My prayer is that I never stop growing in faith; never stop moving closer to God each day. In the past year I have made some changes to my life that have greatly impacted my relationship with the Lord and drawn me closer to Him. In return, I feel more blessed and loved than ever before. In the natural realm, I still have struggles and challenges. Life's not perfect by any means. But in the spiritual...amazing things are happening! I would like to share with you the steps I've taken that have brought me to this precious place...
1. About a year ago I made a commitment to read the Bible all the way through, word for word. The prideful part of me hesitates to share that with you, because I can't help but think to myself how behind I am in this area. Here I am, almost 40, spent most of my life in church and as a Christian, and I am just now able to say, "yes, I have read the Bible." But now I know just how important of a step that was. God has shown me some wonderful things in His Word that I would never have understood by reading a scripture here or there, or listening to a Sunday sermon. For instance, He truly is a God of Love! People who don't know the Bible want to believe that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath. Not true at all! He's patient, forgiving, and His love never ends.
2. Another thing that I've done is taken advantage of the Christian programming on t.v. There are some wonderful Bible teachers out there and they are sharing their knowledge with me right through the t.v. I'm not likely to sit down and watch too many of them, but I will have them on in the background while I'm doing other things. It's so much more enjoyable than the evening news, which is nothing but negativity these days. In fact, the news can be down right depressing. Not only that, but many times I've had to change the channel QUICK if my kids were in the room and some report about someone being murdered or something came on.
3. The next thing I've started doing is listening to the Bible. I feel so blessed to be able to have an audio version of the Bible on my phone! We live in a wonderful time in history where modern technology allows for this. Scripture says, "faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17), and boy, do I believe it! At any given time during the day, when I'm doing mindless activities (like laundry, making dinner, cleaning the bathroom, etc) I can just plug in my headphones and "turn on" the Word. This has brought changes into my life that I didn't expect. I now crave filling my mind with edifying thoughts. It's helped me better control negative thoughts. It gives me a deeper discernment towards things that want to pull me away from an ever growing faith. Which leads me to the next step...
4. Here's a big one for me...I no longer watch t.v. programs or movies that aren't edifying and don't bring me into a closer relationship with the Lord. At one time this would have been a struggle for me. I'll be honest...I really liked my t.v. But since I've truly starting seeking God whole-heartily I don't desire it anymore. You know the old saying, "garbage in, garbage out"? Well, I believe it's true. In fact, the Bible says something similar in Matthew 6:21-24, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" What possible benefit can we get from being entertained by all those crime dramas and medical dramas on t.v.? I used to enjoy watching those movies on the Lifetime Channel (you know, the channel for women). But those movies torment the mind with wrong thoughts...thoughts about husbands cheating, wives fighting addiction, children being abused. It's easy to believe it's just a story, it could never happen to me. But the truth is, anything that doesn't draw us closer to God, pulls us away from Him and it opens up a door for the devil. He is a master at deception. Not only that, but seeing those images on t.v. desensitizes us and that can cause us to lower our guard. If we let our guard down we make ourselves vulnerable to attack. I'm human, and I know that no amount of "faith" is going to be worth it's salt if I feed my mind with negativity. My basic rule of thumb is this...would I want my children seeing and hearing what is on the t.v.? If it's not good enough for their tender minds, it's not good enough for me! And that goes for music. What a difference it has made to be listening to music that praises God, rather than something that is about "cheatin' hearts" or "it's all about me". To some, I might sound like I've become a bit of a "bore". I don't care really. I've never felt more full and content with life than I do now. My joy comes from what the Lord gives me...Hollywood could never come up with a script so good!
5. Prayer life, and the study of it, has really helped me. One of my favorite Bible teachers, Andrew Wommack, has said that 95% of his prayers are just about praising God. I agree with him whole-heartily! It wasn't until recently that I started praying that way and it has made such a difference. It has helped me learn that God wants to give us what we ask for, but when we feel we have to ask over and over again, it reflects a lack of faith. Now, I simply come to the Lord with my request and BELIEVE that it will be given to me. And while I am waiting for that prayer to manifest in my life, I spend my prayer time praising Him for how good He is and thanking Him for all that He has blessed me with. And I do so in an audible voice. Speak it LOUD! The devil hates that! I also believe the single greatest weapon in defeating depression is praise to God. It's so simple. Satan is the author of depression, but when we audibly praise the Lord, it weakens his power over us. I have seen it first hand. No man made drug can have that kind of healing power.
6. Resist Satan! All of the things listed above contribute to this, but sometimes I just come out and say, "Satan, I resist you!" Oh, there is such power in audibly knocking him off his block! God has given us the power to do so, and praise the Lord, I'm gonna use it! The more we do it, the less power he has, and the more he knows he can't mess with us. I know I'm starting to sound redundant here, but I believe that it can't be stressed enough. James 4:7 says, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." He does not have any authority over us, we have it over him! 1 Peter 5:8-10 warns about how important it is to resist him. "Be self‑controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
7. Believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. Many times our battles are spiritual ones. We NEED the Holy Spirit to get through them, just as the disciples did after Jesus ascended to Heaven. They were about to go into the world and face severe condemnation and persecution. Had they not had the power of the Holy Spirit in them...there would be no Christianity today.
So how exactly have these steps changed my life. Well, first and foremost, I'm closer to God than ever. I'm in constant communion with my Heavenly Father and He loves that! I don't have guilt over things like, "oh I should really read my Bible", or "I need to spend time in prayer". I don't believe the lies and deception that Satan is always trying to throw at me, such as, "this happened to you because you didn't pray to God" or "You're not going to get this prayer answered because you sinned and God doesn't think you deserve it. He's going to punish you for it." I also have less of a desire for worldly things or things that pull me from God. I'm more aware of the things in my life that were causing strife and allowing an opening for the enemy to come into my family and cause damage. I live with more peace in knowing that God truly wants good things for me AND I don't have to "do" anything to earn them. I'm more aware of how I have cast doubt on His promises. Doubt equals lack of faith! As a believer...that is my greatest sin!
Jesus is the author and the finisher of my faith. Every difficult thing that Satan tries to throw at me I can endure because of my CHOICE to seek God first. There's a saying that comes to mind..."build your house before the storm." The key word is "BEFORE". How effective is my faith if when I'm in the midst of a storm and pray to God, "oh, please help me God" without taking the steps before hand to endure it?