A closer look at having a relationship-based faith in a culture of works-based religion
It’s been a little over a month since moving back on campus, and I’ve seen my faith transition from a winter to a spring. You may not be familiar with those terms, but our personal faith journey can be broken up and identified by physical seasons. Spring represents when we transition out of a hard time in our lives and towards new beginnings, and Summer is a time when we are hearing from God and are spiritually thriving. fall brings that time of abundant blessings to a close before winter. Winter is a time to learn and let God break away the sin cycles and brokenness in our lives, or when it may feel like God is distant from us. Looking back on the past two years of what I consider a winter season for my family, I see the perseverance and growth that got me to where I am now.
Whether it be my classmates, or friends from church, they seem to have noticed the change that has come within the last few weeks. I have had multiple friends and even a few followers on my Instagram reach out with the same question, “how do you maintain an authentic relationship with the Lord?”
If I’m being transparent, I haven’t sat down to intentionally ask myself that question in a while. So I spent some time this past week to really pray about it and refer back to wise advice from my pastor, and reflect on the spiritual disciplines we’ve been covering at our campus wide Bible study, and here is what has helped encourage authenticity in my faith.
Meditation & Worship
When I think of the word meditation, I usually think of breathing exercises and clearing of the mind and body. But when the Bible calls us to meditate it actually means quite the opposite.
Christian based meditation is when we fill our mind and spirit with God’s word. So what does this look like practically?
Reading your Bible
Reserving time each day to sit down and read God’s word is a form of worship and meditation. It’s an act of replacing our worldly thoughts by focusing on the life and promise God gives us.
Fasting is a form of worship and meditation through starving our physical needs and filling it with a spiritual need instead. Though fasting food is one of the most common examples, you can fast different things. I fast secular media in the mornings, and instead listen to Christian music and podcasts. Please use discretion when fasting. Do not traditionally fast if you have health issues or have had a history of an eating disorder, especially since you can fast in so many other ways!
Prayer isn’t just something you do before you eat or go to bed, but a constant means of communication between you and the Lord. I find myself asking for wisdom, strength or saying thoughts of gratitude throughout my day. I encourage you to look to God for guidance and to show gratitude throughout your week and see what happens!
One of the most obvious forms of worship is through signing and response time during church. This is a time to have truths about God spoken over you and giving praise for all that God has done. If you’ve had a great week, praise the Lord with a joyful heart to give thanks. If you’ve had a bad week, surrender it to the Lord and try to find joy in Him, not in your current circumstances. Worship shouldn’t be based on our situational feelings, but about our amazing God.
Bible journaling & journaling
Try unwinding at the end of your day and reflect on the small victories. Also write down a prayer over the low points. This will allow you to look back to see the ways God was moving in your life even if you may not have even realized it! I go back and read my journal all of the time and it never fails to bring me to tears over God’s goodness.
By practicing daily worship and meditation, it sets the tone for our day and helps combat lies and temptation that Satan wants to distract us with.
Community is one of the most important things to an authentic relationship with the Lord. When we surround ourselves with people who are chasing after religion rather than a relationship with God, it can actually suck the authenticity out of our faith.
The key is to find a good group of men and/or women who will walk alongside you and keep you accountable. Be careful not to put the weight of your faith on others, there can be a fine line between support, and relying on them for your spiritual needs.
Notice how I said good community and not strong friendships. A lot of times we can think that community means having a good group of friends, but that isn’t always the case. My junior year of high school, I had an amazing small group that was a safe space for vulnerability and spiritual growth. Though we loved each other and spent a lot of time in worshiping and growing together, we weren’t a close friend group. Yes, we can have close friends who are also that spiritual community, but most of the time that isn’t the case.
Bottom line: Good community looks like spiritual accountability, vulnerability and support, not close friendships.
I started serving as a worship team leader at the age of five for kid’s ministries, was a preschool leader by the age of nine, and logged over fifteen service hours each year during high school. While serving is helpful on a practical level, but it is also a great resource to find that community mentioned above.
I serve at my church as an elementary small group leader. Each week I work with 19 third grade girls and you would be surprised all of the things their teaching me. It is so rewarding to mentor someone younger than yourself and then see the life change that follows. My co-leaders are some of my closest friends and celebrate those small victories for my girls as well.
There are many ways to serve in your local church. Whether it be Kids ministries, coffee team, greet team, worship team, a care and response team or even a parking team, there’s something for everyone. For me, I have found that serving has been the only way I’ve been able to get up for church some mornings. Reach out to someone at your church and try joining a serving team, you may be surprised by the blessings your service and time commitment will bring!
Patience and Perseverance
At the end of the day, meditating on God’s word, serving with your local church, and surrounding yourself with good community won’t be the thing that holds together your relationship with Christ. Some weeks you’re going to skip church or forget to read your Bible, and that’s okay. I would love to say I’m perfect and never miss a day reading my Bible or skip a church service but that’s not true. Be patient with yourself as you grow closer to God. It all comes back to that relationship with Him, not how good of a Christian you are.
Some seasons you will be too tired and too overwhelmed by the world. But God will always stand right next to you. There will be times where you won’t have an amazing group of people to walk with you. Moments of grief will come in the winter seasons of life and you might not be able to sing, but perceiver. Do your best to continue these things with a grateful heart and know that the Lord is carrying you through. So be patient with yourself, perceiver, and let go and let God take control in the fight for authenticity.