Hello brother, sisters, and friend,
The countdown is on - "T minus roughly 41 hours, and counting" ~ well, that is, for our little timezone ~ We don't own a TV anymore (and grateful not to ~ ), but quite a few years ago, one year we, for some reason had the TV on throughout the day, it was somewhat fascinating to see the people of every country and timezone around the world celebrate the new year (except Israel, because their religious calendar, given to them by God, starts on a different month). The parties and parades all around the world were I think, the biggest thing that caught my attention: some had elaborate celebrations with idols and sin, some were just simple - most of those celebrations included free-for-all, crazy, wild, lavish parties, and included drinking all sorts of wine, beery, and alcohol to: "drown out the sorrows" - and the conscience.
But, there is something about the new year that I would like to highlight, because I believe it's importance is foundational (or ought to be) in our lives and everyday events. It's common, even among the world, that the new year has the potential for bringing good times and a good income (which some of that comes from self-centered desires and emotions), but that is not what I think is the most essential part for us.
In my mind, in my thinking and studies, the most important part is having the chance to start over for a new year - a whole 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days - not used, not messed up, no choices yet made that we regret, an opportunity to repair and fix old problems we have created, new opportunities to get caught up on important things, and to set goals for the new year. That is what I'd specifically like to look at, this time - new goals for a new year.
Now, when we look around, I'm sure many of us recognize that those who do not claim to follow Christ set all kinds of goals, some of which are completely unimportant in light of eternity. I'm sure you and I both have heard the range of New Years Resolutions:
"This year, I will..." and you can fill in the blank - anything from: getting a girlfriend/boyfriend, to get that raise, to getting a bigger and better house, car, life, to spending more time in the gym, to going to some unique place somewhere around the globe to retiring somewhere to get away from life and the essential pressures that keep us close to God.
I'm sure we've all done those types of things and some on that list above. It is, of course, very important to keep the eternal things as the primary goal when settings goals - any day of the year, and understanding God's Word and His definitions is essential for that - and, that is another topic I plan to cover more in a minute.
First, there is another aspect I would like to look at briefly - the resolutions. I don't know any of the wording stood out in your mind, but it certainly did and does in God's mind - constantly. Now, I'm sure you are probably wondering what little phrase was so important that it be so important to God, right? It's just a short phrase, composed of 2 words and 4 letters, in the English language. What is it? The phrase: "I will".
Let's quickly review a couple of verses and work (briefly) to understand why God cares so much about that phrase.
"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
~ Matthew 12:36
"These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren."
~ Proverbs 6:16-19
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit."
~ Isaiah 14:12-15
*** I hope you noted that 5 'I wills' of Satan - a boasting that showed his rebellious and murderous plans and got him kicked out of Heaven almost completely - forever. And, one day, he and the angels who rebelled with him will be thrown out - forever, eventually into the Lake of Fire: "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." ~ Revelation 20:10
Learning how to fix/replace the "I wills"
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'"
~ James 4:13-15
I know, I know - if you're like me (and I suspect you are ), you're already probably thinking - 'Wow, boy have I got to change that.. but that's not going to be easy.' You're right - it is going to require us to listen to ourselves more and work on Biblical habits to replace old ways of thinking. And, I think we all need to remember that just because it is harder to do and will require diligence on our part, doesn't mean that we should just ignore it and it will be okay. No, we shouldn't do that. This is something that many of us do everyday and we need to work to change it, because many of the times that we boast (intentionally or not) totally changes something - our schedule or life. In case I've confused you, please allow me to clarify - when we say: "I will do such and such" or "I will not do such and such", both God and Satan hear it and Satan gets busy trying to accuse us and God very often will totally change our schedule - in part, because of His grace to prevent us from bringing on ourselves extra trouble, and to teach us not to boast, but to instead rely on Him and recognize Him in all our ways, actions, and words. You and I cannot create anything or even change the color of even one hair, or even our height one inch taller or shorter just because we want to. Now, some chemicals can change something, but you and I can't change anything. The only one who can accomplish anything for sure and never be wrong is our Creator, who also loves us and wants us to talk to and with Him regularly.
Also, most people don't realize it, but when we say "I will" something, we are most often trying to demand our will in our way, and probably have gotten so used to it that we don't think about it anymore, but it's the fighting (and trying to demand) our will in our way that provokes God to graciously intervene and teach us not to do that. Remember, God, in His grace, must oppose pride, because pride is the foundation of our rebellion and the cause that leads to us self-destructing, even hardening our own hearts to His truth and bringing on ourselves the justice of being separated forever from God. So, it's pretty serious, and we do need to give it some thought - intentionally.
So, instead of saying "I will..." and finishing the sentence with what we want to accomplish, we ought to say: "If God wills,..." or "If God allows me to, I plan to..." or some similar phrase.
Please note: this little change may sound minor for you and me, but it literally is life-changing, because intentionally removing that phrase from our thinking and way of life intentionally puts God more into everything in our life - the change is literally life-changing. I hope you will give it a good quantity of quality thoughts ~
Okay, so, back to the plans and goals part again - this year, instead of something temporary, let's also try to work to set important, eternally-focused goals. Here are some that I have in mind (for me) ~ you'll notice, they are sort of like short prayers:
"God please teach me more self-control in the little details."
"God please open my eyes to see more of Your Truth, so that I can obey and serve You better, and be able to explain more things to others, so they, in turn, can obey and serve You better, and pass that on to others."
"God, please teach me how to spend more quality time in Your Word."
"God, please teach me how to love my family more, and even more - how to show it."
"God, please keep teaching me how to handle unfair distant relatives who try so hard to oppose us and discourage us from following and serving You. Showing them love is pretty hard sometimes - give me strength, teach me how. Help me to keep reaching out to them with Your love and Your Truth - calling them to repent of their rebellion against you."
"God, please open up more opportunities for me to help others, and while there share the light of Your precious Word and Truth with them. And please teach me how to better take advantage of every opportunity, with every person."
And there are more, but that gives you some ideas.
Other ideas, for others:
"Father, please keep teaching me how to understand my wife/husband, and how to serve them better. Keep teaching us to become one flesh - with the same mind, working to understand Your Word better together, and learning how to pray more together, and learning how to serve You together, as a team."
"Father, please teach/keep teaching me how to witness to/disciple my kids"
"Father, please keep showing me how to handle 'such and such' with love and in a way that draws them closer to You."
"Father, please keep teaching me how to pray for this country, and how to stay prayerfully vigilant."
"Father, please keep teaching me how to get more idols, fantasy, and false teaching our of my home, my wants, and my life."
And more there too, of course - that's just a start.
So, this year, let's change up how we do our New Year's Resolutions - fixing how we do them and why we do them - all, so that we might please Christ more and make ourselves more usable for His work, and more like Him, so that we might enjoy the more of the warmth and fellowship of His glorious and wonderful presence, so that we might also learn more about Him - and serve and follow Him more and more effectively.
So, this year, let's look to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus' cross, and proclaiming and explaining it to all who will hear us!
For my brothers and sisters, I'm praying this: "Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." (Galatians 6:18)
Till next time,
you growing brother/friend, and
a servant/life-slave of Jesus, SH