January has often been the month for vision casting, goal setting, and remembrance. And while those are all important, there is one thing we often lack as we move into a new year; a critical reality that we as Christians must have.
We look back upon this past year with thankfulness, sadness, joy, and hopefully a chuckle. If we truly analyzed this past year we could no doubt find moments of success, sorrow, and silliness. And it is good to remember.
Countless times throughout the Old Testament God told the Israelites to set up pillars of remembrance so they would not forget the things He did for them (for example see Joshua 4). Similarly, it is good to do the same in our lives. It may not be piles of rocks but keeping a journal – jotting memories of all Jesus has done in and through us this past year – is a great way to look back and remember His love, work, and faithfulness.
It is also good to vision, dream, and pray about the upcoming year. What areas of my life does Jesus want to deepen, change, or remove? What godly characteristics do I want Him to produce in my life this coming year? What areas of temptation do I need to throw at Jesus’ feet and trust and depend upon Him for salvation and victory? How do I want my relationships to deepen this next year? What topics do I want to learn?
I have been hesitant in the past couple of years to create “new years resolutions” – studies show they rarely work (25% of them end within the first week). Goals are a bit different and I think they are good to have, but I don’t see much (if any) Scriptural support for crafting large goals and accomplishing them. Again I don’t see them as a negative but when you look at the New Testament, goals are never emphasized. In fact, you could more easily accuse the disciples for a failure to plan.
Reading the New Testament, specifically Acts, you find that the disciples were obedient to the movement of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t great goal planning that turned their world upside down, it was their availability to do, say, and go wherever the Spirit led them. It wasn’t strategic planning, it was Spirit-filled living.
A New Year’s Verse
I spent the last several weeks bouncing around the country: visiting family for Christmas and New Years, going to Tennessee to preach at a conference, returning back home to jump into some new projects that we are about to launch. During this busy season, I came across a passage that forced me to pause and think about this coming year:
You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance.
What a rich meditation!
God takes the year and sets upon it His own goodness (in essence: Himself). His paths drip with His abundance. The word abundance is a translation of the Hebrew word for “fat” (the piece of meat that gives greater flavor and richness to the meat itself – an expensive delicacy). God is saying that His paths drip with His abundance, richness, goodness, joy, etc.
The One Thing
What if we as Christians set aside our to-do lists, goal planning, and vision casting to focus on one single thing?
The key we often miss in Psalm 65.11 is that in order to experience God’s goodness, richness, and abundance (and I’m not referring to monetary riches or any other “prosperity gospel” mantra but the Person of God Himself in relationship) we must be upon His paths.
The Christian life is not about what I want to do and then go and do it. It is not about figuring out the right thing to do and always behave accordingly. The Christian life is about relationship with and obedience to the King of the universe, Jesus Christ.
What if my entire year was focused upon Jesus? What if I had no other “goal” then to know Him more, grow deeper in His Word, be more intimate with Him in prayer, share Him with everyone I meet? Could this entire year be focused upon a single point (Jesus)? What if I allowed nothing to distract me from such a focus? Where would He lead and guide me this next year?
Isn’t it amazing that the disciples didn’t plan out their year, they didn’t strategize on how to win the world for Christ, they didn’t establish goals to critique how productive they had been – rather they had a single focus. They chose to live in obedience to the Spirit of God who indwelt their lives and allowed God Himself to lead and guide where they went and what they did and said.
I want this next year to be lived in response to Jesus Christ in my life. I don’t want to manipulate, I want to obey. I don’t want to plan and plot, I want to pray. I want to have a greater intimacy and know Christ more this year than all previous combined. I want a single focus: Him.