Three Steps to a Successful New Year…

new year 2015I know it’s seven days into the new year, and that I’m late posting a blog that has anything to do with the new year, but I figure it’s still early enough for all of us to not made too many mistakes yet. Although some of us probably made resolutions that we’ve already broken, even though we’re only seven days into the new year (those darn resolutions are just so hard to keep). Might I suggest that we swap resolutions for solutions—solutions to the issues that trip us up from year to year? That’s kind of what today’s blog is about—solutions to help us get through the year successfully so that we can look back at a life well lived, rather than look back at a year full of regrets because we didn’t achieve all we’d hope, or resolved to accomplish when the year began.

I can across this interesting information surfing the web the other day: Every year has 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. We begin every year with the same amount of time. It’s what we do with the time that makes the difference. What do we do with all our time? If the average person sleeps seven hours a night, we’ll spend 3 ½ months sleeping. We all have to eat, and if we eat three meals a day, we’ll spend 16 days eating. If we are active in church, we’ll spend 9 days in church. For work, an average 8-hour day, allowing for normal holidays, we’ll work 75 days. Five to ten days will be spent traveling (to work, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the store, etc.), and here’s an interesting one—we’ll spend 9-15 days in the bathroom [unless we’re sick, then it could be longer, or shorter depending on the sickness]. With all that moving, working, eating, sleeping, etc., the average person still has about 100 days that are unaccounted for. What we do with that 100 days can make all the difference in the world.

I’d like to suggest three steps we can take to make 2015 a successful year. The first step to a successful new year is to seek God. This is a no-brainer, right? Wrong! There are two types of people in the world—planners and non-planners. Each of those types can be subdivided along a spectrum of good to bad planners, and good to bad non-planners, but basically you’re either a planner or a non-planner. What we too often do, whether we’re a planner or a non-planner is to make our plans and either ask God to bless them, or look back and ask God why He didn’t bless them, or if we’re a non-planner, fly by the seat of our pants and when something happens wonder where God is in all of it. We pretty much make our own excuses, justify the things we do, believe those who agree with us, and never once consider God. Every endeavor, every new year, every project should start with the question, “How will God be glorified in this?”

If we would be successful at anything, we must first seek God. If we’re a planner we will go into the New Year with everything all planned out. We’ll have our job plans, our family plans, our vacation plans, or our educational plans, but, we’ll leave out the most important part of planning—God. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

It’s not much different if we’re a non-planner. We’ll wander and wonder through the entire year, without seeking God and the plans that He has for us. We’ll come to the end of another year trying to figure out what happened to the time.

Seeking God is easy. Worship regularly. It’s an opportunity to experience the presence of the Holy. Study devotionally. It’s an opportunity to understand God’s will more. Pray more. This is where real intimacy is developed. You want to distinguish between the the clamor and demands of the world around us and the authentic heart of God? Pray!  Seeking God is not about resolving to do one more thing. It’s about seeing prayer and worship and study as solutions to the issues facing my life. The first step to a successful new year is to seek God.

The second step to a successful new year is to bloom where you’re planted. This is all about contentment in our lives. That’s the problem for a lot of us, we’re simply discontented with circumstances as they are. Granted, there are some things we should never be content with—like if we’re living with a persistent sin, or struggling with an addiction. But, most of us are looking for the next job, or the next spouse, or for graduation. We say, “If I were only married,” or “If I only had a different job,” or, “If I only made more money,” or “It I could just get out of school,” then things would be better. As if a change in circumstances would make a change in me.

God told the exiles in Jeremiah 29 to build houses, plant gardens and have children as foreigners. That was God’s way of saying, “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.” Understand, there is such a thing as holy discontent, a time when God puts it on our hearts to move on to the next phase of life, but that rarely comes until we’re content where we are. We also need to realize that sometimes, bad circumstances may be God’s tool of refinement in our lives.

Part of blooming where we’re planted includes working for peace in our relationships and in our community. Jeremiah tells the exiles to pray for the peace of Babylon. I am reminded of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God” (Matt. 5:9). If we want peace in our communities, we must work pursue it, primarily because we are the community. The community won’t be better until we’re better. If we don’t like the political climate, pray and work to change it. Enter the fray. Engage the community. If we don’t like the educational climate, pray and work to change it. If we don’t like the social climate, pray and work to change it. It we don’t like…well, you get the picture. We must engage our community in ways that promote strong healthy relationships and pursues peace. That’s part of what it means to bloom where we’re planted, and that’s the second step we can take for a successful new year.

The third step to a successful new year is to always look forward. We look forward because we know the best is yet to come. We are an expectant people, a resurrection people, and as God told the exiles in Jeremiah 29:11 that He had a plan for them with a future and a hope, so He has one for us. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of our hope, and it’s at the heart of God’s plan for our lives. The resurrection is the reason we gather weekly to worship. The resurrection is the foundation of our faith. As bad as 2014 may have been, 2015 can be better. As good as 2014 may have been, 2015 can be so much better. We know that God’s best, God’s ultimate plan for us, for His church, for His kingdom is yet to be realized.

There is an old sermon illustration about a woman who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her affairs in order, she contacted her pastor and asked him to come to her house to discuss some of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral service, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. As the pastor prepared to leave, the woman suddenly remembered something else. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” said the pastor.

“This is important,” the woman said. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.

The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.

“So, when people see me in that casket with a fork in my hand and they ask, ‘What’s with the fork?’ I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork. The best is yet to come!'”

My friends, we ought to live life with a fork in our hand. It’s our reminder that the best is yet to come.

Seeking God, step one. Blooming where we’re planted, step two. Always looking forward, step three. Take these steps, I’ll virtually guarantee a successful new year.

Until next time, keep looking up…

 

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