The New Year is rapidly approaching! Many of you are doing what I have often done about this time of year; sit down, pen in hand, and make a list of resolutions for the new year: lose 10 (or 20) pounds, walk three miles a day (or at least some), eat more veggies, read more books, clean out and straighten up the basement …you know the drill.
But this year is different. As I reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year that lies ahead, I do not feel compelled to write my usual “to do” list. Instead of stressing over the scale or the messy basement, I find myself smiling and reflecting on some of the funny things our church children have said or remembering the funny things some our church children have done that made me laugh so hard my sides hurt. I have thought of some of the things our church families have endured or are enduring that have made me cry tears of pain in prayer for them.
And when I think about the future, I’m not dragging out the calendar and formulating a plan of action like I used to do. Instead, I find myself patiently waiting to see what God will do in our lives this year. I guess you could say I am finally learning to be content. And with that contentment has come a new appreciation for the everyday things in life.
I guess we make these New Year’s Resolutions with an inward desire to become better people. Yet usually, at least for me, I am left with less than satisfactory results. Then, each year brought discouragement because by the time Valentine’s Day arrived; I had either forgotten or had already broken my sincerely made commitments.
I am realizing that becoming the person I want to be may take a long time. Making and breaking resolutions does not seem to be the solution. How can we begin this life-changing process? I wonder. I think being honest with ourselves and facing up to our shortcomings might produce better results. I think if we stop making New Year’s Resolutions before or as the New Year starts, but begin to contemplate more each day of the New Year What God desires of us, we might, by God’s transforming power, become more the person we should be.
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up and get our bearings. For starters, here are 10 questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God:
- What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
- What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
- In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
- What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
- What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
- For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
- What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
- What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
- What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?
In addition to these questions, here are 21 more to help you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.
- What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
- What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
- What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
- What habit would you most like to establish this year?
- Who do you most want to encourage this year?
- What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
- What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
- What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
- What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
- What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
- What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
- In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
- What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
- What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
- To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
- What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
- If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?
- What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?
- In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?
The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year, you will be more likely to remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.
If you’ve found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace – in a day planner, PDA, calendar, bulletin board, etc. – where you can review them more frequently than once a year.
So let’s evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let’s also remember our dependence on our King who said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
(I would like to give credit and thanks to the Don Whitney an associate professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of Simplify Your Spiritual Life (NavPress, 2003). This is where the information for these questions came from.)