Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
These 5 connections hold the key to spiritual fruitfulness & fulfillment.
A pivotal moment in my life occurred around this time of year in 2010. My friend Don Wright and I were taking our usual walk around the track of Weddington High School, and I told him quite earnestly, “Don, some things have really got to change in my life next year.”
Don has a way of getting to the heart of a matter, and he reminded me of a sobering truth: “I think you said the same thing last year at this time, Jim!”
How terrible it was to see that many areas of my life had become STUCK. Year after year, I had complained. I vowed that things would be different in the coming months and year. Yet nothing really changed.
I hope you have a friend like Don Wright—someone able to provide a mirror to your life and hold you accountable to making the necessary changes to get unstuck. Otherwise, I have bad news: Your New Year’s resolutions are unlikely to bear much fruit.
But what if you’re not even sure about what’s wrong with your current life? Maybe you’re feeling apathetic and dissatisfied, yet you don’t know where to start in diagnosing the problem or making any changes.
After years of studying what the Bible says about having an abundant and impactful life, I’ve concluded that these 5 areas hold the key:
CONNECTION TO GOD: Before you worry about any other changes in your life, this should be the starting place. Without a vital connection with the Lord as your “higher power,” your best efforts will surely fall short.
Since I work for a Christian ministry, you might think this area would never be a problem for me. Not true! I’ve discovered that even when you’re surrounded by “ministry,” your connection with God will be anemic unless you spend time cultivating your personal relationship with Him. There must be intentionality and a constant hunger to keep growing in your intimacy with the Lord.
CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE: Unless you’re a hermit, you already have a number of connections with other people. But are they the right people—those helping you become a better “you” so you can fulfill your highest calling in life? Perhaps you need to delete or minimize some relationships in your life, especially any that are toxic, negative, or overly draining.
In my case, although I have great friends, I find myself desiring to spend more time mentoring the next generation of leaders. I also would really value an older mentor in my own life. Once again, changes like these will require some intentionality on my part if they’re ever going to happen.
CONNECTION WITH TRUTH: In the early days of my Christian life, I spent lots of time studying the Bible, which helped provide me with a strong spiritual foundation ever since.
However, I’ve slacked off in recent years. Instead of learning new things, I’ve been relying far too much on my previous studies.
Successful people are nearly always lifetime learners, continually reading, studying, and growing. What are your plans to keep learning and growing in the coming year?
CONNECTION WITH CHARACTER: Knowledge and hard work will only get you so far. Perhaps you need to deal with long-standing issues of character and maturity that have robbed you of joy and hindered your fruitfulness. Has an addiction been undermining your life, or do you need freedom from some negative emotion like fear, anger, or depression?
The Bible has a lot to say about the type of “fruit” coming from our lives (e.g., Matthew 12:33, Galatians 5:19-23, John 15:1-5). A new year is a great time to assess the quality of our fruit and do any pruning that may be necessary.
CONNECTION WITH SERVICE: God put each of us on this earth to make an impact in some way. An ingrown life is inevitably boring and unfulfilling, so it’s crucial to identify our place of service. Ideally, our service should flow from the spiritual gifts and passions the Lord has given us, but sometimes we’ll be called upon just to fill a need we see. As we reach out to bless others, more of God's blessings are released in our own lives as well (Genesis 12:2, Acts 20:35).
I encourage you to assess these 5 areas of your life as you head into the new year. And if you’re in some kind of leadership or management role, you can encourage your team members to grow in these areas too.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!