Updated: Jan 18
Dr. RB McFee
So how will you caption this year when you reach December 31st, 2021?
And you’re probably thinking ‘didn’t we just start the year, and now you’re fast forwarding it to the next one?’
Ok. So maybe the better question is how will we caption the end of the week?
Why? Because it is often at the beginning of a journey when most people will stop, and January is definitely the beginning of our journey in Christ called 2021.
The early days of January can be for dreamers, and goal setters, and those who are trusting God to take them someplace special in the year. Yet beginnings are often a most dangerous time. How we handle these first weeks can set the pattern for our year. Will we stick to our goals and the plans God has guided us towards? Or will we put things off, until they become a faded memory?
And it wouldn’t be a New Year for most people if they don’t include at least something health related in their list of goals. Whether dieting, or improved fitness, it is usually one of the many resolutions we make. Ask anyone who has become a runner, and they will attest, it is the accumulation of painful training moments that get you where you want to be. But it becomes very, did I mention very easy to want to quit around this time. As a physician ….to achieve your (health, faith, other) goals don’t quit!
Quitting is a waste. And a day, a year, a life is a terrible thing to waste. It’s not a dress rehearsal. This is as much truthful for our faith life, and opportunity to help others, as it is for our personal relationships, time with God, our career, health, and life goals. Challenges arise; will they derail us?
If you will allow a literary analogy, sometimes it is best for writers to first think about the conclusion of a story or article – the take home message, because where you want to take a piece often informs how you get there. The same is true for each day and year. How do you want to conclude your day, and your year?
From a serving the Lord perspective, one source of inspiration has been Benjamin Franklin. It is said that he challenged himself every morning with this question …. “What good shall I do today?” Recognizing we all have to hold ourselves accountable, he then concluded his day with this question…. “What good have I done today?”
It is a question I have tried to ask, and fulfill each day. Even if I miss a day or two, I have a goal, a road map to keep me focused.
In the book Jesus in me by Anne Graham Lotz is a story about the three astronauts on Apollo 8. It was Christmas Eve 1968. As they showed images of Earth from space, they took turns reading Genesis 1: 1-10.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth….”
Genesis….speak about an instruction guide on how to start your day!
Consider God used six days to create all we behold, and then took a day off to kick back, enjoy a sunset, and maybe experience a good hearted laugh at the platypus, and other comedic characters of creation.
Reading God’s word, it appears each day was both self contained – with a purpose, a task list if you will, things to be accomplished by day’s end, and also served as a building block for the next day.
As servants of Christ – do we view a day the way God did in Genesis?
Why? Focus for one. It forces us to think – what did I want to accomplish by the end of the day and year? The former are the building blocks for the latter. As the writers of our own story, how will today’s story end? Or this year’s story end? What are the things we want to have tried? Or accomplished? Where have we asked God to lead us? And when will we start?
Consider as the New Year begins, we feel renewed, as if given a fresh start, a clean slate. And as Christians celebrating the Christmas Season, basking in the rebirth Jesus’ birth promises us, how do we approach this wonderful opportunity? Will we embark on our journey with great intentions, and even put forth the right amount of effort to fulfill the goals God and we have set for 2021?
For anyone who has set lofty goals, the beginning is often the easiest part of the process.
Then, like the early Christians in Corinth, we lose focus. Perhaps the goal is harder than we thought. Or distractions come our way. Maybe we chose goals before confirming them with our Coach – God. Maybe we have shortened our prayer times, and allowed the noisy and competing demands of life block out the Voice of The Holy Spirit, and we are missing some guidance. Maybe we pull back from spiritual connections and commitments to our community of believers.
Without thinking about where you want God to take you, and what you hope for the year, well you might end up living a verse from John Lennon’s beloved Christmas song, where he asks a powerful, dare I suggest Biblical question in the lyrics….”another year older, and what have you done?” Not the best way to caption the year.
