Four Ways to Grow Your Faith in the New Year

Each January, millions of Christians around the world use the start of the new year as a springboard for new spiritual routines. 


But despite our best intentions to engage with God every day, many of us struggle to do so. According to The American Bible Society, 181 million Americans opened a Bible in 2021. Of those 181 million people . . .

  • More than 28 million reported feeling unsure of where to start reading the Bible. 
  • More than 27 million reported not having time to read the Bible regularly. 
  • More than 21 million said the Bible’s “language is difficult to relate to.” 


If you have struggles, doubts, or fears when it comes to engaging with God’s Word, you are not alone. Millions of Christians desire to spend more time with God, but don’t know how.

So, how can we spend daily time with God when obstacles get in our way? To answer that question, we’ll start by digging into what God’s Word says about spending time with him. 

1. God wants to spend time with you. Spending time with God isn’t just something we should do for him—it’s something he wants to do with us. We serve a personal, caring God who invites us to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28–30). 

2. There isn’t one “right” way to spend time with God. If we approach God with a humble heart, we have freedom in the details of how we engage with him. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” God cares more about our heart posture than our method of relating to him. 

3. God’s grace helps us change and keep new habits. Starting a new habit is overwhelming when we try to do it on our own. However, when we depend on God for help, we are empowered to change by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:1–2 encourages Christians to surrender to God’s renewing sanctification that will help us look more like him. We don’t need self-help; we need to depend on God for true transformation. 

Let’s get practical about how we can spend time with God regularly in 2022. There will be some reflection prompts in the following section, so make sure you have somewhere to record your answers. 


How to Spend More Time with God in 2022:

1. Make a plan. There’s a big difference between saying to yourself, “I’ll spend time with God at some point,” and “I will spend thirty minutes with God at [time] and [place].” The clearer your plan, the more likely you are to make it happen. Take a moment to write down your plan. 

2. Find an accountability partner. Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” One of the best tools we have for habit change is the accountability and support of one another. If you want to spend more time with God, it will be helpful to tell trusted friends so they can keep you accountable. Brainstorm a list of possible accountability partners and plan how you will stay accountable to them. 

3. Invite God into your daily routine. Think of the things you do every single day and ponder how you could integrate God’s Word into those pre-existing routines. For example, if you usually watch TV before bed, try putting your Bible on your bedside table and reading before you go to sleep. If you’re in the habit of listening to the news on your morning commute, try listening to worship music or a sermon. The options are endless. List three things you do every single day and brainstorm ways to invite Jesus into those routines. 

4. Be creative. Spending time with God doesn’t have to be a chore. You don’t have to do the same thing every day. Remember, God cares more about our heart posture than our method of relating to him. You can switch up your routine by listening to a Christian podcast or watching a Bible study video. RightNow Media has a vast library of biblical videos you can use as a starting point for your devotional time. These videos can help you better understand Scripture, live by biblical values, and learn to share your faith with others.

Want to get started with RightNow Media? Here’s a few video recommendations for any life stage: 

  • Are you a young adult searching for direction? Watch Adulting with Jonathan Pokluda. 

You can also browse our Men’s, Women’s, Youth, and Kids libraries to discover video content for everyone. 

It takes time for habits to form and change, and the journey won’t be perfect. Instead of getting discouraged by your struggles and slip-ups, use them as opportunities to grow closer to God. Remember, he wants to spend time with you. Whether you’re reading the Bible, watching a RightNow Media video, or journaling your prayers to God, each interaction with him will sanctify you to think, act, and love more like Jesus. 

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If you live in the United States, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. A holiday brimming with delicious food, time with family and friends, and lots of football, Thanksgiving is also a day to remember what we’re thankful for. For Christians, Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to reflect on all God has done and is doing and thank him. 

 

Gratitude should mark the people of God, but we can be tempted to reserve it for a holiday or mealtime prayers. Paul exhorts us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” His command feels extreme—does he really want us to give thanks in everything? If so, what does gratitude even look like? How can we start building a habit of thanksgiving?

 

The good news is we can become grateful people by the power of the Spirit, and we can begin growing in gratefulness with one simple step: noticing what God is doing in our lives. 

What to Notice

 

People

Paul mentions fourteen times in his letters that he thanks God for the people he’s writing to. Have you ever stopped to consider why he mentioned his gratefulness for his fellow Christians? Whether he is about to write words of rebuke or correction or encouragement, he still thanks God for the church—for people. He notices them. More importantly, he notices that God has orchestrated his relationship with them, that God put them in his life for a reason, and that God works in and through them. 

