I’m not a fan of bullet pointed lists, which is why most of my articles are not titled the way this one is. While it’s nice, and convenient, to see things in list form, life isn’t necessarily lived that way, unless we’re talking about 6 solutions to the cat pooping outside the litter box, or 5 proven techniques to get your teenagers to pick up their stuff off of the floor (please, if anyone has that list, send it to me).
But as a concession to popular demand, I give you, this one time, 10 ways to be a successful Christian:
1) Talk to God. A lot. I tend to do this in my head, since thinking is faster than speaking, in the same way that typing is faster than writing by hand. And people don’t look at you weirdly. Praying is essentially talking to God, as if He were a Person, which He is. You just can’t see Him, touch Him, or audibly hear Him, necessarily, but He does communicate back.
2) Read the Bible for yourself, in a way that you find enjoyable. Do you know how many incredible stories are in that book? Read them, like stories. If you find yourself getting bogged down and bored, go somewhere else. God wrote the book — and a good way of getting to know any author is by reading what he writes.
Find Something You Understand
3) While you’re at it, find a translation that you enjoy and comprehend. There is no rule that you have to read the King James Version, and since we haven’t spoken in that fashion for 500 years or so, it is understandable if you get frustrated.
4) You know how we always throw out the term, “Personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” Take the “personal” part seriously and recognize that you can function outside a corporate body, and study the Bible independently of a pastor, deacon, elder, deaconess, or Sunday School teacher. God has made you an intelligent being, and He has no problem with your using that intelligence.
“Ministries” Are Over-Rated
5) Stop worrying about your “ministry.” As a Christian, you are on, 24/7, and every moment of your day is given to God. You are not useful only when you are teaching a class, or leading a group, or speaking at the front of the building. Wherever you are, and whatever you do, you live with a hope inside of you that many people do not have. When you focus on that hope, and the Person who gives it to us, you automatically minister to those around you.
6) Recognize that you do not have to be strong and put together. 2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us that “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Whereas human beings pride themselves on their skill, acumen, intelligence, and ability, God looks for a humble heart that reaches out to Him for wisdom and direction. Are you weak, ineffectual, confused, and limited in your abilities? That’s no problem for God; what does hinder His working through us is our pride, arrogance, and the insistence upon taking over.
7) Building on number 6, get into the habit of asking God for help. Israel’s first king, Saul, developed a habit of NOT asking God for direction, whereas David, his successor, inquired of the Lord all the time, 1 Samuel Chapter 23 being a good example of this. Now David happened to have a personal priest handy, which many of us lack, but as Christians we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and this is our direct link to the Master. When you ask, God will answer, and you don’t have to worry about “missing” what He says, because He will work with you where you are.
8) Don’t worry that you don’t have the “right” words or pray in the properly prescribed manner. The idea that we have to phrase our requests in a specific fashion, or they won’t work, is an old, old one that continues to sell books and DVDs promising to “unlock” the power of God. Romans 8:26 assures us, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit.” Use the money you save on the book to buy yourself a cup of coffee, and sit and meditate.
9) Thank God, on a regular basis, for the beautiful things that He has given you: food, clothing, a warm home, people who love you, the book you discovered at the library, your hands with the opposable thumbs — the list is endless. Too often it is easy to focus on what we don’t have, especially in relation to what the people around us have (that’s called coveting). Developing an attitude of gratitude results in a happier, more content person that everyone likes to be around.
10) Recognize that you don’t have to earn God’s love — you already have it. I know you’re a screw-up. We all are. Too often, people say, “I’ll get back to God once I get my life together,” when really, you can’t get your life together unless you’re back with God. The unconditional love He shows you is an example of how He wants us to unconditionally love the people around us.
Well that’s 10 — but there are more, which is why I don’t like bullet point lists. Christianity is a lifelong journey, taken one moment at a time, and we keep learning and changing and growing until the last breath leaves our lips.