Friday, January 27, 2012

Thoughts for the New Year

I know that the initial "newness" of 2012 may have worn off as it is almost the end of January, but I think that now is as good a time as any to reassess those New Year's resolutions and consider where to go from here. I know for a lot of people, by about Valentine's Day if not well before, their list of carefully thought-out New Year's resolutions has been all but forgotten in the hurried pace of a new year and its new demands. In fact, some people tend to make the exact same resolutions year after year--exercise more, lose weight, spend more time with family, do better in school, get a better job, etc, hoping that each new year will be THE year when those goals are finally met. ("This year, I'm finally going to get my whole life together!")

I like to think of my aspirations for a new year as "goals" rather than using the word "resolution." To me, a resolution is the sort of thing that, if you fail even once or twice, you've failed to live up to your resolution. On the other hand, I see a "goal" as something you can consistently work toward and be making progress toward even if there are some failures in the process. It feels more like a chance to make progress towards a worthy vision or ambition and less like an all-or-nothing demand that feels impossible to meet.

Scripture refers to vision a number of times, and I believe that God's people are called to have God-sized visions and goals for their years and their lives in general. Some of God's best counsel concerning vision and goal-setting is almost hidden in the middle of the Old Testament book of Habbakuk. This prophet lived in a time when the people of Israel saw far too much violence, evil, and injustice in their own country, and Habakkuk complained to God about these terrible problems, asking him when he would act and when things would ever change. Habbakuk 2:2-3 records the Lord's reply: "Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets so that whoever reads it may run with it. For the vision awaits an appointed time . . . though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."

To me, these verses first speak to the importance of writing down the goals and visions God has given us for our lives. Studies have shown that people who write down specific goals and deadlines by which they intend to accomplish those goals are much more likely to succeed in reaching them than those whose goals are only vague notions in their minds that haven't been put in writing. I believe writing goals down gives the goal-setter not only a psychological advantage but also a spiritual one. When God has given a particular vision for His glory to an individual, a couple, a family, a church, or any group, writing that vision down is crucial for holding all those involved accountable to working towards that vision and trusting God for its accomplishment. Why is this accountability through the writing of goals so important? "Make it plain on tablets so that whoever reads it may run with it." I don't know about you, but I want to be held accountable to run with every vision that God has placed within my heart for 2012 and beyond. I want to write these visions down--in lists to put on my fridge or in my car or in my journal or whatever works for you--so that every time I see and read them, I am prompted by God's Spirit in me to run towards accomplishing His will and His vision for my life.

God also told Habakkuk that the vision awaited an appointed time--that although he might have to wait for it, it would certainly be coming. I think the context of this book indicates that Habakkuk's vision was to see some of the wrongs and injustice in his land and among his people being made right. We may not always see our God-given visions come to pass right away, especially when they are huge visions like correcting an injustice or starting a chain reaction of change in a broken sector of society. But God has encouraged me greatly with this verse that any vision truly from Him will come to pass at the time He has appointed it to be. It is my task to wait upon Him even as I pour myself into doing all I can to fulfill the ultimate vision of the spread of God's kingdom on our earth.

I need to be in prayer that each day God would reveal to me the goals and visions He has for me. I do not want to be satisfied with small goals that I will feel that I have accomplished without His help. I also don't want to settle for only goals that are self-serving--that improve my reputation, my status, my assets, my quality of life. In fact, I want to be willing to sacrifice these very things if that is necessary for me to pursue the goal of God's glory in my life. So, what is your God-given vision for 2012? Write it down and then run with it.

And last but not least, an encouraging song for the new year: "Lord I Need You" by Chris Tomlin. This is the first song I listened to in 2012 and I've listened to it pretty much every day since. It is a great reminder for every day of the year:

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