 

People, and our relationships with them, can stir up gratitude in us, just as Paul’s friendships produced thanksgiving in his heart. Who in your life are you grateful for?

 

Places

Just as God brings people into our lives, he also places us in our neighborhoods, jobs, and churches. When he created the world, he put humans in it to live, grow, and take care of creation. Taking time to notice the world God put you in—your workplace, your home, your car, your church, your neighborhood park—can help cultivate gratitude in your heart. Yes, difficult places exist. Brokenness riddles our world. But God’s goodness, faithfulness, and kindness always shine forth through the brokenness for us to witness and thank him for. Where has God placed you? What about those places are you thankful for?

 

Moments

Have you ever paused to notice a moment? Maybe the giggles of a playing toddler, the taste of a home-cooked meal, or the words of a hymn in Sunday worship. Or maybe you look back on past moments, spending time to reminisce with old college friends or to remember a loved one who’s passed away. 

 

Past or present, moments encapsulate beauty. Slowing down to notice important or even seemingly insignificant moments can make us more grateful. Is there a moment you’re thankful for? What could it look like to pause and notice the beauty of a moment today?

How to Notice

 

Taking notice of your people and your world—and seeing all of it as God-given, as proof of his love and grace—is the first step toward gratitude. When we know what to notice, we can move from simply observing our lives to giving thanks to God. Thanksgiving can look different for all of us, but there are a few practical ways we can weave it into our lives.

 

Keep a journal.

 

Keeping a gratitude journal is trendy for a reason. When we put pen to paper and list what we’re grateful for, we acknowledge what God has given us in a physical way. Regularly slowing down to thank God helps solidify gratitude in our hearts and builds our thankfulness muscle. Journals can also help us remember what God has done for us when we’re facing impossible, difficult situations. In many ways, it is an act of worship to write down what we are grateful for. Grab a journal or a pad of paper and try writing down three things you’re thankful for every day, then turn your list into a prayer of praise.

 

Tell someone what you notice and why you’re grateful for it.

 

Gratitude is contagious. When we tell others what we’re thanking God for, we point them to gratefulness. Take a walk with a friend or call a family member and weave gratitude into your conversation organically. Notice how speaking with thankfulness about your life affects others. Or tell a significant person in your life that you are thankful for him or her and why, just as Paul did for the churches he wrote to.

 

Memorize a verse, song, or prayer for when it’s hard to be grateful.

 

Hardship often makes gratitude feel as impossible as asking the rain to stop pouring. When we face difficulty, the habits we’ve formed in calmer times come in handy. They give us the words to say when we have none to offer. Find verses on gratitude and memorize them (consider Psalm 100; Philippians 4:6–7; or 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Make a playlist of songs that express thanksgiving to God and return to it often. Or find a written prayer that thanks God that you can pray when words don’t come easily.

 

What happens when I notice and give thanks?

 

Gratitude transforms us. When we give thanks, we acknowledge God and his work in the world. We lift our eyes from looking at ourselves to see the spiritual reality of our lives. God is at work. He always has been and always will be. As you enter the holiday season, look for ways to build a lifestyle of gratitude. Invite your friends and family to join you and see how God grows joy, love, and hope in you as you thank him.

Gratitude: The Holy Habit of Noticing

Friendship is one of the most important and formative features of the human experience, and one of its sweetest pleasures. Because of its significance, literature is filled with moving examples of friendship, from Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings to Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. These stories, and others like them, invite us to make friendship a priority.

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The Bible also speaks of friendship’s important, formative effect on our lives. From the example of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1–5) to the language Paul uses in his epistles to Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), the witness of Scripture testifies that friendship is a blessed good. Solomon himself reveres friendship, using words like “sweetness” (Proverbs 27:9) to describe its joys and “love” (Proverbs 17:17) to convey its depth and devotion. Friendship is not just a blessed good but a generous gift from God.

Since we’ve been created in the image of the triune God (Genesis 1:27), we are made for community—for friendship. In some ways, it comes natural to us. We gravitate to others, finding common bonds, common interests, and common loves. And yet, because we and the world have been fractured by sin, friendship is hard. We sin against our friends, they sin against us, and relationships suffer and sometimes break.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

 

In Genesis 2 and 3, the Bible implies that life for Adam and Eve was to be marked by fellowship (or friendship) with God. It was apparently normal for them to speak with God and to walk with him. But then, Genesis 3:6–7 happened—the fall—and their fellowship was disrupted. With one fateful bite of fruit, Adam and Eve effectively “unfriended” God. And to this day, we live in the shadow of the fall. Like Adam and Eve, our friendship with God has been disrupted.

