February - Journey Deepens

February 2005

Personal Spiritual Formation

by Steve Hoke

You're a growing Christian. You know Jesus Christ as your Savior and are getting to know Him as Lord of your life and Hope of the world.

Dedication is not enough. Raw zeal is not enough. Commitment is not enough. Not even "high octane" spiritual gifts are enough! We need to be constantly growing in an intimate relationship with Christ.

Paul told the Philippians they needed to look forward, not back. He chided them to forget the past and to press toward the goal of knowing Christ more intimately. Growth in Christ takes place as you nurture your faith relationship through prayer, the study of God's living Word, spiritual disciplines, Christian witness, and fellowship with other Christians in the church community.

Relationship is everything. This is true from the Trinity on through to Christ and His disciples, to the church today. Who you are is more important than what you do. For that reason alone, it's critical to get your relational priorities straight from the outset. As you prepare yourself in right relationship with the Lord of the universe, you'll find that your ministry will flow out of your being - your internal spiritual character and your intimacy with Christ.

The "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" course being taught in many churches in the world helps students see that the Bible is "The Story of His Glory." From Genesis through Revelation, the Bible is the story of God drawing a people to Himself - into a relationship of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Eugene Peterson has expressed the worship dimension in even more obvious terms: "God is personal reality to be enjoyed . . . We are redeemed so that we are capable of enjoying Him. His grace evokes our gratitude."

Missions, then, is "His-story" - God's process of calling disciples from every nation to follow Him and give Him glory as "true worshipers." So as we go and make disciples, our essential task is to call the peoples and nations of the world to worship Him too. And when Christ finally returns, all of us who follow Him will get to take part in the massive international worship service that's previewed in Revelation 5–7 and that is going on right now!

Are you learning to pray? The Bible tells us that the way to be anything, to get anywhere, and to do anything is to pray. Prayers become doers. The same disciples whom Jesus commanded to pray for workers for the harvest (Matt. 9:37-38) were the ones He sent to reap the harvest (Matt. 10:1-23).

One of the best ways to give meaning to facts is to relate them to individuals you know. So take part in supporting an expatriate or national missionary. Get to know them: read their prayer letters and correspond with them. Talk to them by e-mail or when they're on home leave. Pray for their work.

Are you learning to give? Have you started supporting someone in missions? Are you supporting someone "behind the scenes" as well as on the "front lines"? Have you considered living more simply now so that you can give more to advancing God's kingdom? You don't have to wait until you are on a missionary income to live within a missionary budget. A "faith" missionary becomes a steward of the gifts of others. You give up the luxury of generating a predictable income in exchange for vocational involvement in God's worldwide purpose. The missionary embraces a "wartime" living allowance according to need as an expression of wise stewardship.

Are you studying God's Word? Do you have a consistent approach to exposing yourself not only to what the Bible says but what it calls you to do? Are you in a study group with others who are attempting to understand God's will for them through studying His Word? Are you adjusting your life to what it demands of you? Do you hold each other responsible for obedience? Are you memorizing portions of God's love letter to you? Are you growing in your foundational understanding?

What is your sense of God's "call" on your life? This is a commonly used and often misunderstood term. The Spirit uses various routes to thrust us into missions. Whether our heart's desires lie in bivocational tentmaking or in long-term vocational missions, we relate to a God who loves us and knows us intimately, and who wants to work with us according to our uniqueness.

Are you involved with other Christians? 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that when we become Christians, we not only join God's family as adopted sons or daughters, but we also become part of a marvelous organism called the Body of Christ. Each of us has been gifted to build up the others. Christians simply cannot live without other Christians.

Are you telling the story of the reality of Christ in your own life? The most effective way the gospel can be communicated is through telling others what Christ has done for you. It's essentially storytelling. To want to speak for Christ "out there" without sharing Him with others "here" would be inconsistent, to say the least.

Is there a fragrance to your life, an unmistakable evidence of the presence of God? The history of Christian mission is strewn with the well-meaning but misdirected lives of people who thought of mission primarily as a task - crusading, preaching, or ministering - and not essentially relationship. They got started on the track of doing before their life had a quality of being that made them attractive. Paul reminds his readers in 2 Corinthians 3:2 that they are "living letters" - people whose lives will be read by those around them. He adds in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that through us Christ spreads the fragrance of His knowledge and love to others.

Steve Hoke is the Vice President of People Development for Church Resource Ministries. You can talk with Steve and other missionaries April 15-17 at The Journey Deepens retreat for prospective missionaries in Davis, Oklahoma.

If you are intested in The Journey Deepens Retreat, visit http://www.thejourneydeepens.com or click on the picture above for more information.