Growth in spurts and increments

With the arrival of a new year, new resolutions and plans appear in the mind. It’s good to reevaluate one’s goals and objectives, analyze past performance, and plan for better results.

Usually, plans made at the new year tend to be ambitious. The exercise gyms, for example, have their best attendance in January. That’s understandable. But neither should the small, incremental changes be despised. To borrow the language of Zechariah, let us not despise the day of small things, or as NET puts it, “small beginnings” Zech 4.10.

Sometimes it’s easier for us to nudge up our efforts in small ways than by big changes. Tweaks can often accomplish more than drastic measures.

Instead of one major annual shift, maybe we ought to try weekly adjustments toward improvement.

One of the big features of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach is doing a weekly review. It’s important to weigh what has been working well and what hasn’t, in order to make the adjustments necessary for improvement. That idea would seem to have spiritual and missional value as well. Maybe scheduling a time in the agenda for weekly review is the next tool for better growth. Some people prefer Monday mornings, others Friday at the end of the work day, still others on Saturdays or Sundays. Whatever works for you.

Some people take 20 minutes, others a full hour. Depends on what you’re focusing on, and what types of review you’re doing.

One of the positive things to review, it seems, would be prayer life, especially, God’s answers to prayer. That’s got to be a faith-builder. It might also show us where we need to focus more in our prayers.

A weekly review might also include looking over verses memorized during the week, to reinforce their mental retention.

Of course, evangelism would have to be included in that review somewhere, where failures occurred or where efforts were less effective than they could have been, as well as where opportunities are presenting themselves and how they could best be taken advantage of.

Now, when we think of growth in spurts, adolescents come to mind. We know young people who in a matter of months shot up so quickly that they experience growing pains. Spiritual spurts can do that, too. Probably, Job never had his spiritual perspective stretched as much as that period when he lost it all and had that long conversation with his friends, and then with God. If we want to grow rapidly and pray to God for quick progress, we might be forewarned that it could come with some sharp stresses.

If it is based upon the truth of God’s word, all growth ultimately is good for the growee and for the kingdom. And all types of growth are needed, personal, spiritual, numerical, in wisdom and love, in good works and proclamation of the Word. God wants well-rounded saints and churches. So working toward that maturity which is complete in Christ has to be the best type of planning and focus ever.

¶ So many Bible reading plans are now available, both online and in book form, as to bewilder the researcher. Find one for your speed and level of development. I used to use a special Bible with daily divisions, but considering I used to travel so much, I jettisoned that approach. Also, there’s something to be said for using your own Bible when you read. You become accustomed to finding passages in your own Bible. Familiarity not only with the Word, but with one’s own copy, has much to commend it.

¶ So we can only wonder if users of online Bibles and apps don’t miss something here. They may be saving space in their purses or cutting down on bulk and weight that they have to carry, but it seems that there are multiple advantages to a printed copy that can’t be compensated for.

There’s no law against electronic Bibles, of course, and we use online offerings all the time. And maybe we have a generational difference here as well, though not a few Millenials have said similar things. So just put this in your hopper and chew on it, if it’s worthy anything.

¶ Someone will likely observe that in ancient times the common people did not have their own copies of Scripture. Handmade as they were, scrolls were produced slowly and at significant cost. Their lack, however, is not a good argument in the face of our bounty. God has given us, today, so much more opportunity than any generation before us. With that comes great responsibility.

¶ Last, a thought on Psalm 1.3, speaking of the righteous person, who meditates day and night on God’s word. “He succeeds in everything he attempts.” Everything? At first reading, it appears the prosperity gospel got it right. Within context, the psalmist seems to say that the righteous person’s success in righteousness is guaranteed. We can quickly run to passages like Romans 8.28. Gill reminds us that here we have grace and hereafter, glory. To have both is success in everything that matters.