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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jackie Minor

DON’T SETTLE IN 2024. Pursue Growth, and Embrace Progress!

One of the most rewarding aspects of education is witnessing progress.

The young child who struggles to string sounds together suddenly starts reading words.

The angry teenager becomes more self-controlled and learns how to manage emotions.

The discouraged teacher gets a second wind and embraces the call to teach once again.

We are all energized by progress. Progress reminds us that our efforts are paying off, and this motivates us to keep going!  For those of you who have been in education for a long time, I am sure you remember the phrase that surfaced during the Effective Schools movement: Success breeds success.  This isn’t only true for our students; it’s also true for us in many ways!

During the pandemic, I started following Sydney Cummings on YouTube.  Last week her programmed workouts included a repeat from this time last year. At the beginning of the workout she said, “By this time next year, you are going to be stronger and feel more energized. Just keep with it. Each day you show up is a success!”  Well, here it is a year later, and believe it or not, she was right!  It has been easy for me to stay consistent because I’m seeing progress, and that is motivating!

Sydney’s words made me think about how important it is for us to view our spiritual health in the same way. Being mindful and focused on progress not only encourages us but also helps us recognize God’s activity in our lives.  I found myself grappling with some pointed questions.  I wonder if you might find these worth pondering as well.

Am I spiritually healthier right now than I was this time last year?

Do I act more like Jesus than I did a year ago?

Am I recognizing and acknowledging the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life?

I have been a believer and active in the local church for over fifty years. Unfortunately, many of those years I don’t know if I could have answered any of these questions with certainty. It’s not because God wasn’t working; I simply wasn’t paying attention. I was going to church, praying, and attending Bible studies, but I seldom reflected on the changes happening in me. 

Remember, progress is motivating! If success breeds success, which I believe it does, it would make sense to make evaluating our spiritual progress something we embrace.  The enemy wants us to doubt God’s transforming power. He wants us to settle for maintenance instead of pursuing growth and embracing progress. He certainly doesn’t want us to become more like Christ!

We don’t want to be sitting here this time next year wondering if we have made spiritual progress.  Wouldn’t it be amazing a year from now to answer the three questions above with a resounding YES?  Let’s not settle in 2024. Let’s pursue growth and embrace progress by taking three simple steps.

First, identify an area of growth. Since the Bible says we are being transformed by the Spirit into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), it would make sense to examine the attributes of Jesus.  I realize this may sound like an insurmountable first task, but God’s Word gives us insight into who Jesus was and how He treated others. I am going to list a few attributes here to get you started, but ultimately this will be a decision between you and the Lord.  I have found when I ask God to identify areas of growth in my life, He is more than happy to comply!  I want to make it clear that any attempt to define the attributes of Christ will be inadequate, but the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are a great place to start.

 Jesus was…

If you’re like me, you may read this list and recognize you need to grow in every area! In all honesty, none of us are going to reach perfection on this side of eternity, but that is no excuse not to grow.  As you think about 2024, take time to pray and ask God to reveal ONE area of growth for you.  What are you sensing God wants to transform in your life? Don’t rush this process. Spend as much time in prayer as you need. God is not a God of secrets.  The Bible says we will find Him when we seek Him will all our hearts (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Second, learn as much as you can about what God’s Word says regarding your area of growth.  For example, if you want to be more loving, read through the Gospels and write down every example of how Jesus loved. Search the Open Bible website to find Scriptures on love. Don’t just read the Scriptures but study them, meditate on them, and pray them.  Memorize the ones that resonate with you. Fill your heart and mind with God’s Word. Jesus has a promise for us when we do this!

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen.”  And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and more will be added to you.”  (Mark 4:23 24, CSB)

Finally, keep a journal.  You can’t monitor your progress if you don’t document it in some way. Every good educator knows that! There is no right or wrong way to do this. My journal entries vary and include general thoughts, questions, Scriptures, prayers, and quotes from commentaries.  It doesn’t matter; you just have to do what works for you.  You will be surprised at the difference it makes when you take the time to write down what you are learning and how God is working.  When you journal doesn’t matter.  Some like to begin their day journaling, while others prefer the end of the day.  It’s not about when you do it but if you do it.

The most important thing to remember about all of this is that change can only occur when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  We can’t make ourselves more loving, forgiving, or selfless on our own. Ephesians 4: 20-24 explains that spiritual maturity is a process of putting off our old self and putting on the new self (holiness and righteousness) as we are renewed by the Spirit in our minds. It is a daily process, one that takes consistency. As my physical fitness trainer said, “Each day we show up (surrender) is a success!”  Success breeds success!  When we abide in Christ, our lives WILL bear fruit (John 15:1-5).

As a personal testimony, I wanted to share this process with you because it has made such a difference in my own life over the last two years. Although I have a long way to go, God has been gradually changing my heart and mind in so many areas.  As I have implemented these three steps, I have experienced progress and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  It is truly one of the most exciting times of my walk with Christ, and I can’t wait to embark on another year!  I want the same for you.

Please don’t settle in 2024. Pursue growth and embrace your progress. I promise you will finish the year more like Jesus. Believe me when I say, there is nothing sweeter. Happy New Year!



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