I’ve spent numerous New Year’s Eves at church, or watching the infamous ball drop in Times Square, each time telling myself that this year would be different. Losing weight, getting a better job, and meeting new people were just a few of my New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, I broke most of them by February 1.
So I decided to approach things differently. I asked myself, What would happen if God created His own resolution list for me? While I’m not an expert, I think it would look something like this:
Too busy for God? Who ever heard of such a thing? If this were an actual class, I would have to raise my hand reluctantly and admit that I, too, have been guilty. For me, it was work, serving, or relationships. Other distractions, whether positive or negative, may be children, friends, and yes, even ministry. That may be a hard truth to digest, so let me help soften the blow. God desires time with us. While we are busy with our everyday lives, let’s not forget to spend time with the One who allows us to see each day.
I was so disappointed with myself when I realized that I had been neglecting my time with God. Did I need to pray more? Yes. Did I need to fast more? Yes. Did I simply need to sit still and listen? Absolutely!
As the year begins I know that God wants me to do just that. He is not interested in all the things we do for Him if we neglect Him in the process. God desires to spend time with us. There’s so much He wants to say. No matter what happened last year, let’s stop moving and just be still. We can’t ignore the voice of God, no matter how hard we try. So instead of just serving Him, let’s focus more on spending time with Him.
A couple years ago I was invited to speak to a church group of young women. I was excited and began preparing weeks in advance. I prayed and relied on God to help me prepare.
But when I arrived at the site, I was informed that there had been a change of plans. Instead of a classroom, I would teach the class in the choir loft. Instead of talking to females, I was told that males would be in the class as well. Instead of 25 minutes, I would have only 15 minutes.
I was disappointed, but I was able to make the best of it. Sulking on the way to my car, feeling like a failure, I decided to call a friend. As she encouraged me, the voice and correction from God brought true perspective to the matter.
During the three-hour drive home I began whining to God. He quickly put me in my place with the words “This is not about you, nor about how you feel.”
What? No sympathy from God? As tears began to fall I redirected my focus to what truly mattered. It was never about the changes I encountered. Life will always throw some inconvenience at us. But being prepared decreases the level of panic. It was never about the assignment; it was always about God and the people I encountered.
As we walk through life’s unexpected changes, let’s be prepared with prayer, knowing that God is still in control. As the year begins, prepare to be more prayerful, prepare to become more organized, prepare to accept (enjoyable or not) any divine assignment(s). Prepare to spend more time in the Word; it is the most important meal of the day.
I’m not referring just to physical health, but to emotional health as well. Millions of people across the country join gyms each year, trying to shed the pounds gained over Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, we rarely hear about those who try to shed emotional weight in prayer. Since we know that God wants to spend time with us, He will prepare and equip us to embrace healthy relationships.
Being healthy requires work and discipline. I’ve lost weight only to gain it back a month later. I lacked discipline. Work without discipline yields unsatisfactory results. Becoming healthy spiritually, socially, emotionally, physically, and financially requires discipline.
Yes, it takes time to do the work. Let’s spend time with God and His Word so that we can face life’s joys and challenges, knowing that we don’t face them alone. Attend more Bible studies, more worship services. Let’s allow God to lead us to ministries in which we can serve others. For those who don’t currently attend church, pray that God will direct you to His choice for you.
As we discipline ourselves spiritually, it’s also important to discipline ourselves socially. We’ve all encountered Debbie Downer, Negative Nigel, or the Gossiping Group, to name just a few. While they may still be growing in their walk with God, it’s important for us to reduce our contact with toxic individuals. It may painful, but it can also help us strengthen our relationships with them if they are willing to change.
Toxic individuals are just that, toxic. They don’t mean to be (at least we hope they don’t). They’re often just misguided, or may have been hurt themselves. They can become a drain on our spirits or just become a source of unhelpful conversation. God will give us strength to rid ourselves of toxic or unhealthy relationships. Remember, God wants to usher in the new: so let’s clean out the old.
Emotional discipline. Yes, we have to go there. There are great people in the world. As we remove the toxic people in our lives, let’s be prepared to accept new friends that God has designed specifically for us. They may not be what we expect, but let’s remain open. Relationships may not endure the challenges imposed on them, but those challenges needn’t alter the friendships developed. We have to remain open and show ourselves friendly.
Yes, people have taken advantage of us. Yes, people have neglected us. Yes, people have hurt us. But it’s time to close the door on that pity party. Let’s allow God to heal our emotions so that we can develop healthy relationships with others.
Physical discipline is a challenge because it’s often a reflection of where we are in other areas of our lives. Have at least one healthy meal a day—head toward the ideal. I hate drinking water, so I discipline myself to drink at least three cups of water a day—yes, I’m headed toward the ideal. Be disciplined enough to complete at least two workouts a week—keep heading toward . . . you get the point. It won’t feel good initially, but it is necessary. Begin with just a walk. Do what works.
Financial discipline is another challenge. Billions of dollars are spent on gifts and entertainment during the holidays, and those expenses create even larger issues as the year begins. That issue becomes debt. Make smart choices. Avoid fancy restaurants that you can’t afford. Avoid using credit cards unless you can pay off the balance each month. Cut them up, if necessary. Leave one in case of emergency.
“Keeping up with the Joneses”? Well, I’d rather be really happy than superficially happy—and in debt.
As we look ahead to the new year, let’s not forget the larger picture. God wants us to have the best, and He offers His best. Let’s not neglect His voice, His time, or His will. As we begin a new year, focus on His most important resolution: to be a blessing instead of looking for one.
Happy New Year!
Kimberly Cotton teaches in the Huntsville, Alabama, city school system. She is committed to helping others live their best lives with her blog: SpiritSpoon.weebly.com.