How would you respond to being so grievously betrayed? Would you overlook the offense? Would you abandon your friend entirely? How do you think God should react?

The New Testament tells us how God responded to our betrayal: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4,), the “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34, emphasis added), and made him “who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) so we might have a right relationship with him once again. Do you hear that? In response to our sin and our ruptured relationship, the Son comes and befriends those who betrayed him.

What’s most shocking about Jesus’s friendship is that he calls us friends. Though we have betrayed him, he “chose” us (John 15:16). By his grace, he has come near to us and, knowing our disloyalty and all our fears, sins, struggles, and anxieties, he has said to us, “my friend.” 

Jesus, the Greatest Friend

 

Knowing ourselves, we may wonder, “Is Jesus truly—I mean, really—my friend? Will he stick by me, even if I betray him again?”

 

We can know Jesus is our friend with certainty because of what he says to us in the Gospel of John: “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, CSB). Jesus is the greatest friend because he laid down his life for us (John 19).

We know from Proverbs that “a friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). Since Jesus is our friend, we can be certain that he loves us entirely, perfectly, forever—at all times. And we know that, despite what we have done or have yet to do, he “is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). 

So, we ask: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35), this friend of sinners, this great friend of mine? No one. Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus. 

Go and Do Likewise

 

Knowing that Jesus is a devoted friend should encourage us. It should also inform the way we view and exercise friendship ourselves. Each of us needs good friends in our lives; but if we’re not careful, we might begin to think like the lawyer in Luke 10:25–37 who tested Jesus: “And who is my [friend],” we might ask (emphasis added). 

While that question is not an inappropriate one, what if Jesus first wants us who have experienced his friendship to be the same kind of friend to others? What if, upending our sensibilities as he did with the parable of the good Samaritan, he is calling us to go to our neighbors who are isolated and lonely, and befriend them? Who among us will prove to be a friend to the friendless?

 

Jesus has come and called us friends. Today, he tells us: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Every church operates differently, but we all share one similar charge—to share the love of Christ with people far from God. Since Jesus left the disciples, we have carried the gospel across the globe. But, when we think of how to connect with unchurched people in our community, we can be left scratching our heads.

Was it always this hard? Do we need to make our churches more relevant, more trendy, more comfortable? We feel like we’re doing all the right things but we aren’t seeing results—what are we missing?

It can be disheartening to go through seasons where we aren’t seeing people come to Christ. We can feel stuck or behind. It can be tempting to think that we have to try something drastic to introduce more people to Jesus. But when we think about reaching the unchurched—people who have no experience with or interest in either the church or Christ—we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We simply need to do what Christians have always done with a strategy that best fits our context. 

Context

In Bible study, we all know context is king. If you don’t know the context of a passage, you will probably miss the point. The same holds true for your church. God has place you (a unique pastor) in your church (a unique people) in a unique place. Your position is purposeful and should define everything from the sermons you preach to the sort of programs your church offers. 

To connect with the unchurched, start by thinking through your unique context—the things that make your mission field and position unique. These questions can get you started:

1. What is the personality of your city? Neighborhood? Church?
2. What is your church’s demographic? Are you wanting to reach out to a similar demographic? Why, or why not?
3. Where do non-Christians hang out in your city? Is it different from where Christians live, work, or play? What are some common spaces where people of diverse backgrounds and ideologies overlap?
4. How do people think about Christians in your city? Are people in your city likely to go to a church on Sunday? What do they think about Jesus?

 

No matter how you answer these questions, starting with God’s unique design for your church will give you an idea of his direction for your church. For example, if non-Christians in your community are unlikely to go to church on Sunday, think about how you can empower your people to befriend their neighbors or to make your small groups open to visitors. Or, if your church is downtown but speaks the language of the suburbs, consider how you might adapt to relate to the people next door. 

Face Outward

As you figure out your context, your creativity will spark. You will think of new events, sermon series, or ministries that could help you connect with the unchurched. But, as our culture changes, our posture also needs to adjust. For decades, the church has operated on a “come and see” model. People were willing to go to church or check out weekly ministries because the church was broadly seen as trustworthy and needed. Today, that is not always the case. 

Unlike in year’s past, people today are more likely to think organized religion isn’t important. According to a 2019 Gallup study, only 36% of Americans have a high level of confidence in the church or organized religion, an all-time low. At the same time, 29% of Americans have little or no confidence in the church, an all-time high. In other words, we should assume that the people around us are skeptical of the church, even if they claim Christ. 

