Becoming the best version of yourself starts within! Sometimes we tend to nurture our external appearance and neglect our internal identity. This perspective has to be altered if we desire to become who God called us to be! If you read the dictionary, you’ll find the word “inside” listed before the word “outside”.
To quote what my pastor (Dr. William Curtis) stated during a sermon earlier this year, “Our spiritual life has to be an inside project.” Our inner strength gives us the ability to face or conquer ANY external circumstance! Who we are internally determines how we see and handle things externally. As I revisit everything that I’ve encountered this year, I find myself wounded but standing tall in the face of my adversity. Facing financial hardship, operating under stressful work conditions, making late night Uber trips to earn extra money while preaching and pouring into others as a minister and life coach would make anyone fatigued and overwhelmed. An individual with limited inner strength or faith would perceive their trials as trouble, while an individual with a great amount of faith knows that every test eventually produces a testimony! You can't spell the word testimony without the word, test!
The New Living Translation of 1 Peter 1:6 states the following, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”
An individual with wavering faith may focus on the part that states “many trials” while an individual with unshakable faith knows that trials only last for a little while. A person with little faith may ask God, “Why are you giving me so much to carry?” while an individual with great faith knows that God gives his toughest tasks to his strongest disciples. God would never give us an assignment that we couldn’t complete.
The Message Translation of 1 John 4:4 tells us the following, “...you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world."
Not only does this scripture mention that we already have victory, it also emphasizes that the spirit within us is greatly stronger than anything we’ll face or encounter in the world! This is the reason we have to make a conscious effort to develop the spirit within us. We can’t complete the assignment that God gave to us with an underdeveloped spirit.
How much can we accomplish with a perfect physique and a starving spirit?
How far will we truly go with a gorgeous physical appearance and a stagnant spirit?
Who we are in Christ determines how far we will go in our lives, and if we will accomplish the goals that he placed on our hearts!
One of the reasons our spirit may lack strength or become stagnant is the result of living an exterior focused life. We tend to give our flesh what it wants instead of feeding our spirit what it needs. We’ll leave our spirit starving while our egos and flesh are inflated!
Some spend hours getting the right angles, quotes and filters for their next Instagram picture, but are we devoting the same effort and energy towards becoming the best version of ourselves?
Sometimes it appears that we are quicker to promote ourselves and our accolades more than God. We often celebrate our success more than the one who is the reason for it! Don’t mistake or use this approach as a way to encourage yourself or strengthen your spirit. This requires approval from people and depending on the amount of validation that you receive, your spirit could potentially be damaged or left in a place of stagnation. The word stagnation can be described as a lack of growth or development.
So I want to propose a question:
Who would you be if every material thing or accolade that you possessed was taken away?
Your job title
Your social media following and platform
Your cosmetic collection
Your physical features and external appearance
Who are you without an imaged or external identity?
The Message Translation of Romans 12:1-2 mentions the following, “...Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
The culture and world we live in encourages building an imaged identity; celebrating individuals who possess an abundance of exterior accolades and attributes.
Sometimes we fail to realize that these same attributes and accolades are used to cover up internal flaws and insecurities. Instead of addressing and correcting these issues, some would rather perfect their image while neglecting the problems present on the inside. With this approach, you will find more people attracted to your portrait than your purpose. God doesn’t want any of us living this way. We can’t prosper with a poor spirit or an unhealthy internal well-being.
This is the reason the referenced scripture instructs us to shift our attention towards God. He plans to change us from the inside out and bring the best out of us. Once God develops us internally, we can display a healthier external presence; one not connected to or dependent on any external accolades and attributes.
Improve Your Spiritual Diet
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been dealing with headaches on a frequent basis. This made me evaluate both my spiritual and nutritional diet. I realized that feeding our spirit doesn’t make it exempt from starvation.
When I looked at my nutritional diet, I realized that my intake wasn’t the healthiest. Being fatigued with a busy schedule, I found myself eating a lot of fast food and drinking caffeinated drinks. Although I was eating and satisfying my thirst, my body wasn’t getting the nutrition it needed to operate effectively.
The same can occur with our spirit. Without the proper nutrition, we can become spiritually dehydrated.
Dehydration occurs when our body isn’t provided the correct amount of water. Without the appropriate amount of water, our body can’t function properly.
What makes us feel that we can operate with a dehydrated spirit?
Can we effectively pursue the dreams that God placed on our heart without spiritual nutrition?
The New Living Translation of Matthew 4:1-4 describes Jesus’ experience in the wilderness, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
While being tested in the wilderness, Jesus expressed that we can’t live on bread alone. Our lives are built on the words that come from God! This emphasizes the importance of our spiritual diet. We have to be aware of what we allow to our enter our mental and spiritual well-being.
