Intentional means planning your work and working your plan. Without focus, you can be a frequent church goer but yet be lacking in your knowledge of God's will and obedience to it. The following are some suggestions regarding being focused with your Christian growth:
1. Set some prayerful goals. Without knowing where you are going, you may pass it or never get there. Therefore, be intentional about setting some time sensitive, measurable, and desired outcomes, in the area of Christian living.
The following are examples:
- Be a weekly Bible study student by December 31
- Give 5% of my gross income by June 30
- Give 7% of my gross income by December 31
- Join a need responding ministry group that fit my skills and desires or willingness by June 30
- Practice saying "I love you" to my spouse and children everyday by June 30
- Exercise three days a week and eat clean five days a week by June 30
- Put 6% of my gross income into retirement by December 30
Notice that Christian living is not simply church living. God wants to have rule over all of your life (see Lk. 9:23).
2. Develop some prayerful plans. What good are goals without plans? Plans are statements about how you will accomplish the goal. Here are some examples of intentional plans:
- Regarding the Bible study goal, I will go to each of the studies on three separate occasions, by June 30, starting on January 12. I will decide which one I will join and actually join by May 30. I will give diligence to finding an accountability partner, in my class, to help me stay faithful in attendance by June 30.
- I will put three silver dollars in my right pocket, in the morning. When I tell my wife that I love her, I will transfer one silver dollar from my right pocket to my left. I will do the same for each of my two daughters.
If I empty my pockets at the end of day with silver dollars in my right pocket, before I go to sleep, I will tell them that I love them. I will start this on January 12 and do it until I feel that I have it mastered well enough that I don't need the silver dollars.
- I will go to the YMCA on January 12 and meet with a personal fitness instructor to start exercising once a week. By March 1, I will be up to two days a week. And by June 1, I will be up to three days a week. I will find an accountability partner at the gym, by March 1, who works out at least three days a week, to help me stay with this.
See how each goal will need a specific plan? I only gave plans for three goals to help you see how to develop your own plans.
3. Seek some wise advisers. Proverbs 11:14 teaches that without wise counsel people fail. Somebody can help you with your goals. Intentionally look around and ask God to help you see who can advise you in reaching your goals.
Your adviser should have some success in what you are trying to accomplish. Your friend may not be your best adviser, if he/she doesn't have success in the given area.
I would suggest that you start off by simply introducing yourself and greeting each other a couple of times, when you see each other. You may then let the person know that you appreciate whatever you appreciate relative to what you need advice in.
For example, if you are working on being more patient, you may compliment the person on demonstrating so much patience.
Let the person know that you are looking for someone who could advise you from time to time about improving your level of patience or whatever your goal is. Ask the person is he/she willing to give some advice from time to time. If the person says "yes" then proceed to exchange numbers and e-mail. Set up a time to chat.
Be conscious of the person's time. Forwarding a list of questions before the session to the adviser may be helpful. Use your judgment about how often to talk, how long the session should be, and how long this type of relationship may last.
You may discover that the person does well but doesn't give helpful advice. You may discover that the person and you don't have a great chemistry, and it is not worth the trouble to keep trying. Make a prayerful decision.
If the person says "no," tell him/her "thank you," and then use your judgment about more conversation or simply ending the conversation and moving on. If the person says "maybe" or his/her "yes" doesn't seem right then find a nice way to let the person know that you are still in your "looking around season," and you will get back to him/her, if you need him/her.
4. Work the plan. No matter how great your goals, logical your plan, and wise your advisers may be, you have to work your plan. Nobody can grow in the Lord for you.
It encourages me to know that I can eat a whole elephant, if I eat one bite at a time. You can even eat two (with some hot sauce, smile), if you keep working your plan of taking one bite at a time.
5. Monitor the plan. I find keeping a journal about things that are important to me to be very helpful. Put your goals and plans in your journal, and then make at least weekly entries about how you are coming.
The journal will help you see what you are doing and not doing. It will help you be accountable to yourself. You don't want to have to report that you have made no progress, since your last entry.
6. Adjust the goals and plans as needed. Your goals and surely your plans don't have to be chipped in stone. Be intentional, wise, and courageous enough to adjust goals and plans as needed. Some goals may prove to be too difficult, some too easy, and some not as important as you thought. Plans are sure to change, as time marches on.
7. Keep going. Before the summary, let me say to you and myself, "Keep going!" Don't be guilty of almost being successful in reaching your goals. Don't let setbacks, delays, and detours stop you. Adjust and intentionally try again, and again, and again .
In summary, set some intentional prayerful goals and plans in place. Seek wise advisers. Work and monitor your plan. Make adjustments as needed and keeping going.
Dr. Robert E. Baines, Jr. uses his doctorate of ministry degree and twenty years of pastoral experience to provide quality and helpful Christian living information to 1,000's of visitors a month.
Make sure you secure your free copy of his ebooklet, "How to Encourage Yourself: 21 Practical Tips," and sign up for his newsletter that features great articles, helpful devotionals, and Bible based teaching notes at www.RobertBaines.com.
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