So what do we do? A Sunday service may attract a handful of curious unchurched people. But a mobilized congregation of purposeful, Christlike friends can reach dozens of neighborhoods, workplaces, coffee shops, and grocery stores every day. Our congregations can reach more unchurched people in a day than we could with dozens of well-crafted sermons. 

 

The attractional model has passed its prime. It is useful in some areas, but less so every year. To connect with the unchurched, our model for ministry needs to turn outward, shifting from a “come and see” to a “go and tell” mentality. For some of us, we may just need a change in our language, speaking to the specific concerns and questions of our culture. For others, we may need to fundamentally alter the way we do ministry. 

Trusting God

There are many reasons why the unchurched may not be attracted to a church service or event, but there is nothing stopping us from going to them. Everywhere you go, someone needs Jesus: your neighbors, coworkers, bank tellers, and mail carriers. God has placed you in their path; trust him and what he can do in their lives.

 

Connecting with the unchurched is not about marketing strategies, trendier social media accounts, or more relevant sermon illustrations. None of those things redeem sinners. Only God can change a person’s heart. Our responsibility is to faithfully make disciples wherever and whenever God gives us the chance. 

To summarize the Great Commission: go, baptize, teach.   

Connecting with Unchurched People

Let’s be honest—being in control can feel really good.  Whether it’s perfectly planning a family vacation or having free creative reign over a project at work, being in control gives us a sense of power that can feel downright exhilarating. When we’re in control of a situation, there’s a level of predictability that puts us at ease and, for a moment, makes us feel like we can predict our future. But control also feeds our belief that we’ve got the skill, foresight, and wisdom to prevent any uncomfortable elements of surprise from entering our lives. And that is a lie. 

 

If we take a step back and look at our desire for control, we’ll see a unhealthy and unrealistic strategy to mask our anxiety—anxiety that we should bring to the feet of Jesus. We might think that being in control is offering us security and safety, but control can strip us from experiencing a beautiful life of faith. It can make us hold onto our idols with a tight-fisted grip and rob us of the ability to mature in Christ.

This isn’t to say that we have no control in this life. After all, God has given us free will and agency to steward our lives, decisions, and the responsibilities he’s given us. Sitting around hoping that God does everything is unrealistic—we still have to make decisions, act in obedience, and use wisdom to walk through this life. But our goal should be to live with God, not by our own power and in our own way. So, how do we use the control God has given us while relying on his sovereignty?

Rest

God wants us to rest—and not just by getting enough sleep or relaxing on the beach. When we feel like we have to be in control, we cannot rest. If my present and future depends on me, an afternoon off could be disastrous! What if an email goes unseen? What if my child misses out on an opportunity because of my inaction? Rest is not an option if we have to be gods of our own destinies.

A desire for control creates an inability to rest in the provision of God. He is in control, even when it may not feel like it, and he asks us to trust him with our futures, expectations, and hopes. When we are afraid or worried about tomorrow, we can cast our cares on him because he knows exactly how to handle our needs and our hearts. And, when we trust him, we can live free from worry because we know our good Father is at work, even when we sleep. 

If we want to find rest, we have to begin with acknowledging God—not just turning to him when all else fails. However, releasing control is anything but easy. Learning to rest comes with time and allowing the Holy Spirit to help us. 

Surrender

To relinquish control, you will have to surrender your whole life to God. If you’re anything like me, then when you think of “surrender,” you think of someone throwing their hands up during a fight—giving up, vulnerable, with nothing left to give because they’ve run out of options. They’re at the will of their opponent. But when we surrender to God, we’re releasing our problems into more capable hands. In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take up my yoke and learn from me,because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (CSB).

 

It is exhausting to walk through life trying to control everything around us. We are eager to take on burdens that we weren’t meant to carry. Surrendering control is not about giving up, but about God working through our confusion.

Trust

Trusting God can be hard when we find ourselves in situations that we weren’t prepared for, nor have the energy to fix right away. Unforeseen circumstances—bills for unexpected expenses, getting fired, or receiving really bad news from the doctor—can leave us in a pit of anxiety. But even when we can’t see the outcome of our circumstances, God can. 

 

Part of learning to trust in God is remembering that not only is he in control, but he’s trustworthy. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that we should trust in God and not lean on our own understanding. When we rely on our own futile understanding of life’s circumstances, we’re making decisions based on limited knowledge. When we relinquish control and trust God, we are doing exactly what he has called us to—walking by faith and letting him be God.

 

We’re not going to know everything ahead of time. We can’t. As believers, we stop looking into crystal balls that promise to tell us the future and trust the God who is with us. We cannot know what will happen in five minutes, but that ignorance forces us to trust God moment by moment and through all the surprises in life.

