And just like that, 2017 is over.
For some of us, it was a difficult year and for other it was a year of adjustment. Other, it was a season of waiting and trying to remain faithful where we are for the time that we are there. If your year was anything like mine, it was a year that seemed to slowly chip away at a great deal of things. Now, as we arrive in 2018, a great opportunity to renew and refresh stands before me. Sure, the start of a new year is, frankly, an arbitrary date on a calendar, but nonetheless, New Years remains an opportunity for self-reflection. As Christians, this can be a phenomenal opportunity to take an honest look at who we are and where we are going. With that said, I have a few encouragements for everyone this upcoming year and some personal goals that I am setting out to accomplish.
Goals For Spiritual Growth
This past year, I have spent a fair amount of time looking at the things going on in the world and how we choose to portray them. Our response in the news to the things of this world, in my opinion, has shown a complete lack of faith. When we behave as if the actions of one man will cause the end of our existence, we forget that Jesus Christ has already secured our victory and established our home in eternity. In our relationship with Christ, every opportunity is a chance to further our relationship and come to a greater understanding of who He is and what story He is telling.When we behave as if the actions of one man will cause the end of our existence, we forget that Jesus Christ has already secured our victory and established our home in eternity. Click To Tweet
- Great The Year With Expectation Every day is a gift from God and an opportunity to praise the Lord. “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19, NIV) The blessings of God are easier to see when we are looking for them. When we choose to not allow ourselves to concentrate on the negative, but see the world for the opportunities that God brings, our outlook changes. We see things differently and our life is renewed.
- Focus on Christ And His Unfolding Story “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV) The new thrives on unceasing and incessant stream of conflict and hopelessness. As we learned through our Series during Advent And He Shall Be Called, the Gospel of Jesus’ coming is a story of hope, peace, and joy. Rather than focus on every conflict, we can choose to instead set our eyes on our maker who brings us joy and restoration in the midst of trails and storms.
- Bring Your Sins to God and Each Other This one, undoubtedly will be the most difficult. We don’t want people to know our darkest secrets and we fear that if people know what we do then they will reject us. Yet, for whatever sins we keep hidden, they gain in power. The reality is that our sins, because of the sacrifice of Christ in the cross hold no actual authority over us anymore. There is power in the strength of believers coming together and standing with each other. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)In bringing them up to God and to one another, we take hold of our forgiveness and stand in accountability with the strength of our brothers and sisters.
A Few Personal Goals
I am not usually a man prone to optimism, but I am a man prone to hope. So, it feels odd to say that I am encouraged about 2018. In a few ways, I feel that 2018 will be a season of change but it will also be a season of new adventures. Change can be scary and hard work requires an extreme investment, but the pursuit of God is both radical change and the hard work of pursuing God. This is not to say we are saved by our works, but that discipleship and the pursuit of God means the putting to death of our fleshly desires. So, in seeking to continue to grow closer to God here are a few of my goals.
- Daily Accountability of Reading Scripture remains vital to the lives of the Christian. Yet, it is incredibly easy to place this on the back burner and “do it later” or rush through it. Furthermore, going through faith alone is not God’s intended plan, nor is it fun. So I have set up a Bible Reading Plan and will be going through it with a few people. This will give us an opportunity to go together, ask questions, and grow as the body of believers together.
- Jesus’ Strength to Conquer Sins Some lingering sins have shown their face again and for a while I fought them. However, after many failed attempts to handle them, the efforts were reduced. Not anymore. God creates all things new, restores the broken, and give strength to the weary. So, the efforts will be redoubled, not because I am saved by works, but because I have already been saved by God. At some point, I will probably fail, but by the grace and strength of God, I will not quit.
- Praise God Through The Garbage It takes no faith to praise God when everything is going alright. Yet, we are guaranteed difficult times as a direct result of our faith. When the times are difficult and the pain is real, instead of turning to anger, doubt, and despair, I am learning how to turn to God faster. With all the changes and transitions things will assuredly be difficult at times, but it is God who sustains, guides, and protects.
2018 is going to be a year with exciting new adventures an opportunities. With new challenges and adventures, the terrain will be unsure and the path unclear. In JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins gives the following caution to Frodo Baggins: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” While this was a caution, it was also an encouragement that there is a whole world waiting to be explored. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV).
May God guide you through 2018 and may we stand with one another as we grow in faith with each other.