Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of John Ortberg's recent book, The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You, (Zondervan, 2010).

What matters most to God isn't what you do; it's who you are. So pursuing certain accomplishments in life isn't nearly as important as becoming the person God created you to be. Use your time and energy well. Focus on living up to your potential, growing into the person you really want to be - someone who's free to live with love and joy.

Here's how you can become the person you want to be:

Wake up.  Important parts of you may be languishing if you're not intentionally pursuing spiritual growth.  Don't let your best self lie dormant.  Notice the glimpses of your potential that you sometimes see when you do something inspiring, such as being patient with a rambunctious young child or sacrificially giving to help someone in need.  Realize that God wants to empower you to live at your full potential all the time.

Let go of the person that you don't want to be.  Stop chasing after the versions of yourself that will only interfere with you becoming the person God intends you to be.  Let go of pretense, guilt, pleasing people rather than God alone, etc.  

Go with the flow.  No matter how hard you may try, you can't become the person God wants you to be through your own efforts.  The only way to do so is to live with God's Spirit flowing through you like a river of living water that makes you and those you relate to flourish. 

Discover how you grow best.  Spiritual growth doesn't happen on a "one-size-fits-all" basis.  Disciples are handcrafted, not mass-produced.  People learn differently, struggle with different sins, and relate to God in different ways.  So take who you are into account when figuring out how you can best grow spiritually.  Keep in mind what activities you most enjoy, your temperament, what ways naturally help you experience God's presence (such as serving people or spending time in nature), your learning style (visual, auditory, tactile, imaginative, etc.), hat unique set of temptations and sins you wrestle with regularly, and what season of life you're in now.

Make the most important decision of all.  Decide to surrender every part of your life to God's will every day, committing to follow where He leads you with each decision you face.  Choosing to surrender your own agenda to God's will is the only way you can become the person you were created to be.

Try softer instead of harder.  Rather than trying harder to become a better person - which will be in vain, since you can't achieve spiritual growth through your own efforts - try a softer approach to life.  Relax and focus on God's grace that's always available to you.

Let your desires lead you to God.  Growing spiritually doesn't mean doing what you should do instead of what you want to do.  Instead, it means coming to want to do what you should do.  So allow what you naturally desire (from enjoying delicious food to a drive to achieve something meaningful through your work) to help you notice more about God's goodness and draw you closer to Him in gratitude for His gifts.

Change your mind.  If you improve the way you think, you'll improve your whole life, since your thoughts lead to your attitudes and actions and shape who you are as a person.  So evaluate your recurring thoughts, asking yourself what direction they're leading you in - closer to God, or farther away from Him.  Monitor your mind to catch unhealthy thoughts (selfishness, bitterness, anxiousness, etc.).  When you notice them, pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and guide you toward thoughts of what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  Be careful of what messages you feed your mind.  Give it a steady diet of life-giving Scripture and think critically about the messages that flow into it from sources like the media and other people in your life. 

Overcome worry.  You can't become the person God created you to be unless you break free of worry.  Realize that God won't often give you comfortable circumstances, but He will always be present with you as you go through them, helping you grow in the process.  Choose to trust God even when you feel afraid.  As you move forward in trust, God's perfect love will flow through you and cast out your fear.  Pray about your concerns instead of worrying about them, and ask other people to support you in prayer.

Deal with sin wisely.  Talk with God regularly about your problems and desires.  Be honest about when you're facing temptation, and ask God to help you overcome it.  Make time to rest, relax, and enjoy life so you won't be as vulnerable to temptation as you would be if you were dissatisfied.  Recognize which types of sins are more appealing to you than others, and become aware of your particular sin patterns.  Listen to the Holy Spirit when He convicts you of sin.  Regularly confess your sins and repent of them so you can keep growing. 

Deepen your relationship with God and others.  Spend time alone with God in prayer regularly.  It's during prayer, when God's Spirit touches your spirit, that you come closest to being fully yourself.  Make life-giving relationships with other people a high priority.  Take all the opportunities you have to give and receive love.  Be real with yourself, other people, and God.  Learn from your relationships with difficult people; let the challenges of relating to them help you grow. 

View your work as service.  Any kind of work you do is worthwhile, because your work is ultimately service to God.  When you give your best effort to your work to honor God, He will use your work experiences to help you grow into a better person. 

Deal with challenges well.  God isn't at work producing the circumstances you want; He's at work in bad circumstances producing the person He wants you to become.  Keep in mind that even your best circumstances are temporary, but the person you become will go on forever.  Trust God to bring something good out of even the most challenging situations you go through.  Use the greater sense of compassion that God will give you in the process to help make the world a better place.

Adapted from The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You, copyright 2010 by John Ortberg. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com
John Ortberg is a pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is the bestselling author of Faith & Doubt; When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box; God Is Closer Than You Think; The Life You've Always Wanted; Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them; If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat; Love Beyond Reason; and (with Kevin Harney) the multimedia curriculum Old Testament Challenge. He and his wife, Nancy, have three children.

Original publication date: February 22, 2010