Now what?

At the end of the day, we can only control so much—our character, our behavior, and how we choose to respond to our circumstances. Relinquishing control—especially when we’re used to holding tightly to our plans and decisions—can be really difficult. But with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can begin to make choices that lead us into a deeper trust in God, the one who has good plans and hope for our lives. 

 

Consider your life and relationship with control—ask God to help you let go of everything that you’ve been holding onto so that he can lead you to his glorious future.

 

If you would like to learn more about how to release control and trust God, check out our series with Sharon Hodde Miller, The Cost of Control.

How to Let Go of Control

I can remember attending summer camps as a young middle schooler, anticipating personal spiritual renewal and the opportunity to “get right” with God. Many of my friends and I experienced God in a way we never had before. We were teary-eyed students repenting of past sins and rededicating our lives to God after an emotional weekend devoted to powerful worship, preaching, and close-knit small groups. 

 

Although these revival events, nights, or weekends made a huge impact on us students at the time, they rarely left a lasting impact. The reality of normal life set in quickly as we fell back into the pattern of old sins, spending inconsistent time in God’s Word and with his people. 

 

Summer camps are often viewed as an end instead of a means to spiritual growth. But a single spiritual experience cannot sustain students through the entirety of the school year. Even so, these events are intended to be a spiritual catalyst in the life of students as they mature over time. 

 

So how do we fight for sanctification in our students instead of hoping a “spiritual high” sticks? Here are a few practical steps to encourage you as you lead students toward mature and lasting spiritual growth.  

Build Strong Biblical Community

 

The adage, “You are who you surround yourself with,” is cliché for a reason. Galatians 6:2 reminds us that when we carry each other’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ. A strong foundation of godly peers is a must, especially in the impressionable lives of students facing all kinds of social pressures. Therefore, we have to create structures that encourage and support biblical communities for our students.  

 

Regularly participating in a biblically based community gives way to authenticity and accountability. What systems can you put in place to make it easy for your students to meet on a regular basis to pursue God together? What curriculum could you encourage your students to go through together? 

 

Create a plan for how your students can spend intentional time together outside of weekly worship services. When old temptation or sin patterns return in the lives of our students, the best tool we can give them is accountability with like-minded peers. James 5:16 teaches that when we confess our sins and pray with one another, we find healing and freedom. Evaluate how you are fostering an environment for healthy community. Don’t hope they will hang out on their own—create the space for them. 

 

For more on biblical community, check out Better Than One with Dhati Lewis. 

Practice Healthy Habits

 

When we focus solely on fixing our students, their spiritual growth can feel like an unattainable goal. But we have to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight—it takes years. Our focus should be on the small steps students can take toward growing in their knowledge of and heart for God. Encouraging students to practice healthy spiritual habits each day helps focus their attention on God for a lifetime. Here are three habits you can begin to build into your students:


1) Margin


In our oversaturated culture, filled with social media and overbooked schedules, we must encourage our students to build margin in their everyday lives. A busier life is not a more spiritual life. In fact, Jesus taught the opposite in Matthew 11:28–­30—his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Margin for students can look like encouraging them to carve out a day to rest each week. When we look at the way of Jesus, we see that he allowed interruption in his life. He was never too busy to be available. Encourage them to use their free time to read God’s Word and spend intentional, but unscheduled, time with him. 

 

For more on margin and rest, check out The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry with John Mark Comer.

2) Prayer

Although we can often view prayer through a legalistic lens, prayer as seen through Scripture was a way of life—Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing. Prayer is powerful and we have unlimited and unrestricted access to our loving Father. Many students are intimidated by prayer but when they are reminded of God’s heart for their prayers both big and small, they will be encouraged to think about God throughout their day and regularly turn their hearts toward him. 

For more on prayer, check out Just Ask with J.D. Greear.


3) Worship

Participating in regular worship both individually and corporately is imperative to the nourishment of our students’ souls. As the gathered church, we can encourage each other and collectively celebrate the goodness of God. We have the honor of encouraging our students to make worship a regular practice. We must also teach students how they can worship through their everyday actions. Don’t let them think worship is just something for Sunday morning or youth group. Students worship God through their extracurricular activities, their interactions with their family and friends, their schoolwork, and every small area of life. No matter what individual worship looks like for each student, we can encourage them to make God the ultimate object of their worship. 

 

For more on what it looks like to be faithful and worship God in every circumstance, watch Fire and Faithfulness with Sadie Robertson Huff. 

