Grow Your Faith

Stay Closer to God in 2020…

Person walking barefoot on the beach on the shoreline

 I love New Years. Something about new beginnings and new chances to improve always gives me a feeling of hope and excitement. It’s almost as invigorating as the idea of letting go of “the old” things you want to forget or habits you want to change. Like running like an Olympian to catch the kids’ bus every day. Or drinking that second (okay fourth) cup of coffee before three.

I think the innate desire to get better, go further, and stretch stems from God.  He seems to be quite the opposite of stagnancy and comfortable familiarity. Think about all the times Jesus called people to higher purposes and uncomfortable change, like the rich young ruler and the many people he told to stand up and be healed, stop sinning, or have faith despite grim circumstances.

This year has been such a time of huge transition and spiritual growth for me, I frankly thought my walk with God was in pretty good shape. I prayed and worshipped daily, read the Bible regularly, and posted a few scriptures on the fridge. But as I was basking in the glow of God’s presence recently, sipping coffee, and thinking about my goals for this year, God interrupted with a suggestion I thought was a little much, even with all the caffeine.

I felt him say, “I want you to walk every step in my presence.” Huh. I’ve recently felt the Holy Spirit urging me to let him into more of my thought life, my daily decisions, and really just come into a higher level of his presence—but “every step” seemed a bit of a stretch. For a long time in my Christian walk, my relationship with God has pretty much stayed the same. My idea of growing closer to him was more of a one-sided activity where I would read more scripture, worship more, and further my ministry.  It was more about what I was going to do, instead of listening or letting God show me how he wanted to grow our relationship.

The “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship,” slogan has become a mainstream saying, but I’ve been realizing I haven’t always treated it that way. Lately, I feel like God wants to speak to me differently and interact in different ways by staying connected with his presence on a continual basis, not just when I have time to pray or think about him.

Imagine a marriage or friendship where the depth and nuances of that relationship were the same as 10 years ago. It’d be weird, and we better not still be doing our makeup at 6 a.m. to appear flawless before the hubs awakens. Thank you, therapy. The longer we know another person, the more we know their moods, how to handle conflict, what makes them happy, how to communicate in ways they respond to, and on and on. It should be the same with God.

So I decided this year is going to be a year of expanding the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I want to feel the peace and joy that comes from being in his presence all the time—despite whatever circumstance, situation, or mundane task I’m experiencing, because it’s possible, and it is his will for each of us.

And it’s all for our benefit. Although I’ve been a Christian for years, I’ve always needed to stay connected to God in order for my life to stay on track. If I examined the bad decisions, mistakes or bad patterns in my life, they’d directly relate to how closely I was connected to God.

I feel like some people come out of the womb naturally more God-like,  peace-loving, and self-controlled. My sister comes to mind, who grew up playing house and dreaming of ways to rescue orphans, while my Barbies tried to vote her off the island so we can have some real fun. I feel like I entered this world with the speed of a torpedo, the wisdom of a farm chicken, and the self-control of a toddler in the candy aisle. It took a lot, and I mean a lot, for me to finally surrender to God and get saved, and it hasn’t even been the smoothest of rides since. Because giving your life to Christ isn’t the one-time act in the form of a prayer and accepting a ‘visitors packet’ after church service that I think we’ve come to make it. It’s a daily surrendering to God, asking for his presence every day in order to know him better and serve him well.

God knows nothing else besides his continual presence will do, especially for people like myself. When left to my own devices, I’m a train wreck, and the need for the Holy Spirit in my life falls short to oxygen. I become a selfish parent, a negative co-worker, and a self-obsessed gym-a-holic without the continual guidance and corrective, comforting power of the Holy Spirit. When we live in the continual presence of the Lord, we’re naturally more joyful, peaceful, selfless, self-controlled, giving, and the list goes on. It’s really the only way to live, but we need to make a daily, continued commitment to connecting with him, and asking for more of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We need to go after, invite, and insist on more of him in our lives. We’re not created to bare the pressures, stresses, burdens, and trials of life alone—and all the guidance, comfort, and power is ours for the taking. So start enjoying life with Him in every moment and have an amazing new year.

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Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

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