changes. In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told a story about an old lady who wouldn’t stop nagging a corrupt judge for justice until he finally caved in. Jesus’ point? Keep praying and don’t give up, because God is good and will hear our prayers when we persist. Is there something you need to start praying about again?
- Find some Christian friends and get real with them. The Apostle is always talking about how important it is to be ‘in community’ (as we say) with other Christians. Over sixty times in the New Testament he says, ‘… one another’. Do you have even one other believing friend – a real one? Here’s a few questions to help you know – do they know some things about you that you would be embarrassed for others to know? Have you seriously annoyed each other? And, have you made at least one serious sacrifice for each other?
- Is there an area of your life that you’re not giving to God? That will always get in the way of your relationship with him, but asking forgiveness and committing to change – even starting with baby steps – can turn things around quickly.
- OK, on to less ‘big’, but more nitty-gritty, possible steps. Carve out specific times you’ll connect with God. Whenever you’re at your best and free, give (at least some) of that to him. For me, it’s the morning. What if you have an erratic schedule (hello, medical residents and ER physicians)? Maybe you have less frequent, but longer times, with God at when you’re feeling more rested. The point is being proactive and making whatever commitments you can.
- Refuse to get caught up in whatever distracts you. It might be Facebook, TV, your favorite website, emails, reading, or counting the blades of grass on your front lawn. Ask God – and probably a friend – to help you keep to your priorities. Then enjoy those other things later.
- Perhaps most importantly, no matter how many times you fail, remember that there’s always, always grace. Titus 2:11-12 is brilliant: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Notice that it’s not discipline or trying harder that helps us say ‘no’ to things or produces self-control. It’s God’s grace. When you know you’re already accepted by the One who gave everything for you, it gives you freedom to fail and a reason to do your best.
It’s easy to come to the end of a list like this and feel like a failure. To think, ‘wow – honestly I could improve in all of these.’ And maybe you could. I’d be right there with you. But instead, remember that God is gracious and doesn’t want to overwhelm you. Which one thing is he asking you to apply? When will you start? And, who else could help you as you make the change?