New Year, New Beginnings: The Importance of Considering Our Ways

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There’s something refreshing about beginning a new year. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and refocus our goals for the upcoming year. I find it helpful to get away for an hour or two and spend some time in prayer, asking the Lord to guide me as I consider the time he’s given. God’s Word encourages us to regularly reflect on our lives:

Consider your ways.You have sown much, and harvested little.You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. (Hag. 1:5-7)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:15-17)

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Col. 4:5)

Reflect—Consider 2017

  1. As you look back at 2017, how do you see the Lord’s work in your life?
  2. Is there a particular Bible verse or passage the Lord used to minister to you this year?
  3. What sermon, book, or person spoke truth into your life in a profound way?
  4. Where did you see the Lord using your gifts to serve others?
  5. In what ways did you waste time, money, talents?
  6. What was your deepest struggle this year?
  7. What was your greatest joy?

Refocus—Consider 2018

Bible Reading

I find it helpful each year to plan what I hope to study for the upcoming year. Sometimes, I choose a Bible in the Year Plan, other times, I choose to study a few books in-depth. Whatever you decide, take an hour or so to research the various options. Making a plan helps tremendously. Here are a few articles about why it’s so important (and links to multiple Bible reading plans):

  1. How do you plan to study the Bible this year?
  2. What study guide or reading plan will you use?

Bible Memory

I know I need to memorize Scripture on a regular basis. Yet I’ve never established a regular habit of memorizing long passages. This year, after reading this article I’m hoping to work at memorizing Philippians. I’ve studied it for the past year working on my new devotional, In All Things, so I’m hoping familiarity with the text will help.

I like to use cards when I memorize, and I’ve found this tool so helpful. It prints out whatever verses you want to memorize, with the reference on the front. If you prefer a digital format, this app looks like a good one. And, if you want to try to memorize a chunk of Scripture this year, this article and this article both offer helpful ideas and tools.

  1. What verses would you like to commit to memory this year?
  2. Is there a friend or family member who could memorize with you?

Prayer

If we spent as much time on our knees in prayer as we do on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, what might the Lord do in our midst? Our God can solve what we cannot even begin to comprehend. He is able. May we cry out to him. Some questions to consider:

  1. How can you set aside time for prayer each day? When is the best time for you to pray?
  2. How can you incorporate Scripture more into your prayer life?
  3. What keeps you from prayer?
  4. Who can you pray for specifically this year to come to faith?

Fighting Sin

Hebrews warns, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). The world, the flesh, and the Devil seek to harden our hearts by fostering unbelief in God’s goodness and sovereignty in our lives. Unbelief wells up into idolatry and our idolatry leads to disobedience. As Thomas Brooks notes in Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, “Sin is of an encroaching nature; it creeps on the soul by degrees, step by step, until it has the soul to the very height of sin.” Some questions to consider:

  1. What sin are you currently struggling with on a regular basis?
  2. What methods (prayer, confession, accountability) can you employ to help you fight sin in your life?
  3. How would you describe your affection toward God? (Warm, Vibrant, Joyful, Cold, Indifferent, Disappointed, Angry)
  4. What ways can you seek to foster a greater affection for God in the New Year?

Ministry

We’ve each been given a purpose, a mission. The Great Commission is for all believers: Go and make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). We’re also to use our unique gifts to serve the church (Rom. 12:3-8). Each believer has good works which God prepared in advance for them to do (Eph. 2:10).

  1. Who can you seek to share the gospel with this year?
  2. How can you use your gifts to serve your church?
  3. Who could you disciple in the faith this year?
  4. In what ways can you be a loving neighbor to your community?

Odds and Ends to Consider

  1. Is there someone you need to spend more time with in the coming year? Or, perhaps, someone you need to spend less time with?
  2. How would you describe your social media use? Is it keeping you from face-to-face relationships, fostering discontentment, or eating away time that could be spent on other things?
  3. Is your giving (time, money, service) generous? Is it sacrificial? Is it cheerful?

May we live as faithful witnesses of the best Good News ever to be given:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:3-8, italics added).

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