It’s the end of another year and the majority of us are eagerly awaiting the chance for new beginnings and blessings. We certainly never look at the new year as a time for added stress, pain, or sickness. In our anticipation and hope of new things to come, we tend to make new year’s resolution – to lose weight, cut out caffeine, go to the gym, work less, sleep more, find a new job, etc.
The question I ask of you as we close out 2013…. What does Jesus want from you? He very well may be calling you to cut calories, lose weight, and exercise. He may be tugging at your heart to work less and be at home with your family more. But what does He want from your heart? How can your life glorify His name in this coming year? What changes does God want from you that will ultimately lead you to a closer relationship to Jesus Christ?
Here is a list of New Year’s resolutions all Christians need to work on in 2014:
Forgive more – As a forgiven sinner, you are required to forgive sinners. Let go of other people’s mistakes and shortcomings, even if those decisions directly affected your life. Satan will remind you of the pain others have inflicted on you but YOU are a forgiven sinner and are called to forgive the sins of others. Remind yourself that you have not always been a Christian and that you too have hurt others. We have all fallen short and we will all fail again. Pray for those who have hurt you, that they are blessed by God and that those blessings change their lives. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
Pray always – It’s so simple to say “pray more” but the thought of praying all the time can seem very daunting. Rest assured, if you miss an opportunity to pray, you must not give up! Begin by praying every morning or evening and slowly add in other specific times in your day devoted to prayer. You will soon notice how your prayers shift from specified times to daily conversations with God throughout your day. Make sure you also add a few minutes of reflection time to listen to what God says to you about your prayers. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Quit worrying – We begin to worry when we feel as if we are not in control. The truth is, very seldom do we have full control over anything. When we allow worry to seep into our lives, we are saying to those around us that we are helpless and have no one to turn to. But as Christians, we must have faith in God and faith in His plan. Find the good in every situation and be thankful for what God has already blessed you with. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
Give more – Give more of your time, your money, and your effort. Pray about this specifically and see where God wants you to give. Does he want you to give more of your money to your church or a mission? Does He want you to give more of your time and volunteer efforts? Does He simply want you to give your family more quality time? Whatever it is that He leads you to give, give wholeheartedly and give as if you are giving to the Lord. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Go to church – Attending church should not be a Sunday morning visit when times are hard. Church is a time for weekly reflection and an energy boost. It’s a time for us to put aside the craziness of life and refocus on Christ and His will for our lives. Church is a time for Christians to fellowship with other believers and together build the kingdom of God. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Learn more – Read your Bible this year, start a devotional, or commit to reading that book your spouse has asked you to read. If you’ve already read the Bible in its entirety, read it again to gain more knowledge. You cannot go wrong opening your Bible and reading scripture! But there is power when reading with other Christians and discussing life together. “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15
Judge less – Learn how to judge righteously and ask God to show you when you’re sinfully judging. Practice the art of judging the sin and not the sinner. Find the good in every person and in every situation, even if it’s simply acknowledging that God will use that situation for His glory. Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God. We will all stand on even ground before God one day; your sin is no less than any other man’s. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24
Be more gracious – Again, find the good in every person and in every situation. Treat others with kindness and respect. Even if we don’t think they deserve it, they really do. Don’t assume the worst in others, even if their track record shows otherwise. Give people the benefit of the doubt, always. Complement those who frustrate you, and add a smile. Work on changing your heart towards others and people will begin to seem far less threatening to you. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Plant seeds – Write down a list of people who are non-believers and commit to praying for them over this next year. Make it your goal to talk to them about Jesus Christ and his unending love for them. Invite them to church, offer to pray for them, connect with them regularly and allow them the opportunity to see how Christ is working in your own life. The outcome is amazing to see how God uses YOU and your everyday circumstances to change the lives of others. You plant the seed and watch as God grows new believers. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Go on a mission – Your mission trip doesn’t necessarily need to be across the world to a third world country. While that is definitely an incredible experience, your mission field can be right here in your hometown. Your mission field is the path you drive to work and the places you run your errands. To be on a mission for Christ is to tell others of Christ and bringing His Good News to non-believers. Begin by asking strangers, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?” Spend time everyday preparing for your mission work and ask God to show you where your work needs to be done. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20
To put our focus on Christ rather than ourselves is ultimately what God wants for our lives. He wants us to depend on Him. When we do these things, our lives begin to take on a new meaning and good things begin to happen. We will still suffer loss and heartache, setbacks and pain. But life becomes bearable when we walk with our Savior and allow Him to lead the way.