While the experience is fleeting, we cannot dismiss or diminish the spiritual growth that takes place at summer camp. But there is work to be done once students return to the realities and difficulties of life at home. Encourage your students to turn the summer camp spark into a flame. By following these practical ways to follow God and remain in fellowship with others, students will be encouraged to take what they learned at camp and continue God’s good work in their lives. 

 

Encourage your students to live out their faith during the school year by taking them through Truth and Love with Marquise Cox.


Fighting the “Summer Camp High”

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul gives readers the most in-depth, comprehensive explanation of the gospel in all of Scripture, showing us what it looks like to live according to the good news. And this good news is better than we could have imagined. 


We sent a film crew with pastor J.D. Greear to Rome, Italy to film The Book of Romans: Part 1 and Part 2, a series examining one of the most important books ever written on the Christian faith. In this series, J.D. helps us see just how good the gospel really is. It exceeds all our expectations.


While filming, our team asked J.D. a few questions about preparing for this series and his hopes for small groups.

RightNow Media: What is the one thing you learned while preparing for this series?

J.D.: One distinctive thing I think I re-learned as I was prepping for this series is just the distinctive message of grace that the gospel offers. The power of grace to transform our lives. Especially being on location here in Rome where you’re associated with so many different symbols of religion, and all the works-righteousness that goes into religion, and people doing things to try to earn God’s favor. Paul’s message in Romans is [righteousness] is a gift. Righteousness is not a standard that we obtain to; it’s a gift that God gives us. And then in response to that, out of love, we serve God, and we serve others. The power of the gospel, it was renewed in me, rekindled in me, not only as I studied and prepared for this but as I actually taught through it as well. 

RightNow Media: What is the one thing you want viewers to walk away with after watching this series?

J.D.: One of the things I think I’m hoping—I’ve been hoping and praying for out of this study—is that this study of the book of Romans, which is one of the deepest and richest looks at the gospel anywhere in Scripture, would have this effect of not only getting us excited about the gospel and transforming our relationships but just burning in our hearts until we have to tell others. The gospel is kind of like a spiritual tornado, it never pulls you in without also wanting to thrust you back out. And so, I think just pressing into the beauties of God’s grace, it just does something to you that changes you so that you not only treat people differently and think about yourself differently, you just find yourself having to talk to other people about the things that you’re learning. 

RightNow Media: Tell us about the most memorable moment of filming this series.

J.D.: So, the most memorable moment, spiritually, is probably going to be down in Paul’s prison. When we’re pretty sure it is the actual cell he stood in before he was executed, and just to think about that—that was amazing. I loved filming from there. You know, always my favorite memories with this are slow walking with Will (Senior Producer at RightNow Media). Just to follow me around with a camera, and just to kind of zoom in on my feet and to make me really self-conscious about my posture, "Am I walking crooked?" So, that definitely is what I’ll take away. Will’s got a special place in my heart.

J.D Greear is speaking at the 2022 RightNow Conference. For more information and tickets, click here.

Behind the Scenes: The Book of Romans with J.D. Greear

In Matthew 5, Jesus begins his most famous sermon with a list of characteristics, commonly known as the Beatitudes, that offer us a glimpse at what it looks like to live “the blessed life.” But they’re not exactly what we might expect. 

We sent a film crew with author and pastor Matt Chandler to Big Bend National Park to film The Beatitudes, an eight-session series examining Matthew 5:1–12. In this series, Matt teaches us what a blessed life really looks like. It may not look the way we imagine, but it’s better than we could ever hope.

While filming, our team asked Matt a few questions about his preparation for and teaching of this impactful series. 


RightNow Media: What is one thing you learned while preparing for this series?

Matt: Going into the series, I was familiar with the Beatitudes. I mean, I’ve been a Christian for thirty years. I don’t know that I’ve ever explicitly taught through them but certainly understood them to be Jesus unpacking what the kingdom of God would look like. So, the thing that was in plain sight that really ministered to me as I prepared was that the Beatitudes aren’t a list of things that I need to work on, but rather the kind of person that Jesus is turning me into. And I think that was the big thing that stood out, that Jesus doesn’t show up looking for this kind of person, like “let me find the man of peace” or “let me find the meek.” But, rather, he’s saying, “my people that I’m going to work in, that the Holy Spirit’s going to—this is the kind of person they’re going to become.” So, it’s not eight different people, right, but eight characteristics of the same person. So, it honestly gave me a lot of confidence that God is working these things in me and that I will continue as long as I’m here.

RightNow Media: What is one thing you want viewers to walk away with after watching this series?

