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Vitality vs Vulnerability

Encouragement + Accountability + Intentionality = Spiritual Vitality

We must be on our guard against the attacks of the devil. Temptation is everywhere and we must realize that anyone can stumble or fall if not properly prepared. Paul told the Galatians, “watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.” Solomon gave the warning that we need to guard our hearts. The challenge is to protect our eyes, our ears, and our thoughts in order to keep our hearts right before God. Here is a great question to consider, “Are you living with good intentions or are you living intentionally?”

The reality is that you can dry up on the inside long before it shows on the outside. We have been programmed to act like we are walking with the Lord when we are not. We know what “churchianity” looks like and while we are drying up and needing a fresh wind from the Lord, we can easily be guilty of going through the motions. Do not think that this is not possible because in Revelation 3 Jesus told a church, “Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and have need of nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”

There are three elements that make you very susceptible to temptation. Time + Hardship + Deprivation = Vulnerability (Bill Hull in The Complete Book of Discipleship). The devil is always looking for just the right time to push our buttons. Remember that the devil is working overtime all the time. You cannot afford to ever let your guard down because at our most inopportune time the devil will see it as his golden opportunity. Peter makes this very clear when he says, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”

The second element is Hardship. Trials and difficult times can be guaranteed. It is easy to stand for the Lord in church when everyone is saying amen but it is another story in the real world. We commit to follow Jesus and think we have a “let’s do this” mentality but we will be tested greatly when hardships come into our lives. You must expect trials and hardships and you must be prepared for them when they come. We are told in God’s word to on our watch and to be ready to “stand against the attacks of the enemy.”

The third element is the most important in not becoming vulnerable. That element is deprivation. If you are not walking with the Lord you have no foundation to stand on and no inner strength from which to draw. Are you abiding in Christ? Are you allowing His fullness to work in you and through you? If we do our job, getting daily into His presence, then He will do His job of providing us with His power and guidance. David makes this declaration, “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.”

Vitality is a choice we make by pursuing God. We develop the daily habits of prayer and being in His word so that we will be have spiritual vitality. Hebrews 3:13 says this, “But encourage each other daily, while it is called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” Here we are given a simple Biblical formula of three important elements. Encouragement + Accountability + Intentionality = Vitality. While we are 100% responsible for our spiritual walk, here is a clear pathway of how we can help one another on a regular basis.

The first element of vitality is encouragement! All of us need encouragement and all of us need to encourage others. There are enough people around who drain the energy out of us and this makes encouragement of paramount importance. The idea of exhortation is being a cheerleader to others. Do you have someone like that in your life? Are you being that cheerleader to someone else? We all need that individual in our life who believes in us, believes in what God is doing in our life. They encourage you to not listen to the naysayers.

The second element of vitality is accountability! We are told to encourage “each other.” We not only need the word of God and the Holy Spirit of God, but we also need the people of God speaking into our lives. Yes, we need a body to belong to and to grow with but all too often the missing ingredient is that individual to whom we voluntarily make ourselves accountable. Do you have someone you can vent to and know that they will then speak the truth in love back to you? There are many times you need that trusted confidant to bare your soul to and be 100% transparent.

The third element is intentionality! We are to encourage each other “daily.” Do you have an intentional plan in place to keep you on the right track spiritually? You cannot afford to be haphazard in this area. Tony Dungy says one of the keys to life is “to discipline ourselves to do what we need to do so that at a later time we can do what we want to do!” If you want to run a marathon you must begin the physical training today and increase your workouts along the way. If you want to finish the race Christ has placed you in you must also increase your spiritual workouts.

Healthy churches and healthy Christians build an environment and a culture of spiritual vitality. They strive to ensure that there is a system of discipleship and mentoring that facilitates these three elements of encouragement, accountability, and intentionality. Who are you encouraging and who is encouraging you? Who have you agreed with to hold one another accountable? Are you communicating regularly and have you developed a good rhythm? Remember, “so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.”

Accountability

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Accountability is talked about a lot and it is a necessary ingredient for our spiritual growth. It is important to have someone in our lives that holds us accountable for what we say we are going to do.

They love us enough to speak into our lives when they see us headed in the wrong direction. All of us need to build strong accountability relationships into our lives (Matt 17:1; II Tim 2:2).

Here is the reality though. You can only hold people accountable who want to be held accountable. It is kind of like what I have heard locksmiths say about our cars. “Your door locks only keep honest people honest!”

In other words you really can not hold someone accountable who does not want to be held accountable. There must be a submissive humble spirit in the heart of the one being held accountable.

Hear are five key questions you can use to hold yourself accountable:

  1. How is your spiritual life?
  2. How is your home life?
  3. How healthy is your ministry?
  4. How often are you sharing your faith?
  5. How often are you able to unplug to refresh and rest?

There is also the need for accountability partners in our life that we can be completely transparent and authentic with. Neil Cole has implemented 10 accountability questions into his LTG’s (Life Transformation Groups) discipleship process.

These are small groups of 2-3 people who study the word together and grow together. Here are the accountability questions they use:

  1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?
  2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
  3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
  4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
  5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
  6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
  7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
  8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
  9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
  10. Have you been completely honest with me?

John Wesley developed these questions for his class meetings (small groups) to help them hold one another accountable:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told me in confidence?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today? Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
  7. Am I enjoying prayer?
  8. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
  9. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  10. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  11. Do I disobey God in anything?
  12. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  13. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  14. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  15. How do I spend my spare time?
  16. Am I proud?
  17. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
  18. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard?
  19. If so, what am I going to do about it?
  20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

Spirituality does not flourish without accountability.

Dr Dave DeVries (www.missionalchallenge.com) says this about accountability. “Spiritual leaders value personal accountability. They realize that ultimately they are accountable to God for their decisions and leadership. Because they seek to please and honor God they appreciate and pursue other leaders who will help them to maintain high standards regarding character and conduct.”

“They welcome questions of others and don’t view themselves as above accountability. They also ask hard questions to make sure the leaders around them are above reproach. Personal accountablity is mutually required and pursued.”