While January 1st is really no different than any other day of the year, it holds a symbolic meaning to many of us. We all fail and want second chances. Even for those of us made new in Christ, because of our human frailty, we rejoice that His mercies are new every morning.
I write these words with great hesitancy. You already are hearing from social media, your television, your church, and your family how you need to make changes in 2021. It is so overwhelming, you want to scream! Yet, I share these words not to add more guilt. I do not want to add things to your already overwhelming schedule. I want to share some things that have helped me grow closer to Jesus, which has given me more freedom and peace.
Here are some tips to make your New Year “new.”
Have some sort of sabbath in your life. “Sabbath” literally means, “to cease, to end, to rest.” God rested after His creation of our world not because He was tired, but because He knew He needed to give us a model to follow. We are so easily dominated by overwork. Work is a gift from God, but must never become an overbearing taskmaster that robs us of an intimate relationship with Him. Why is it that we humble-brag about being constantly busy, while not lamenting the broken relationships with God and family that are a consequence? Why is it that we take pride in working 90-hour weeks but don’t recognize the resulting sickness of our bodies, souls, and spirits? Remember to slow down and spend some time with the One who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Speaking of time, remember to spend significant time hearing from and speaking to your Creator. What relationship can exist without meaningful communication? This means you need to spend time in prayer and in God’s Word. I have found some wonderful tools that free me up to enjoy God’s presence, rather than leading me to become bound to some legalistic ritual. One is PrayerMate, an app that replaced my old ever-growing and overwhelming prayer notebook. I recommend it highly. The other is to use a Bible reading plan. This benefits me, since on my own I tend to always turn to the same familiar passages rather than being molded by the whole counsel of God. In recent days I have benefited from the Gospel Coalition’s ambitious Read the Bible Plan. This year I am using a combination of the BibleProject’s Reading Plan (complete with their incredible videos) and Pastor John Soper’s wonderful, Mission 119 Plan. Another terrific option is the Five Day Reading Plan. It is thorough but not overwhelming. Whatever you use, remember to enjoy your time with the Savior as you grow closer to Him through prayer and His Word. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1–3).
Just as you want to strengthen your relationship with God, do all you can to get to know your family, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and church family better. Of course, this also means TIME. How can we love our neighbors if we don’t know them? Remember, going to a church building for a weekly service is not the same as getting to know your brothers and sisters in Christ. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
To do all this, you must have the proper emotional and physical health to invest in these important relationships. Take care of your body. Get proper exercise. Eat healthy. Make sure you sleep! Don’t get fanatical about these things, but be a good steward of the body the Lord has given you.
Don’t try to add more to your already too busy schedule. Set priorities for how you use you time. Get rid of time wasters so you have time for the things that are truly important. Above all else, make God your top priority. I have found that when I do that, the rest of my priorities fall into place. Have a Christ-filled 2021! Let’s exalt Him together.