Well the holidays are finally winding down. Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone; it’s hard to believe it’s the end of December! Here we are again, saying goodbye to another year in our lives and turning around to say hello to the New Year stretching out before us. Whether it’s a deeper time of reflection, or just a passing moment, most of us will likely take some thought as to what was, what is, and what could be.
As we know, New Years resolutions are a tradition at this time of year for our culture. We find ourselves having amusing conversations with friends or family about all of the interesting ways we plan to change in the upcoming year. Some people are more serious and intentional about the actions they plan to take, while others just dream. No matter the position we hold concerning New Years resolutions, most of us can certainly resonate with the idea that we would like to see definite changes in specific areas of our lives over the next year.
Then there is the dark cloud that tends to loom over resolutions: we have usually broken them and come up short just weeks, days or sometimes even hours after our bold intentions and sure commitments! Nowhere does the human condition seem to display itself more annoyingly then when we try to make changes in our lives, only to find we are unable to accomplish them. Because of this reality, many won’t even attempt change.
Yet deep inside that very human condition, how we long for fresh starts and second chances! Whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual, we have things we’d like to improve. It’s interesting to think about how God has wired us to desire change. We know from reading passages in scripture that God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and similarly given us a hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt 5:6). We enjoy and look forward to new morning mercies day in and day out. We see Paul struggle in Romans 7 about the desire for change. Certainly, none would argue that in our own strength, lasting change is fleeting, unless God makes the changes within us.
I have found in my own life that I don’t do well with resolutions. By God’s grace over the years, I have learned that honest communication with God about areas where I would like to see change has been a great first step. Even better, looking to Him to point out the areas He would like to change in me. Although my own efforts are limited in this exchange, I understand that I still have a part to play. By faith, I can make definite steps in drawing near to God, so that He will draw near to me and begin the changes I need. In Proverbs 17:24, I love the way the Good News Translation presents the idea my role can play, “An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions.”
Some ways I have learned to take more specific aim at wise action is the Principle of Firsts. Bringing God the first part of my day in time spent with Him. Taking the first of my week to worship with my church family. Setting aside as an offering of a few weeks at the first of my year to focus, fast and pray, listen and ultimately honor God as Lord over my year. In this way, I am taking steps of faith and aiming at wise action in drawing closer to God, so He then will draw close to me. It’s in these times that change can occur, not because I am doing the changing, but because I am choosing to present, position and posture myself in a way that will allow God to work the change in me. Instead of dwelling on the areas I need to change, I am more at peace taking in the Light of the world that will dispel the darkness I seek to change. “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) and again, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) We all know what it’s like to turn on a light in a dark room. We rarely think about what a wise action it is to turn the light on in a dark room when trying to accomplish something in that room! The darkness simply cannot overpower the light! Similarly we can take wise action to allow the Light of Jesus to push out those areas of darkness we struggle with; the areas we seek to change.
I am hopeful to encourage one another to take wise action in our lives in order for God to make the real and lasting changes we need. Applying the Principles of Firsts in several areas of our lives is a powerful way to begin this process with the Lord. Again, it need not be complicated or forced. We simply honor Him with the Firsts and trust the power of His light in our lives to dispel the darkness. At this opportunity of beginning a New Year, may we be admonished, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12)
In closing, I want to highlight a portion of scripture that I find encouraging when taking aim at wise action in my life. Even in this process where we are to do our part in faith, we can be confident that God has not left us to aim on our own. Consider a deeper meaning in 2 Kings 13:15-17 as Elisha and Jehoash the king interact, “Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” How awesome to think of God’s hands on my hands as I aim and shoot for wise action resulting in genuine victory and change!