EVENTS & INCREMENTS
As we progress further into 2017, you may be beginning to struggle with some of the goals you’ve set for yourself, and one underlying problem may actually be your expectations. When it comes to personal change and even discipleship, we’ve been conditioned by what we read and watch to expect simple, sudden solutions to life’s challenges — hence the increasing prevalence of the term “life hack.” Unfortunately, when we believe an easier-to-implement answer is just waiting to be discovered, we’re much less likely to toil for change.
Anyone with even a basic understanding of personal finances knows that you should begin saving for retirement when you’re young and contribute regularly throughout your working life. Doing so enables anyone to accumulate a sizable amount for retirement, regardless of income level. Nevertheless, very few of us do this like we should. Whether we admit it or not, I think we’re passively hoping for some other, less-demanding way.
You see, our expectations determine our actions. The good news is that if we can accept that major, lasting change takes place in small, slow increments, we’re more likely to grind and work for steady progress — rather than waiting on a magical fix. We begin to see progress in terms of small increments instead of big events.
Beyond your everyday life, this principle also applies to your growth as a disciple of Jesus. A couple of weeks ago, I suggested six basic spiritual disciplines for you to practice: Bible study, meditation, memorization, prayer, fasting, and giving. Each of these disciplines can help you in your sanctification — the process of becoming more like Jesus. The catch is that you’re not instantly transformed into a kind or self-controlled person the moment you repent and place your faith in Jesus. You become more kind and more self-controlled over the course of your life through submission to Christ and dependence on the Spirit in the mundane moments of life.
Here’s a practical tip for making incremental change to leads to significant results: start small. Can’t stand flossing? Start by flossing just your front two teeth every morning. I’m not kidding. Research indicates that as you create that space in your day, and it becomes a firmly-established routine, it’s much easier to expand that to include a few more teeth… or maybe even all of them.
Want to read the whole Bible? If that’s not currently an established part of your daily life, then start with something small and almost effortless — read a few verses at the same time every day without fail. Once you reflexively read scripture on a daily basis, then slowly graduate up to reading entire passages and even multiple chapters. The same applies to memorizing scripture, and prayer, and so on.
Consider how often Jesus used agricultural metaphors to illustrate the kingdom and the life of a believer. Growth itself is a process, not an event, so as you aspire to grow in your faith and faithfulness over the coming year, I hope you will recognize the power of small steps in the right direction.