Part of the challenge then is the need for daily inspiration from God through prayer, and regular, ongoing practice– doing something every day. Once you stop a regular pattern of progress, it is much more difficult to get back into it. And muscles forget when they are no longer practicing. The same is true with learning piano, skiing, or any new skill or goal we set for ourselves. We can get rusty. That holds especially true for our spiritual muscles, our sense of relationship with God, and our faith life.
Thankfully God comes to the rescue with Biblical highway signs to guide us along the way. Consider one of my favorite Scripture readings….
“Today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Notice in this verse, and many others throughout the Old and New Testaments God exhorts us to remain in the moment – with Him, and with what we are doing. We are regularly counseled tomorrow will take care of itself. Or more to the point, tomorrow is built on today’s foundation. And that foundation is laid with the help of God.
There’s a reason Jesus often referred to Psalms – they are among the most authentic, personal and instructive books in the Bible.
The New Year is about beginnings, hope. And it is a collection of days; 365 blank canvases on which to paint our days, or 365 blank pages in a book on which to type our story. We should count ourselves blessed to see these.
How will I, you use each blank canvas, each blank page? At the end of the day what will be on each? Will the image and the words describe how God looks to you today, or where you were when you heard the Holy Spirit whisper, or what insight Jesus shared? Will you write about growing in faith, or helping someone, or learning something new-trying something you always wanted to pursue, or reached out to an old friend on a long overdue conversation, or sent a thank you note for kindnesses given? Will you paint the joy you felt in God’s Presence, or something you saw, perhaps God’s artistry in nature?
In The Journey Bible, one of the commentaries associated with Romans 12, titled “Life with God,” makes a powerful point…. “When we accept Christ’s leadership in our lives, we experience a major change in life focus.” Put another way, on what we focus, there shall we go.
For me - if I do nothing more than connect with God, my day is never wasted.
I think about
“Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His Power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever, and ever! Amen – Ephesians 3:20 – 21.
Where does God, your family, your work, and your needs fit into the time available – the Day the Lord has made? Have you set time to rejoice and be glad in it; alone with God, and in the presence of others?
Time with God:
1. Start your day with the Ultimate Coach – God
2. Thank Him for the day
3. Ask God for directions
4. Then listen
Without God’s guidance, our New Year can become tempered with regret and despair over lost opportunities, or bad breaks, or unfulfilled dreams. Thankfully in Christ, we have a God of second chances, who renews us, and gives us a chance for rebirth. For people of faith, we all need to contact the ‘Editor in Chief” of our life – God, from the very beginning of our New Year, our new day, our new beginning.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself….”
As Christians we need focus, discipline to grow in faith, get our spiritual muscles stronger, and make sure we’re prepared to take our God given gifts, to utilize them for His purposes. That is an everyday process, and requires an everyday commitment. The good news – just like first century Corinthian Christians, as for twenty first century New England Christians – the Holy Spirit is with us.
Psalm 118:24; Can we envision God looking at the day with us, rejoicing in the marvel of time and the opportunity for all that’s good He created for us. Do we take time to revel in God’s artistry? Or exercise our prayer muscles or a regular basis?
A dear friend from church gave me the daily devotion Jesus Calling. Another gave me The Chosen Devotion. These, along with the Bible, some quiet time, and a cup of tea, this is my daily “formal” time with God. It is where I ask Him to guide my day. It is where I try to focus on Him in my life. Have I lapsed from time to time? Yes! Do I try to get back on track? Absolutely!
At the beginning of a New Year, NOW is the time to pay close attention to where we’re going, what we are spending time on, and how steady is our focus on the goals we’ve set. Most importantly Who are we speaking with, and focusing on. Because if our goals are aligned with God’s plans for us, if we start off, and continue to try and align our life with His guidance, and pay the price – daily effort – then we will move forward and accomplish the goals God sets before us.
And His plans are for our good. He does make our paths straight.
So it comes down to Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27. Easier said than done? Maybe, but then again if we focus on and trust in God, as it is written in Isaiah 40:30 - 31,
“They will run and not grow weary.”