The word spirit can be defined as the non physical part of a person that is the seat of their emotions and character. So the things that we feed our spirit ultimately determine the depth and quality of our character along with how we operate emotionally.
So we have to ask ourselves, what dominates my diet?
Do I spend more time scrolling through statuses or studying scripture?
Am I more engaged with social media stories than biblical stories?
Am I listening to sermons outside of Sunday or does secular music and entertainment dominate my weekly hearing?
Am I spending more time partying in the club or praising in the church?
Do I spend more time shopping to polish my external appearance or are you searching for ways to develop your internal characteristics?
Don’t give your spirit the bare minimum while giving your flesh everything that it wants. As Jesus stated in the referenced scripture, we cannot survive on bread alone. Our faith has to be fed beyond attending a two hour church service! Just imagine only eating two hours a week. That means we would go 9,960 minutes (166 hours) without eating. This would make us more prone to starvation.
The same perspective and approach has to be applied to our spirit. The dreams and goals God placed on our hearts become unattainable when we are operating with a starving spirit. Some of the symptoms of starvation include a reduction in muscle mass and consequent weakness.
How can we endure a tough season with a weak spirit? It’s difficult to walk by faith when our sight has a stronger influence on our spirit. This is the reason we have to increase and improve our spiritual intake. Facing adversity in 2019 is inevitable, but having a stronger faith shifts our perspective and determines how we handle it.
Instead of complaining about your trials, you will consider them an opportunity for great joy (James 1:2 NLT)
Instead of dwelling in your suffering, you’ll remember that your temporary suffering is nothing compared to what God plans to reveal to you later (Romans 8:18 GNB)
Instead of stressing about every negative event in your season, you know that God will work EVERYTHING together for your good! (Romans 8:28 GNB)
This type of faith isn’t built by listening to one sermon on Sunday and spending the rest of the week engaged with social media and celebrity gossip. You have to be consistently connected to the word of God. There’s a reason that it’s referred to as “Daily bread” and not birthday cake. The word of God is meant for daily usage not special occasions. Our spiritual nourishment has the same significance as our physical nourishment.
It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside if you’re empty or undernourished on the inside. A pair of Jordan’s or Christian Louboutin heels won’t help you stand tall in the midst of a storm if you possess a weakened faith or a depleted spirit.
Faith is an internal belief and our spiritual intake will determine if we operate in faith or remain stagnant because of our sight.
Inspect Your Spiritual Space
The word inspection can be defined as a careful examination. Anyone who drives a motor vehicle in the state of Pennsylvania must pass an inspection test every year. This is to ensure that a motor vehicle has the necessary maintenance to be on the road.
What if God is requiring the same from us before we are elevated to the next level? God may have an assignment prepared for us, but can we reach our intended destination with a “bad engine” or “bald tires”?
Sometimes we’ll ask God to do a new thing in our lives, but we won’t relinquish the old. We desire to carry toxic habits into a healthy relationship or bring old baggage to a new level. We have to realize that every level requires a better version of us! The old “you” cannot complete the new assignment that God has assigned to you!
As we enter the new year, we have to ask ourselves: What am I allowing into my spiritual space?
This the includes the people we are connected to, the habits attached to us and the thoughts that enter our mind. The wrong connections will ultimately delay the right blessings! Similar to watching a Netflix movie on a poor internet connection, it will continue to buffer until it establishes a stronger connection. The same applies to us and the blessings that God wants to release to us!
After we identify what needs to be corrected in our lives, we have to correct it. Identifying a bad connection, and staying connected to it will produce the same results. You can’t expect to start a successful business being connected to lazy and uninspired people. You can’t expect peace being connected to a person who loves chaos! We can’t expect to success being connected to our old failures.
Failure can’t be erased from our history, but we don’t have let it dictate our future. As we close out 2018 and enter 2019, we have to detox and disconnect from ANYTHING that will damage or clutter up our spiritual space.
The word detox can be described as a process that involves getting rid of toxic and unhealthy substances in the body. We have to do the same with our spiritual space before we enter the new year. In order for God to do new things, he needs the space to do it. If negative thoughts dominate our mind, there isn’t enough room for positive ones.
How can God deliver new blessings when old habits and burdens are in the way?
How can God fill us with his spirit when we are full of ourselves?
We have to exchange our toxic habits and relationships for a stronger relationship with a sovereign God! Our blessings in 2019 will be dependent on our internal well-being and our capacity to receive them. You don’t want to delay your blessings or progress because of an unnecessary connection clogging up space in your life!
What you accomplish in the new year will ultimately be the result of who you are INTERNALLY and what you are connected to!