The biggest steps are often the smallest steps. Most of the people I know think bible reading and prayer are small steps. They’re boring steps. They’re not world-changing steps. They’re certainly not big steps.
But a quick look at every survey examining “causes for spiritual growth” that I’ve seen, tells a different story. It turns out that these small, boring, non-exciting actions are actually the most significant steps for spiritual growth that one can take! Turns out the biggest steps for spiritual growth are, indeed, the smallest steps.
The incredible impact that these small, simple actions can bring about shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Bible. After all, God gives life to his creation through his word (Gen 1), life to a dead man named Lazarus (John 11:38-44), just to name a couple of examples. With this understanding, it’s no surprise the psalmist, whose life was “clinging to the dust,” prayed that God would “give him life through his word” (Ps 119:25), or that Jesus prayed that God would “sanctify them with your truth, your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). God uniquely empowers his people through his word.
And the significant impact of the prayers of God’s people shouldn’t be surprising either. God miraculously answered the prayers of his people when they were enslaved in Egypt crying out for deliverance (Ex 3-11), when they needed a way through the Red Sea (Ex 13), and when the Apostle Peter was locked in a Roman prison facing execution the next day (Acts 12:5-19). Cynics would have mocked these simple prayers, God answered them. Why? God loves answering the problem-started prayers of his people because he gets the glory and we get the help. And when God’s people can tell you specific ways that their heavenly Father has answered their prayers, you better believe it grows their trust, joy, and peace in Christ.
And yet, in spite of the incredible resources that are available to undeserving people like you and me, most Christians–even Christian leaders–struggle to take these “small steps.” On the one hand, it’s surprising because these steps aren’t incredibly complicated. These aren’t radical steps that require a person to leave their country. Yet, they remain rare. But, on the other hand, it isn’t too surprising that these life-giving habits are infrequent. After all, if they ARE the key habits to give life, power, peace, and more to God’s people in a world at odds with his life-giving purposes, then it makes sense that the worst parts of us and the worst parts of our world would make these “small steps” as difficult as possible.
But I don’t want to settle for the status quo. I don’t want to throw up the white flag to the principalities and powers. I want to be a part of a movement of people that make these life-giving habits a part of our lives and those with whom we have any influence. And I know there are a ton of other Christian leaders out there that feel the same way.
In order for a movement like this to happen, we have to simplify and celebrate the process. When we engage in these small steps, we’ll celebrate the big ways God’s meeting us in these small acts of faithfulness. As we do this, we’ll enable people who have never engaged with God in his word and in prayer, do it for the first time. Busy people can find a way to make room for these six life-changing habits.
Use A Bible Reading Plan – Most people engage with God’s word consistently when they have some kind of plan. That’s why we’ve created a bible reading plan that includes the NT, Psalms, and Proverbs. It doesn’t have dates next to the passages. And it doesn’t have a passage for every day, in case you miss a day or just decide to read other passages. I’ve found that flexible, monthly reading plans are better than rigid daily plans. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll be better off if you have a plan.
Use A (Study) Bible – Most people won’t make the time to go find answers to the questions that inevitably pop up as we read through the Bible. Thankfully, there are some amazing study bibles available that offer succinct notes that clarify the complex. I highly recommend the ESV Study Bible and the CSB Study Bible. These study bibles enable you to understand God’s powerful word with greater confidence and ease. I can’t think of a better time-saving, understanding-increasing tool available.
Use An Application Journal – When you read with a few key questions in the back of your mind, it increases the impact of the Bible reading in your life. That’s why we created a “Focus” journal to help people ask the questions of the passage they are reading that will help them get the most out of it (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info). Writing the answers enables the reader to get more out of the short time they spend in the word. It also enables them to go through the Bible with others more easily, since they can talk about what they’ve learned.
Pray Your Passage And Your Problems With Specificity – We all need God’s help in order to obey God’s word. That’s why we don’t just read a biblical passage, we pray the passage. We ask God to help us do what it is calling us to do. But we don’t stop there. The bible also calls us to pray our problems. With childlike boldness, specificity, and trust, we encourage people to write down at least 4 requests in the “Focus” journal, that they’d like to see God achieve for them each day (Matt 6:5-13; Heb 4:16). As God answers those prayers, he becomes more visible in our life. Specificity leads to visibility.
Share The Encouragement From God’s Word Consistently – It’s been said, you haven’t learned it until you’ve taught it. While you don’t have to deliver a lecture, I’ve found that when I share a 30 second recap of something I enjoyed from my time in the word, it exponentially increases the impact on my life. Whether it is to a friend, a child, or someone else, let your love for God’s word overflow into a conversation consistently for an increased impact in your life.
Identify Your Target Times – Some people are more morning people than night owls. Others are the opposite. But I’ve found that nobody is a devotional person, unless they make time for it. Identify the best possible times to sit down and focus on the things I’ve written about above. And I do mean find times, not a time. You need a contingency plan. If you miss the morning, see if you can’t make some time during the day or at night. Whatever it is, understand that the Enemy wants to do anything he can to stop you from taking these simple, but significant steps.
These are a few suggestions that I think can help you take steps that can stunningly change the course of your life and the lives of those around you. The biggest steps are often the smallest steps. Ask God to help you take these today.