Matt: If I think about people in living rooms or in church rooms and buildings, and watching this, the thing that I most want them to walk away with is a confidence that God is at work in their lives. I don’t want them to listen to a single one of these episodes and feel crushed by it or feel that it’s impossible. That by episode after episode after episode that they would grow in their deep and earnest belief that God is at work in the mess of their lives. That God’s patience is there, that his shaping power is there, and that he has not forgotten them, but is actively turning them into this kind of person. 

RightNow Media: Tell us about the most memorable moment of filming this series.

Matt: So, the thing that always stands out when I get to shoot these things is it’s always done in just stunningly beautiful places. So, there is the team, of course, that you laugh with, and you have a good time with. But you’re getting to . . . I said to somebody, I think it was early this morning, “Can you believe we get to do this?” We’re up early, everything’s new, the sun’s coming up, everything’s beautiful, and then we get to talk about the creator God of the universe. We get to point toward the gospel. We get to marvel at his goodness and grace. I think that’s the thing, and really, through all my shoots with RightNow, that’s been the thing that always has stood out as I head home or as we wrap up, that in these really beautiful places, these really privileged spaces, that we get to just talk about and point towards the king of the universe. 

The Beatitudes with Matt Chandler releases on RightNow Media July 26, 2022. Click here to watch.

Behind the Scenes: The Beatitudes with Matt Chandler

The Bible begins with God. In the book of Genesis, we see his power, creativity, and splendor in what he made. But we also see his mercy, love, and redemption through the flawed people he has made. While Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible, it also helps us see God’s glory in his creation and teaches us that he can make something out of imperfect people like you and me. 

 

Last year, our team traveled with Dr. Charlie Dates to the redwood forests of Northern California to film a series on the book of Genesis. After speaking at the 2021 RightNow Conference, Dr. Dates spoke with us about his experience on that shoot and his hopes for this series. 

RightNow Media: What is one thing you learned while preparing for this series?

Charlie: Preparing for Genesis is very different than preparing to teach other books. Genesis is a genre of history that doesn’t really fit the Psalter, Judges, or the prophets. It doesn’t have to be decoded like apocalyptic literature. I learned about the genre sensitivity of the study—that is, wrapping our minds around what the point of Genesis is—is really the best way to see God’s activity so we can teach and preach it. 

Genesis could tell us about dinosaurs, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and all that kind of stuff but it doesn’t. It has a view toward chapter 50, getting the scene set for a savior who is going to come. That’s something I came to appreciate while working through the book of Genesis. 

 

It’s different. The Bible gives us varying shades of color in different sections. It’s not monochromatic. When we study the genre, we get to see God’s Word in the fullness of his color—it comes alive. Is there anything better than 4k resolution? If there is, I don’t know. God beats that high-def stuff. Genesis helped show me that. 

RightNow Media: What is one thing you want viewers to walk away with after watching this series?

Charlie: I want viewers to be like, “Man, the Lord is amazing, and Charlie Dates works for Jesus.” 

 

[laughs] Okay, seriously, I want viewers to walk away with a bigger picture of God. If God really did create time, space, and matter and if he did choose one family, and through that family wove this wonderful narrative, then surely he can work through the matters of my life. Surely God can bring something out of nothing where I live. I hope when you see Genesis, you feel the power and presence of God.

RightNow Media: What was it like filming this series with out team?

When you film with RightNow Media you need to do, like, four weeks of yoga. We were in the middle of nowhere—in the Redwoods with trees that looked like they were out of a Narnia book—and I climbed on a [fallen] tree and was walking on it, balancing. I was thinking, “If I don’t get home safely, my wife’s not going to be happy about this.” [laughs] 

 

They go to great lengths to capture the most epic and beautiful scenery to match the picture of the text, so they can deliver what I think is the highest quality video content. 

 

Now, here’s what else I learned: I’m jealous. I didn’t think I was jealous, that I was envious. But the fact that they don’t live in Chicago and don’t work for us at our church . . . I had to repent of some of that. Other than that, it was great. It was fantastic. 

Charlie Dates is speaking at the 2022 RightNow Conference. For more information and tickets, click here.

Behind the Scenes: Genesis with Charlie Dates

Many times, we approach the Bible to get new information about God. There is nothing wrong with that, but God tells us about himself so that we can know him, not just so we can stockpile trivia about him. 

 

Author and speaker Francis Chan accompanied our team to the Utah wilderness to film Jesus’s Farewell Message, a deep dive into Jesus’s last sermon before his crucifixion. In this series, Francis examines what it means to know and trust God deeply. God has far more for us than many of us dare imagine. 

