8/25/17

5 Ways to 'Fall Forward'

As a young woman, I faced the fall season with anxiety and excitement. Anxiety because the upcoming school year and holiday schedule seemed daunting. Excitement because—well,
Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Over the years, I created a formula to help me Fall Forward with strength and wisdom. I wanted to face each September with a positive outlook and plan, so I set aside one morning to prepare my heart, home, health, hospitality and hands for a more productive fall.

Here’s how you can prepare to Fall Forward too.

1. HEART: Fall Forward with Faith

Perhaps some readers saw the title of this article and thought about moving forward after a painful fall into sin. That’s actually part of this!

There’s nothing like moving forward
 after defeat with a clean slate.

I asked the Lord to show me where I’d fallen away from following Him, to reveal unrecognized ways I’d failed Him in love, obedience and service. Then I moved forward biblically with repentance, confession and renewed faith (1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:7).

Also, because the Lord is our first priority, our faith must center in Him. Abiding in Christ, we will not work under our own steam; and walking in the Spirit, we will not act on sinful desires (John 15:4-5; Ephesians 5:16).

Ask God to powerfully accomplish His will in and through you this season, so you can live to the praise of His glory (Hebrews 13:21; Ephesians 5:15-17).

2. HOME: Fall Forward with Family

After the Lord, family is our second priority—our husband and children. And even if we are single, this could perhaps include extended family members who need our love and encouragement: a lonely aunt, a weary young mom, a rebellious-but-searching cousin, a fragile grandmother.

In my evaluation time, I considered my closest relationships, especially the people I love at my base of operations, my home. I wanted to root out any interactions that did not please the Lord, and start into the busy fall with a fresh sense of unity and teamwork (Ephesians 4:2-3). I wanted to encourage and “spur” my family on toward spiritual growth (Hebrews 10:24).

That meant I needed to ask forgiveness for offenses. I asked some family members and relatives to point out “blind spots” in my behavior—attitudes that needed improvement and positive actions to cultivate. I even took the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge to rev up my marriage!

We can also extend our definition of “family.”

One year I decided to “adopt” some family for the holidays. I asked the Lord to point me toward people I could pray for and help in positive ways without embarrassing them. He showed me two singles in our church. I poured into their lives, and as the holiday season progressed, we gathered these new family members together for dinners and special events.

3. HEALTH: Fall Forward with Freedom 

There are many kinds of “health,” and we want freedom in each area.

For spiritual health, remember your freedom in Christ and embrace grace. Don’t beat yourself up, but rather cooperate with the Holy Spirit to conquer hindering and destructive sinful habits (Romans 8:1; Galatians 5:1).

For physical health, double-down on health efforts. There are so many temptations during the holiday season; and fall is already hectic, so keep it simple! 

Steward your body, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, wisely (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Create new paths to freedom with healthier food options, or take time to prayer walk, or simply stretch and work on greater flexibility.

For mental health, examine your thoughts. Ask God to show you lies you are believing, or thoughts you’re harboring that might lead to sin (2 Corinthians 10:5; Mark 7:20-22; Philippians 4:8). There is great freedom in the Lord, and the truth of scripture (John 8:36; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Psalm 119:45; Colossians 1:21-23).

For emotional and social health, check your relationships. Clear the air of tension by cleaning away any relational rubbish so you can have more relational freedom. Think of ways to practice more love and service as evidences of your freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:13-14).

For financial health, look at your checkbook and your bills. Spread it all before the Lord and ask Him how He wants you to use your money and live in true financial freedom (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

4. HOSPITALITY: Fall Forward with Friendship

One of my favorite fall strategies is opening my home to make new friends—to watch for new people at church and help them feel welcome and wanted. Read about “The Heart of Hospitality” here.

Open your home to encourage believers at a Bible study, coffee chat, women’s tea, or even a fellowship “dinner club,” inviting a couple or single you know for fellowship. Set aside time for positive, challenging interactions. Be alert to encourage those who are struggling (Proverbs 17:17).

And don’t neglect friendships with those who don’t yet know Christ. Reject the “Christian bubble.” Reach out humbly and relate to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 9:22). Share your life as well as your testimony.

5. HANDS: Fall Forward with Fruitfulness   

The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (9:10). Heading into fall, be proactive to use your time wisely and think of new ways to serve the Lord (Ephesians 5:16; Romans 12:11).

God gave each of us spiritual gifts and we have all developed unique skills over the years too, so we’ll want to be creative to encourage and help others (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We can bear lasting, righteous fruit for God’s glory (John 15:16; Galatians 5:16, 22; 6:9).

Also, as the holidays approach, consider using purposeful creativity to make meaningful gifts that might meet people’s needs or draw them to the Savior.

Which of these “fall forward” ideas can you put into practice today?
Father God, help us launch into the fall season with a fresh plan to honor you and bless others for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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