There are so many things that you need to get done in 2017. Life is full. But what will you do to strengthen your relationship with God, His word, and His people? Here are some suggestions.
1. Read through the entire Bible.
Have you read all of your Bible? Have you ever attempted to read it all in a set amount of time? It's good for you.
Resources: BibleGateway Reading Plans, Tim Challies' Favorite Reading Plans
Or, if you're feeling especially ambitious, you can read it through four times in a year -- 90 days each round. Really! Check it out here.
2. Set a time that you will pray each day.
Ideally, prayer would be a conversation with our Father that goes on all day every day. Since, like most others, you may not be at that point in your walk, it might be best to start with a set time that you pray to God each day. Maybe it's a point on the clock (7:00 a.m.); maybe a part of your routine will trigger it (like turning on the shower). Whatever it is, it's important to focus on prayer in 2017.
Resources: Echo app, PrayerMate app, Valley of Vision book of prayers
3. Show up at church gatherings.
You're busy. It's hard to make time for the things you know you should do. But here's a statement that you should admit to yourself: Other people are busy, too, and many of them show up. How often do you regret being in fellowship with God's people? I'm guessing that "rarely" would likely be your response. Everybody wins when everybody is there. Commit to faithful attendance at your local church. And if your church utilizes small groups, this definitely includes joining one of them.
Resources: Why Sunday morning is important, Why small groups are important, Your duty
4. Say "Thank you" more.
Send a text. Write a note. Shoot an e-mail. Are you grateful and appreciative of others? Are you thankful for what your Christian brothers and sisters do? Tell them!
Resource: Ways to express gratitude
5. Filter the media you consume.
Most Americans are in a constant state of consumption. Think about it for a moment: news stations, TV shows, music, movies, podcasts, blogs, social media websites, viral videos, and a host of other media sources flood our lives with information. Some of that information is corrupt. Much of it is needless. What if you cut back? Do you think that would impact you in a positive way spiritually? It would.
Resources: How to interact with media, An interview with Mike Cosper
6. Share the gospel with somebody.
This is the most doable evangelistic goal I could muster. You have one year. Share the good news with someone before this time next year. Make sure you're clear: we're all separated from God because of sin; we're all worthy of death; Jesus is God; Jesus died on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for our sin; Jesus rose from the dead and will return again; the way we are saved is by God's grace through faith alone.
Resources: Chandler explains the gospel in two minutes, RC Sproul explains the gospel in three paragraphs
7. Engage in a discipleship relationship.
Counsel and mentor someone and be counseled and mentored by someone else. Set up regular meetings with the disciple and the discipler. Learn, engage, and grow.
Resources: Two-minute discipleship video, Lessons on discipleship
8. Read at least five extrabiblical books cover-to-cover.
This should help you accomplish #5. The more time you make for reading, the less time there is for time-wasting media. Five books in a year gives you about 10 1/2 weeks per book. Very realistic.
Resources: Challies' 2016 reading challenge, All kinds of books to choose from
9. Keep a calendar.
I cannot imagine living my life without my calendar. Planning your time and keeping track of your activities is very healthy. It allows you to make time for what you want to accomplish. There is no set template for your personal calendar; it's a totally personal process. Here's something important to remember, though: Too much detail is better than not enough detail. Also important: Share the calendar with your spouse.
Resources: Google Calendar, Pocket calendar
10. Keep a journal.
Write down a few things every now and then. Keep track of some of the events in your life -- your future self (and your future descendants) will thank you.
Resources: Five-year journal, Christian five-year journal, Open space journal
11. Evaluate your financial stewardship.
The handling of money is a spiritual issue. Consider how you can do a better job investing, planning, and giving.
Resources: Urgency of saving, Budget analysis sheet, Income allocation sheet
12. Find a new way to serve in your church.
There's never a shortage of tasks to accomplish in a church. If you asked your pastor for the opportunity to serve in a regular way, I'm positive he'll give you some options (especially if the church is smaller than 500). Even if the service opportunity is as small as starting the coffee every Sunday morning, your help will be greatly appreciated.
Resources: How to serve teenagers, A perspective for women, Serving as a couple
13. Pray over your children.
Have you ever taken a moment to walk into your child's room while she was sleeping and pray for her? If you have, you know how special that is. Do it more often. Pray that your child(ren) will be filled with wisdom from above. If your children are older -- or even out of the house -- they need your prayers even more.
Resources: 7 things to pray, Many more things to pray
14. Purge your house of spiritual roadblocks.
It's possible that your home contains things that get in the way of what you're trying to do in your Christian walk. Getting rid of the television seems extreme in our day -- but rest assured, it is not. Whether you need to toss your computer, establish boundaries, or ban certain words or phrases (e.g., "I'm too busy" or "I wish you would ______"), do what you can to remove that which hinders your growth in the Lord.
Resource: Maintaining a Christ-centered home
15. Create a piece of art.
When is the last time you painted a picture? Wrote a song? Created a video? Expressing an idea through art is very healthy and it will stimulate your thinking.
Resources: Painting, Pens with which to write, This article may inspire you
16. Track your exercise.
Many of us don't get enough exercise (I am completely including myself in that category). What if, instead of making a goal to exercise x-amount, the goal was just to track the amount of exercise you receive? I bet the goals would naturally come about. Fire up the pedometer.
Resources: Fitbit, myfitnesspal app
17. Dive into biblical theology.
It's never a bad idea to get more familiar with orthodox Christian theology. If you're not comfortable attempting to explain the Trinity or if you have no view in regards to eschatology, now is a great time to learn more about these things. A good place to start would be bibliology, the study of the Bible. Once you're able to explain where the Bible came from and why it's trustworthy, you'll be off like a rocket.
Resources: The Master's Seminary video archives, Four affirmations of God's word, Books
18. Get acquainted with the persecuted church.
We have brothers and sisters in Christ who are dying for the faith all over the world. We easily forget about these millions of believers because we're just not informed. The more we can learn about the persecuted church, the better the church is. You'll pray for them more and, who knows, perhaps you'll think up some creative ways to support them.
Resources: Voice of the Martyrs, Articles on the persecuted church
19. Support a new missionary.
If you have the money to support a missionary, do it. If you don't have the money (now may be a good time to revisit #11), support a new missionary in prayer. Really learn about what someone is doing and commit to supporting that person.
Resource: Why you should personally support a missionary
20. Join a biblical social cause.
The majority of social causes today seem to be bordering on the absurd. However, there are good social causes out there that reflect a biblical worldview. I cannot think of a better social cause to join than an anti-abortion network.
21. Develop your spiritual gifts.
This assumes you know what they are. Refer to Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 for guidance. Use what God has given you to serve your local church body. Think of creative ways to implement them.
Resources: Gifts overview, Barna research and a response
22. Discover a new culture.
If you have the money to travel, do it. Combine #11 and #19 to fulfill this one -- save money to go visit a missionary. If you don't have the money, use the internet to learn about a culture different than yours. Whether it's a culture within your country or a place on the other side of the world, you can learn so much about another context just from your computer.
Resources: TripAdvisor's top culture destinations, Travel guides
23. Be more hospitable.
When is the last time you invited somebody over for a meal? Do you regularly open your home to guests? It's a good practice and it's much appreciated by your visitors. Make your home warm and friendly, a place of respite for your busy friends and family.
Resources: Theological and strategic, Getting practical