For Christmas, my wife and I bought us a new GPS. Our old one had gone brain-dead a few weeks earlier and, though we don't always need a GPS, it comes in handy when we are traveling in areas we don't normally travel in. A GPS (Global Positioning System) is a small computer that enables you to get from point A to point B the quickest and most efficient way possible. It operates by satellite signals sent from high above the earth. If you program it correctly and follow the directions it will generally get you to your destination in a timely manner.
For the last couple of years I have been working on/from a spiritual GPS that I call a Spiritual Growth Plan (SGP). It is basically a goal-map that I develop (with the help of signals from above) at the beginning of each year and seek to follow it through-out the year. The ultimate goal is to grow spiritually, i.e. become more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15), the SGP is the tool that helps me reach that destination. Of course, spiritual growth is a life-long process, and I will never reach the ultimate destination until this life is over, but as a follower of Christ, I am called and commanded to be consistently moving toward becoming like Christ in every way.
For most of my Christian life I thought spiritual growth would happen naturally, like physical growth. But, as I have learned the hard way with physical growth, unless there is discipline and direction healthy growth doesn't just happen. Because I wasn't disciplined or directed in my physical growth as a younger person, I'm now having to make some significant changes in my behavior in order to improve my physical health. I also have to have the aid of medicine to keep my physical body functioning the way it is supposed to. Growth in my body occurred automatically, but health did not. A healthy body requires discipline and direction. Likewise a healthy spiritual life requires discipline and direction, thus the Spiritual Growth Plan.
On another page on this blog I have placed my SGP for the world to see. I'm a bit apprehensive about it, but I also realize that if I keep it just to myself, I have little or no accountability and can slide "off the wagon" anytime I want to. I'm hoping that the realization that other people in my life may read my SGP and may just ask me how I'm doing with it, will help keep me on track. So feel free to read it and check up on me throughout the year.
I also hope it will encourage you to pray about and begin to develop your own SPG. Yours will be different from mine, as mine was different from the person's who challenged me to develop it. Start by thinking about areas in your Christian life where you may need some work and then begin by praying about what the Lord would have you to do to strengthen those areas. For me, I saw a need to grow in the areas of Scripture, prayer and disciple-making, so that is where I am primarily concentrating this year. It will probably be a little different next year. Your areas may be similar to mine, but they may be different as well. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and then follow His leadership.
One last thing about a Spiritual Growth Plan: it is important to remember that the SPG is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Sometimes when I am driving and using the GPS, I find that I become so focused on making sure I follow the directions to perfection, that I become overly stressed about the next turn and if I miss it, I nearly blow a gasket. I get so anxious about following the GPS that by the time I reach my destination, I'm too stressed to enjoy it. I have to remind myself from time to time that even if I miss a turn along the way, I will still eventually get where I need to go, because my GPS has this wonderful thing called "recalculating". So, even if I get off course for a little while, the GPS will get me back on track in a short time.
Spiritually speaking, we have a word for "recalculating"; we call it grace. Grace is that wonderful gift from God that allows us to get back on course even after we've missed a turn or two. So don't become so focused on fanatically following the SGP that you don't enjoy the journey. Even if you miss an element or two for a short-time, God allows for recalculating through His amazing grace.