Can I be really honest for a moment?
I love New Years, with all of its hopeful expectations and new beginnings. This year however, I think many people will be disappointed with 2017.
You see, this past year there was a cliché saying that kept circling around social media, and drifting in and out of various conversations.
The saying was: “Well, as if 2016 couldn’t get any worse…” followed by another tragic report and an implied expectation that the new year would be different.
Now, I see where people are coming from. This year was filled with its ups and downs and there were many messy, disappointing moments in 2016. But at the same time, for all those not-so-great moments, there were just as many blessings and moments of joy. As a whole, compared to other times in history our world has seen much worse. 🙂
And although people simply blurted this out (probably without even thinking about it), this statement creates false hope since 2017 won’t necessarily be better.
Without getting too gloomy here (sorry!), the world won’t decide to suddenly change because our calendar has a new set of digits on it! When we wake up tomorrow morning, the world will be the same as it was in 2016. It will be governed by the same sin nature, and in the midst of the same spiritual battle that has waged for thousands of years.
2017 will no doubt be different, because it will still be fallen.
And as a fallen world, which rejects the presence of God, we cannot expect it to improve (whether by a moral standard, or even our own expectations). That doesn’t mean that it will be all together bad, it just means that it will be the same fusion of both the beauty and the messy which makes up our life.
Thankfully however, God didn’t intend for His daughters to live with that bleak knowledge, and no hope to go with it! 🙂 In fact, He has given us two major sources of hope to grasp onto going into 2017.
The first is that although this world is fallen, God is still ultimately in control. He allowed everything that has happened, good and bad, to be added into the breathtaking, overarching story that He is masterfully unfolding.
The second is that if we allow Him to guide us through this next year, then He will lead us into lives of purpose and abundance — despite the circumstances around us.
John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Throughout this chapter, Jesus had been comparing Himself to a good shepherd, who selflessly loves, protects, and provides in abundance for His sheep. He contrasts this to the thief, who only cares about his own self-gain.
As His sheep, Jesus wants us to have an abundant, hope filled life — not only after we die, but also here on earth! (Note, abundance in Christ isn’t always material. Often it’s the peace, joy, and deep purpose and meaning to life that can only be found in Christ.) However, it’s impossible to find that life on our own. He is the only door.
Just like sheep who must respond to the call of their shepherd to receive safety and provision, we must respond to our Shepherd’s direction and teaching to receive an abundant life.
Following after Him is the only way 2017 will be better. Otherwise, all we will find is the empty destruction caused by the thief.
So although the world as a whole won’t necessarily be better in 2017, the beautiful thing about the new year is that it’s a conscious reminder to re-focus our priorities and respond to the call of our shepherd into a life of abundance. In a sense, although we can’t change THE world, we can change OUR worlds.
Personally, some things that I’m going to focus on responding to this upcoming year are:
Spending more time talking with God. My prayer life is definitely not what I wish it was, and since this is such an important element to a Christ-centered life, it’s top on my resolution list for 2017. The biggest thing that has kept me from growing in this area is simply not having enough time in the morning (I don’t think staying up till 2 o’clock has exactly helped with that 😉 ).
Since I want to pray first thing in the morning, that’s going to mean getting to bed earlier, and waking up earlier (chances are a few cups of coffee will be involved as well).
Loving and serving people deeply and unconditionally. Especially my siblings! When my list of school assignments is longer than the page in my planner, a blog post is waiting to be written, and I have a tennis lesson in an hour, my response to my sister who just needs help making lunch, is not one I’m proud of. But being overwhelmed is not an excuse to be unkind.
This year, I want to change that. My actions in the next few years will make a huge impact on the lives of my brothers and sisters. And I want that impact to be a good one! So even if that means taking a moment to serve them even when it’s not particularly convenient for me, if I can help or bless them in some way then I want to make that a priority.
Besides, setting an example of love and service is going to make a bigger impact on other people’s lives than knowing the Spanish verb forms of “to be” 🙂
Daily trusting and submitting my life to Christ. It’s one thing to say I trust God and leave it at that. It’s another thing to be perfectly okay with laying aside things that I think need to be done because God is moving me in a different direction.
So this year I want to get in the habit of asking God, first thing in the morning, what His top priority is for me that day. And then being okay when not everything that I hoped to get done happened.
Be reminded in all the ways that 2017 fails to meet my expectations that this is not my permanent home. And in those moments look to Jesus with even more excitement for His return.
So lets reach out for 2017 with open arms and great anticipation. Not senselessly waiting for the world to change, but purposefully continuing to respond to the call of our Shepherd! 🙂
What about you? Going into 2017, what’s one area that you are going to respond to God’s leading in?