What are some ways we can chart our progress on our road to eternal life?
Chart Your Way on the Road to Eternal Life
One of the ways to help children learn how to follow the rules is to give them a chart. An example of such a chart would include a column with what a child should do and another column for stickers or checks to indicate if they have accomplished their goal. This strategy comes in handy for teachers at school, such as myself, in order to express expectations visually for students. Charts can also be used at home by parents to reinforce positive behavior for their child in order to help them improve in particular areas, be it academic, social or behavioral.
Connection to Adults and Evaluating our Christian Way of Life
Sometimes it is not just our children who need help keeping track of how they are doing. We all are working on certain areas of our life—diet, exercise, prayer, Bible study. We should be keeping track of our accomplishments and also what areas we can develop ourselves in order to continue in our goal of building godly character and growing in the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
What Do We Measure Against?
Charts, such as the ones used in elementary classrooms, should be organized to evaluate behavior during time blocks, such as class periods in school, or to assess specific behaviors during the day. At home, younger children may have two to three tasks per evening to focus on such as behavior at dinnertime, sharing toys while playing with siblings and helping clean up. If they receive all three stickers for that evening, they can either receive a reward immediately, such as an extra book read to them at bedtime, or if it is more behaviorally appropriate, have them work towards a reward for the end of the week. Whatever is decided, make expectations attainable. Over time, a child will exhibit more desired behaviors and understand how to fulfill expectations.
Christians are evaluated during their time on this earth and in their behavior each day. God has given us a chart to measure ourselves against—the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21). We are to keep the Ten Commandments in their physical and spiritual intent. Remember, if a man even looked on a woman with wrong intent, it was considered a sin (Matthew 5:28). As we keep our mind from thinking evil things as well as stopping our hand from doing them, we are supposed to be thinking on whatever is pure and noble while using our bodies as vessels for good works (Philippians 4:8, 2 Timothy 2:21).
If we want to chart our progress on our road to eternal life, we should be as the saints in Revelation 14:12. It reads, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” The saints are those who check off their chart daily. Also, if we want to make sure we are on the path to eternal life, Jesus said, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).
Be Supportive, for We Have Support
As a child works towards reaching a goal, their actions should form desirable habits or properly self-regulated behavior. Along the way, it helps to reassure children with praise whenever they exhibit positive behavior. On the other hand, if they are getting discouraged, offer support and guidance to help them shift their focus towards achieving the desired outcome.
Likewise, God observes and supports us. He has given us the Holy Spirit, which gives us “a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). He wants us to learn to regulate our behaviors on our own. Each day we learn how God wants us to love Him and how to better show love for our fellow man. The Bible gives us words of encouragement, lists blessings for godly behavior and tells us to seek God’s praise (John 5:44). God wants us to make a habit of keeping His Commandments and will encourage us as we make godly habits along the way.
Visuals such as charts improve understanding and communication of expectations and overall learning. Charts for younger children can have pictures to show them what to accomplish during a given time, such as a picture of a child carrying a plate to the dishwasher. For older children, topics such as “dinner time” and “clean-up time” can be written as such. Charts should be posted on the fridge or in a common area where everyone, including the child, can see progress. Plus, it is rewarding for children to actually see the adult put the sticker on their chart or to do it themselves.
Spiritually, we go through times of growth from a child to an adult in which we move from “milk to meat” so to speak. God tells us to post the Commandments around our house and write them on the tablet of our heart. Visualize what it would look like when we walk in all of His ways. Visualize what it will be like in the Kingdom of God when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord and the law of the Kingdom will be God’s Commandments (Ezekiel 44:24, Zechariah 14:16). When we picture it, it helps motivate us and focus better on achieving our goals.
Chart Your Progress Now
God wants us to become the best that we can be by examining ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28). He doesn’t want us comparing our progress with others, except that of Christ. Christ is always who we should be comparing ourselves against and striving to resemble, He “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:21-22).
Have you set any spiritual goals lately? Are you working on not taking God’s name in vain? Becoming more courageous? Choosing your entertainment with more care? Growing in grace and knowledge? Set attainable goals that will encourage you on your pathway to the Kingdom. For example, when I wanted to watch my words more carefully, I started reading all the verses in the Bible I could find on “the tongue.” I also found books such as Taming Your Tongue in 30 Days by Deborah Smith and prayed to God about guiding my words each day in conversation. I charted my progress over 30 days and reflected in my journal about steps forward and struggles I encountered. You can chart your progress too! Set a goal, make a plan, and get started!
But What Do I Get?
Rewards motivate. A child’s reward should be something that motivates them and is discussed before beginning the chart system. Rewards that are privileges tend to be better than tangible items or things of monetary value. You’ll be surprised at what they ask for as an incentive.
Remind your child of their goal when things get tough. If the prize isn’t motivating them, perhaps they need to be evaluated in smaller chunks of time or behaviors and have more immediate positive feedback. They may need to have the task broken down into more specific behaviors. For example, when trying to build social skills, focus in on how to have a conversation and then break down behaviors. You may have them “ask someone a question” and “listen to their answer” and then evaluate from there.
As a Christian working towards building godly character and the reward of eternal life, choose goals that resonate with you and a more immediate reward to receive after your dedicated efforts. Possible rewards could be going to a park for your Bible study instead of just at home, going for a nice meal with a friend to share your experience of working towards your goal, getting yourself a pocket Bible with your name engraved on it, or buying a special Bible study pen to write in your Bible.
If you or your child is asking, “What’s in it for me?” the Bible tells of a reward for doing and teaching God’s Commandments: “Whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). Learn to keep these Commandments yourself and teach them to others and you will have your reward.
God’s Chart for Us
God set up a goal for us: to grow in grace and knowledge, or in other words, build godly character (2 Peter 3:18). He has written what He requires of us: do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him while learning to keep His Commandments in righteousness and truth (Micah 6:8). He has a reward for us: to be kings and priests and rule on earth (Revelation 5:10). If these are some of the objectives He has set for us, then they must be attainable—for God is the ultimate teacher wanting all to come into the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
If you need motivation on your way there, pray for what you need and what you want, for God is able to give exceedingly abundantly (Ephesians 3:20, James 1:5)! God is also the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
We are God’s workmanship and a work in progress (Ephesians 2:10). Be it getting on a daily Bible study plan or working towards more effective fervent prayer, you can make a positive change in your daily life and put the focus on God. Become as little children, chart your progress as you learn the proper way to live a godly life. Follow the course God has set out for you. Keep the Commandments, and God will guide you into the reward of eternal life!