 

While filming, our team asked Francis about his experience filming this new series. 

RightNow Media: What is one thing you learned while preparing for this series?

Francis: I learned so many things while preparing for this series. One is just the shallowness of my thoughts. I focus on this low level instead of all I have in Jesus. Like, I know him, and I have for years, but the depth of what it means to know him . . . it’s so hard to explain because it’s not new information but a depth in my knowledge of God. 

RightNow Media: What is one thing you want viewers to walk away with after viewing this series?

Francis: I sure hope that [for] everyone who watches this that it doesn’t end here. Where [they say], “I need to experience this oneness with God!” That it actually takes them somewhere. It’s got to be more than [learning] information. 

RightNow Media: Tell us about the most memorable moment of filming this series.

Francis: It’s pretty fascinating just looking at a place I’ve never been—all the ridiculous rock formations and different terrain. But the quietness has been my favorite. I just realized how seldomly I hear quiet in my life. With where I go and the things I do, it was just nice to be in a place where you heard nothing.  

Jesus's Farewell Message with Francis Chan releases on RightNow Media on June 14, 2022. Click here to watch the trailer and add the series to "My Saved" for a notification when it releases!

Behind the Scenes: Jesus's Farewell Message with Francis Chan

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 in 5 adults are currently experiencing a mental illness—complicated issues involving mental, physical, chemical, emotional, and spiritual components. It’s safe to assume there are people in your family, at your workplace, and in your church who are currently struggling with mental health. Unfortunately, many stigmas exist around mental health in the church and in the world. 

 

But here’s the good news: God cares about your mental health. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re going to break down misconceptions about mental illness and highlight the freedom that comes through knowing Jesus. 

 

Misconception: Mental illness only applies to some people. 

Truth: Mental health is for everyone. 

Not everyone has a diagnosed mental illness, but everyone has mental health they need to protect. While about 20% of adults experience life with diagnosed mental illnesses, everyone goes through situations and setbacks that influence their mental wellbeing. A stressful work environment, the death of a loved one, a change in your relationships, or a traumatic experience are just a few examples of common mental health triggers. 

 

Even if you’re in the 80% of people living without a diagnosed mental illness, you can still be part of the conversation. While not everyone talks about it, mental health is a relevant issue for all people.

Misconception: Mental illness is a new issue. 

Truth: Mental health struggles are as old as the Bible. 

Because of the recent increase in mass media conversations about mental health, it may seem like mental illness is a new issue. But the modern conversation is only catching up to what’s always been true: mental illness is a real struggle for many people. 

 

Take King David, for example—most of his psalms are emotional cries to God in deep pain or true joy. If you’ve ever felt depressed, you’re not alone. Listen to what David writes in Psalm 6:

 

“I am weary from my groaning;
with my tears I dampen my bed
and drench my couch every night.
My eyes are swollen from grief;
they grow old because of all my enemies.”

 

In addition to David, Elijah and Job also faced mental health struggles. Elijah’s mental health suffered during his conflict with Jezebel to the point of Elijah wanting to die (1 Kings 19:3–4). Job felt depressed and fearful in response to his pain and loss (Job 3:24–26). If you’ve ever been emotional because of a broken relationship or situation in your life, you’re in good company. The Bible is a story of imperfect, mentally unhealthy people pursuing a perfect God who can restore hope in even the darkest moments. 

Misconception: Jesus can’t relate to mental health struggles. 

Truth: Jesus can relate to all people. 

The Bible explains Jesus as being without sin, but not without temptation, trials, or emotions. Jesus was fully God and fully human. He can relate to you. 

 

Hebrews 4:15–16 puts it this way: 

 

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” 

 

The Bible shares countless stories of Jesus experiencing a vast spectrum of emotions. In his time on earth, Jesus was “tempted in every way as we are” so that he would be able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.” There is no feeling, situation, or mental illness that disqualifies you from Jesus’s understanding presence. 

If you are currently struggling with mental illness, you are not alone. You are loved, seen, and cared for by God. Please reach out to a trusted doctor or spiritual leader for insight and advice. There is hope and healing for you.

 

If you are not struggling with mental illness, there’s probably someone in your life who is. Your kindness and compassion toward those who are struggling helps more than you realize. Your grace and empathy could be the answer to someone else’s prayer.  

 

Wherever you’re at on your mental health journey, God is right there beside you. The fight for mental health is difficult, but you are never fighting alone. 

 

For more encouragement and a biblical perspective on mental health, check out RightNow Media’s Mental Health & Recovery Library

The Truth about Your Mental Health

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