Making a Happy New Year
Happy New Year! 2017 is gone and 2018 is here. If 2018 is better than 2017, however, it won’t be due to one more rotation of the earth. That doesn’t really make a difference. Taking advantage of this time of year to evaluate our lives and making some healthy changes does. Many people are re-committing themselves to the gym or a diet. That’s good and valuable. But it’s especially good that we do this sort of thing with our spiritual health (1 Timothy 4:8). So if you’re going to make healthy changes for a better year, then it’s important that you get a plan in place. As it’s been said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” So…
Have a reading plan
Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
God is a God who creates and sanctifies His people through His word. So it’s important that we’re taking in His word for our spiritual health. What’s your plan for reading the Bible in 2018? There are lots of good plans for reading through the Bible in a year, and apps that will help you work that plan. Or maybe you want to do an in depth study on whatever book that we happen to be preaching through on Sunday mornings. Choose something that’s going to work for you, but get a plan together and be consistent.
In addition to reading the Bible, it’s important that we read books that help us understand and live out the Bible in our lives. So I think it’s good to have a plan for this area of reading as well. Maybe you want to read a book a month. Or maybe you simply want to carve out 15 minutes a day where you’re reading good books and you’ll get through as many as you get through. You could pick 5 books that you want to get through this year, and come up with a plan to get through just those 5. I like to come up with a plan to read through various kinds of books. For example, I want to make sure that in the course of a year that I’m able to read a biography, a theologically academic book, a book on biblical counseling, on Christian living, on philosophy, on history, on preaching, and on prayer at some point in the course of the year. Again, personalize and come up with something that will be good for your spiritual growth and work that plan.
Have a prayer plan
Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.”
It’s easy for the busyness of life to regulate prayer to something we do while doing other things. We get in our prayer time on our commute, or while we’re doing little things around the house, or even while we fall asleep. Let’s always be in prayer during these times, but let’s not be satisfied with a prayer life that’s characterized by being on the go.
Read through the gospels and you’ll find that something major and miraculous is usually taking place after Jesus has gotten alone with the Father in prayer. You can’t read Paul’s letters without noticing how he labors in prayer for the church. It’s in prayer that we invite God’s Spirit to do work in us and through us, and it’s there where we get to experience communion with God. So why would we not want to plan to do this and make it meaningful?
So what’s your plan for 2018? Certainly, we encourage everyone at Grace Harbor to be systematically praying through the directory. So have a plan for doing that, and don’t forget about praying through the things we pray for as a church on Sunday night. In fact, gathering on Sunday night is a great way to plan to pray. But maybe you also want to keep a journal or a list things that you are praying about regarding your own life and sanctification. Who do you want to see come to know Christ? Write their names and down and pray consistently. When do you plan on praying for the nations, and how will you pray for them specifically? What are the needs in our city or church that you want to lift up? And of equal importance, when and where will you get alone to pray for these things?
Have a person plan
Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples…
Following Jesus in community with other people is essential to following Jesus. It’s the command in Matthew 28:19, the way that the world will know that God sent Jesus to save it in John 17:23, and the means by which the church will put Christ on display and become more like Him in Ephesians 3:10 and 4:15. So it’s important enough that we ought to evaluate 2017 and make healthy changes for 2018. What changes do you need to make?
It’s important that you are building a deep kingdom minded relationship with someone in the church that can ask you hard questions, pray with you, read with you, and encourage you on a regular basis. If you don’t have that, then pray for it and actively seek it out. It’s also important that you can gather with the church when the church gathers. Are good things getting in the way of this priority? What about community group? Think about your season of life, and talk with your spouse or roommate and discuss what it looks like to practice hospitality in your home. Is that something you can do once a week or once a month? Whatever it is, make a plan, put it on the calendar, and fill it with people.
Making changes in this area might require getting out of your comfort zone and breaking with your normal schedule, but like all other good things that come with costs, the costs are worth it.
On to 2018
No year is perfect. 2018 won’t be either. Ultimately, we’re wise to look forward to that coming day when Jesus makes all things new. But taking stock of our lives and doing these things here can help us get a taste of that day, even speed it’s coming (2 Peter 3:12). It can help us increasingly become more like Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18). So there’s a definite sense in which 2018 can be a better year. Let’s aim for that by planning in these three areas. With that said, it’s good to remind ourselves that the physical and spiritual health aren’t completely unrelated. So it’s good that you get a plan in place for that as well, but I’ll leave that up to other blogs.