The simplest way to do that is to use an Ignatian-style question and ask yourself:
1. What for me has been life-giving?
2. What for me has been life-taking?
If, as James says, all good things come from God, then the things in our life that are from God will be helping us to live with purity, integrity, courage, peace, joy, mercy, and all other fruits of the Spirit. Things from our enemy will call us towards a life that is divided, secretive, selfish, frustrated, discouraged, and vengeful.
Part of making personal goals for a new year will necessarily involve removing from our life what is not from God and replacing it with the good things that do come from knowing God better.
Each person has their own characteristics that distinguish them from every other person. Even twin children, raised by the same parents, in the same house, in the same town, at the same school, attending the same Church will be different people. Without a doubt, our differences affect our congregations. We’ve all seen contention where people of opposing preferences have a hard time reaching a middle ground. Each of us has different ways that we prefer to respond to God, and we should be considerate of our fellow Christians’ needs.
Here are some of the ways that people feel close to God:
These get close to God by reading the Bible and other books. They feel that they’ve heard a good sermon if they learned something interesting. Some Biblical Thinkers would include Paul, Daniel, and Isaiah.
These get close to God by worship. They love to think of Heaven in terms of the awesome praise they’ll get to help offer up in the presence of God. They feel it’s been a good worship service if people really got into the singing, and the prayers were meaningful. Biblical Praisers might include David, Moses, and Mary the mother of Jesus.
These really love beauty and aesthetic things. They may struggle with the temptation to skip church and go camping instead, because for them, God is closest when they are in nature. Why can’t we have worship outside more often? They love to forward e-mails of pretty nature pictures, and to experience God’s majesty through His artistry. Biblical Creation-Lovers might include Jesus, David, and several of the apostles who had been fishermen.
Some people feel like they can’t really be with God unless they have a quiet place. They are naturally inclined towards contemplative prayer. When they get “alone time,” they emerge feeling energized. Biblical Withdrawers might include Jonah, Elijah, and Jesus.
No matter how much time you spend together, Fellowshipers wish you didn’t have to go your separate ways. Being with other Christians energizes them. They like attending worship services, but they live to talk to people before and afterwards. They thrive on relationships. Biblical examples of Fellowshipers might be Barnabas, Joseph, and Mary (Martha’s sister).
SERVERSSome people need to be caring with their hands and to show compassion. Ministries like Meals-on-Wheels are a perfect fit for them. Biblical examples of Servers might include Tabitha (Dorcas), Abraham, and the Good Samaritan.
All people are made in God's image, and can help us grow by learning different ways to feel connected to God. I'm sure most people would fit into more than one of these categories, as I know I do.
In my next post, I'll be talking about developing a Rule of Life, which is a plan for how you intend to live. For now, though, you might spend some time thinking about the ways you naturally do feel closer to God. It's important to allow space in your life to do what helps you to know God is near. Beyond this, I think it's equally important to find an area in which to push yourself that does not come easily to you.
I prepared this self-survey a few years ago to help people discern the areas they are most drawn to and the ones they are least drawn to. I'd encourage you to download it, print it, take it, and then see how the results sort out for you.
Spiritual Disciplines Preferences Survey
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