It’s been a few years for me. Who am I kidding? It’s actually been a few decades since I made the decision to follow Christ, and it changed the direction of my life. But even though it was so long ago, I still remember wondering things like: How do you grow your relationship with God? What does it mean, exactly? What am I going to have to give up? Do I need a certain Bible? Is anyone going to help me understand all the questions I have? How will I know this is real?
Maybe you’re a fairly new Christ follower who’s been asking similar questions. Or maybe you’ve been following Jesus for years, but you’re still wondering how to grow your relationship with God. You’re not alone.
One thing I knew for sure was that I had more questions than answers. Maybe your biggest challenge is figuring out how to navigate your new faith during a time that’s confusing (like during a global pandemic), risky, and may have limited opportunities to be with others. But there are so many great ways you can grow your relationship with God, even with those extra challenges.
The greatest truth I was told early in my journey with God was this: No amount of work that I could do would qualify me to serve Christ. And no number of mistakes would disqualify me from receiving God’s grace and forgiveness (see Romans 3:20-26). We are qualified to serve God based solely on the work Jesus has already done for us through His life, death, and resurrection.
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Experiencing fullness takes time and perseverance. I pray your new hope keeps you motivated and that you will experience the fullness He has already given.
Think about growing your faith like going to school. You probably had a backpack that contained everything you needed for the day. It might’ve held your books, pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, possibly a jacket—maybe even your lunch. You didn’t need it all at once, but throughout the day, you used it all. The following tips will be like that—things you’ll need throughout your journey of following Jesus.
Five Ways to Grow Your Relationship With God
1. Surround yourself with people who follow Jesus.
During His time on earth, Jesus surrounded Himself with 12 disciples, which shows us that if we want to become more like Christ, we won’t get there alone. We need people who can help us navigate our doubts, figure out our questions, and remind us who God is when life gets hard. Remember that people whom you may see as spiritual giants (aka, people who seem to have it all together and have everything figured out), also had a beginning to their faith journey, and they learned from others, too.
As I was growing up, people in my family and my inner circle who also followed Jesus helped me to gain a solid understanding of who God is and how to live in a way that honors Him. As you begin your new faith journey, it will be important to surround yourself with other people who want to grow their relationship with God.
But don’t avoid those who don’t think the new way you do. They need the hope you’ve found (see 1 Peter 3:15-16). You don’t need to be a Bible scholar or pastor to tell people about Jesus. Just tell your story about the hope you’ve found and leave the outcome to God.
One way you can find people to grow with is by joining a LifeGroup. LifeGroups are simply friends you live life with—whether it’s studying the Bible together, enjoying a meal together, or connecting over a shared hobby. As important as this is, it can be a little intimidating to show up and join a group of strangers. But we need people, and the initial discomfort is always worth the growth you’ll experience as a result.
I have lost count of how many small groups I have been a part of or led over the years. I remember some brought significant relationships that came at just the right time when I needed support. Others challenged me to learn how to serve and love others through their own difficult experiences. Today, I find that I do not feel whole if I am not doing life with others who are wanting to grow their relationship with God, too.
2. Listen for the Holy Spirit—a tremendous gift God has given you.
The Holy Spirit lives in anyone who comes to Jesus for salvation—and will be your greatest resource as you discover what it means to follow Jesus. He often comes as a quiet voice, reminding you of your new purpose, and He will reveal truths to you as you seek to know Christ. Whether He speaks quietly or loudly, listen for Him as you begin your new journey. He will speak through God’s Word, as you pray, in messages from leaders, and through other people who are also growing in their relationship with God.
Several years ago, I entered into a second battle with cancer. My treatment was challenging. Numerous surgeries and chemo treatments left me weakened and foggy much of the time. But I did my best to stay connected to friends and plugged into my church. I also sought to find strength from God through the Holy Spirit. While my strength waned, the Holy Spirit continued to give hope and peace in the middle of a huge battle. I hope you don’t have to go through this kind of challenge, but I can say with confidence that the Holy Spirit can give strength where you see none, hope when it seems to be hiding, peace in the middle of problems, and life when death seems certain.
3. Get to know the Bible: one of your greatest resources.
The Bible is God’s manual for living life as a Christ follower. Take some time each day to read even a few verses. The best resource I have found is the YouVersion Bible App. They offer free Bible Plans from Life.Church and lots of other ministries. You can also search by topic or verse. There are Bible Plans of varying lengths to suit your style, from just a few days to a year.
When I first started reading the Bible, I experienced a certain level of confusion. I was struggling to understand how it all related, what the context of each story was, and what it all meant. But as I got more connected with other people, I began to see that other believers had a lot of knowledge and understanding. By learning from them, I gained insight into God’s story. The Bible Project is also a big help to understand more of the context.
Eventually, I learned how to read and study His Word to learn what God was trying to tell me about my relationship with Him. It was then that His truth came to life, and it’s one of the best ways I grow my relationship with God.
4. Make use of the powerful resource of prayer.
The concept of prayer is often misunderstood. Simply put, prayer is talking to God. You are in a relationship with the Creator of the universe. The same power that created all we see also resurrected Christ from the grave. For any relationship to grow, you must have communication and trust, which requires spending time together. God not only invites us to pray, but also tells us that we can tap into His power as we talk to Him and experience His peace when we take the time to be with Him:
- Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
Over time, you will come to realize that things like peace, contentment, grace, love, joy, and goodness are way more valuable than the “stuff” we used to desire. Prayer is the conduit for God to give us what our soul really needs.
5. Get planted in a local church.
What do you think about when you think of church? People in robes? Sermons? A place full of rules? Maybe you consider it a place where you’ve been let down. Or maybe you just think of a building where people go on Sundays. But it’s so much more than that.
The Bible uses the word “gathering” to describe the church meeting. We often use the word “congregation” to describe it. Either way, what we are really talking about is the people. Church isn’t a building, a place, a program, or a ministry. It is a gathering of people who come together to worship a living God and to learn how to grow in their relationship with God. Those of us who call Jesus our Lord are the Church. And the local church helps us grow in our relationship with God and is a vital part of our faith experience.
Finding a local church that will help you grow your relationship with God is important. But it’s not just about the weekend experience. It’s also about finding a LifeGroup and discovering a place to use your gifts—maybe through serving in the church or outside of the church with a Local Mission Partner.
But you know what’s truly amazing about growing your relationship with God? God already knows you, and He wants you to know Him. And that is an incredible truth worth clinging to, because while the world changes around us, we can have a constant hope within us.