A new year brings with it many opportunities. One that I especially like is the opportunity to exercise a new perspective. It is like a clean sheet of paper, or what I call a mental soft reset. This is the time to start anew, to be different and to be better.
I spent the end of the 2015 in much prayer and reflection about life. Turning the crazy age of 53 in 2016 may have had something to do with it as well. Through prayer, reflection and time in the Word of God, I was reminded of this truth. Pride, in all its forms, especially the sneaky ones, will keep us from being all God wants us to be. Not just because we are not focused on God, but because he actually opposes the proud! (Prov. 3:34, quoted in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5). But he also gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Pride is a focus on self – “being right and looking good.” Spiritual growth, however, comes from a growing awareness of God, his activity and his desires. Begin by being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5.18). With this truth in my mind, I went after my New Year’s resolutions differently. Instead of making them about me, I would seek to make them about God, his activity and his desires. Here is what I posted in the new public square of Facebook (Which means I’m now really accountable. Right?)
- Take Jesus more seriously.
- Take myself much less seriously.
- Follow Jesus obediently and courageously where he leads me.
My 2016 resolutions mean I must consider what God is doing both within me and outside of me. I must pursue growing attentive and sensitive to him.
Last year I found reading the Bible daily (or as was often the case, listening to it) and reflecting on what I read was very helpful. Additionally, my wife and I have gotten into the habit of praying before we leave the house each day. We just grab each other’s hands over the breakfast table, or through an open car window, and call upon God to guide us and watch over each of our kids.
Finally, a couple nights a week we have “family” devotions with our only remaining child in the house. He calls us the Trio. We’ve enjoyed, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, and The One Year Devotional, At His Feet, by Chris Tiegreen. All of this has helped me take Jesus more seriously.
The challenge, however, turned out to be taking myself much less seriously. Actually, I’m finding the two ideas to be inversely proportional. That is, when I’m taking myself much less seriously I can take Jesus more seriously. Of course one of the ways God addresses this is with the rhythm of rest, namely, Sabbath. Without a deliberate cessation of activity, and quieting of my soul, I’ll repeatedly think too highly of myself and too little of God. Lynne Baab said it well in another devotional that I’ve enjoyed, The Daily Office by Peter Scazzero,
“The Sabbath teaches us grace because it connects us experientially to the basic truth that nothing we do will earn God’s love. As long as we are working hard, using our gifts to serve others, experiencing joy in our work along with the toil, we are always in danger of believing that our actions trigger God’s love for us. Only in stopping, really stopping, do we teach our hearts and souls that we are loved apart from what we do.”
This year I’ll stop more. I’ll trust more. I’ll rest more.
Obedience, like rest and Sabbath, is about faith. Do we believe that where Jesus is there is life? If so, we’ll trust in the Spirit’s power to empower our obedience! As Peter said to Jesus, when asked if he would leave like others did (John 6:68), “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you’re the Holy One of God.”
Whatever you resolve in 2016, may God be at the center, his Spirit the source of your power and strength, his love your motivation, and his glory the outcome.