People seldom begin a vacation without carefully plotting an intended course of travel. Sadly, too many people do not consider life as an adventure to be carefully mapped out prior to takeoff. As Christians, we need to ask ourselves what we expect to receive from life for the coming year and, more important, what we expect to give to life during the months ahead.
No two people look at life in exactly the same way. Some see it as pessimistically, as did Macbeth in William Shakespeare’s play by that name when he cried out, “Life… is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Somewhat less pessimistic but in much the same vein are the words of the great Seneca, philosopher, dramatist, and statesman of ancient Rome: “Life is neither a good nor an evil; it is simply the place where good and evil exist.”
A more optimistic view of life was presented in Athens some 425 years prior to Christ’s birth by the great Greek philosopher Socrates. He taught that “the end of life is to be like God, and the soul following God will be like him.”
In the book of Galatians, Paul took a different approach. In Galatians 2:20, he writes, “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
As we begin this new year, we need to be much aware that there is before us a journey of twelve months, the pathway of which will be woven into a pattern interlaced with opportunities, tragedies, and victories.
Among the joys of facing a new year of life is the joy of knowing that opportunities for growth and service lie before us. When we stop growing in some fashion, of which maintenance is one way, we begin to decay. Therefore, during the new year, we should seize the opportunity for growth.
One area Christians need to be active in cultivating is their spiritual growth. For many Christians, this is becoming a lesser priority. Instead of maturing, too many Christians are becoming stunted both in their knowledge of God and His Word and their lives reflect that as well. We are called to go beyond the infant stage where we are tossed to and from to becoming men and women whose roots run deep like a tree planted by the river. My hope then for all Christians is they would determine that during the coming year they would grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Another area of growth is being intentional in finding opportunities for service. We as Christians need to remind ourselves constantly that we have been saved with a purpose. Too many think their role is to sit around and complain about what others are doing rather than getting active themselves. The Bible describes Christians as soldiers, athletes, servants, slaves… all words that contain action. Jesus taught simply one of life’s greatest principles of service to Him in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” During this year we need to come out of our cocoon of self-centeredness and avail ourselves of the opportunities of ministering to the sick, the marginalized, the physically needy, the imprisoned, and the troubled in the name of our Savior, witnessing for Him as we serve.
Lastly, we need to be sharing our faith with others. Evangelism is something many Christians know they should be doing but are reluctant. One of the greatest of all of life’s opportunities is the opportunity to share our faith and be a part of someone coming to faith in Christ. The joy in leading someone to Christ cannot be overestimated. Luke records that even the angels in heaven celebrate when a sinner repents!
The pattern of life is filled with many ups and downs. The upcoming year will be no different. As much as we would like to avoid the tragedies or heartaches that will probably be woven into the pattern of our lives for the coming year, we need to realize that they are the things that prod us along in our Christian growth. As Kirby Page has expressed it, “Tragedy crushes and tragedy ennobles, and you had better find out the difference between that which flattens and that which upbuilds.” Loss can happen at any time. It might be our employment or business, our health or even the loss of someone close. None of us are immune. But in spite of any challenges we face in life, God can bring a great blessing.
But there are also the good things, the victories we will experience. Nobody’s life is absent of some measure of success. For Christians, we experience it as we grow in the grace of God. How many of us can thank God for life itself or where they may have ended up without Him? Growing closer to God is something that is a part of the pattern of life. There are many other blessings we experience on a daily basis. These are things we often take for granted like His provision of food, work, shelter, family and friends.
But in the end, regardless of what the new year brings, it is important that we are connected with Christ. Connection with Christ gives us the ability to live out the pattern Christ modelled for us. So my challenge and question to each one of us today is this: “Are you ready to face another year of living?” Every single day we are blessed with is a gift from God and the opportunity to magnify Christ in our lives and service of Him. Use this gift wisely.