Last year, I read You Can Change, by Tim Chester. While the title makes it seem like a typical self-help book, it is actually far from that. In fact, the author is intentional to remind the reader that we absolutely cannot change on our own. We need the power of the God, working through the Holy Spirit, to change us from the inside out. It's not about behavior modification; it's about heart transformation.
My tendency is to make a checklist of personal achievements, disciplines, and goals, and when (or, if) I accomplish them, then I assume I am a better person. However, Chester gives us a list of things in chapter 8 as means that God uses to help us grow in our faith. Our role is to repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15); God will strengthen our faith through these areas:
- The Bible. "The Bible is the source of truth that counters the lies of sin that the world perpetuates."
- Prayer. "Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart."
- Community. We are to remind each other of truth, serve each other, provide accountability for each other, and more.
- Worship. "Worship isn't just an affirmation that God is good. It's an affirmation that God is better."
- Service. "Sin is fundamentally an orientation toward self. . . . Serving God and other people can help redirect us outward, taking our attention away from ourselves."
- Suffering. It "reveals the true state of our hearts. It's God's diagnostic tool, preparing the way for the medicine of gospel truth." And it gives us the choice to either get angry and bitter, or to find joy and peace in God.
- Hope. We should spend time thinking about our future life in heaven.
Not just for your own growth, which is crucial if you want to make disciples of the next generation, but we can think about how these seven means can be applied to reach the hearts of children for the sake of the Gospel.
- We need to teach children the Bible. Yes, fun is important, but so is knowledge of our heavenly Father and His Son, the Savior. Not only teach them, but help them learn to study the Bible themselves.
- Pray for your kids, and with your kids.
- Besides your need for community, consider how to help them have good friends. Be involved in your local church. Make your home a place where your kids' friends want to be.
- Again, be involved in your local church. This is not just about "going to church" once per week, but realizing that worship is what we do every day.
- Let your kids see you serving, and include them as much as possible.
- When you go through suffering and hard times, how do you respond? Are you more concerned with your comfort and self-righteousness, or how God can be glorified in any situation?
- Always talk about your future hope. As you comfort a hurting child, remind them that Jesus will one day end all suffering and pain.
And as we teach them these things, remember also that the goal is for them to want to grow in these areas for themselves. I want children to have a heart that yearns for and depends on God, and that they know that these means are a way for them to know and grow more intimately in Him.
This book provides a great mix of theology and Biblical principles, with practical application. It is a great resource for personal growth, for leader development, to go through with a friend, or a Bible study. Want to learn more? I encourage you to get a copy of You Can Change.