It’s hard to believe that another year is history and a new one has just begun. These times of transition between seasons give us an opportunity to “reflect” on how our life is really going and to “resolve” to do some things differently.
Of course, we know that it will take more than reflection and some resolutions to bring about deep and lasting change in our lives. We need to go deeper within our hearts and look at our values – what really matters most.
What matters most to you?
We get our values from a lot of places including our parents, our peers, the books we read, the music we listen to and from society in general. The Apostle John, in 1 John 2:15-16, tells us that the three primary values of the world are pleasure (feeling good, being happy and having a good time), possessions (getting more and better “stuff”) and prestige (power, position and popularity).
It’s so important that we don’t buy into the world’s value system (Rom.12:1-12) because, as innocent as these things may seem, they don’t last and they have no eternal value (1 John 2:17). Just ask Solomon (read Ecclesiastes)!
What matters most is knowing and loving God (Mt.22:37-38), loving people (1 Cor.13:1-7) and investing our time, talents and resources for the benefit of others (Eph.2:10). These three things have lasting and eternal value. They really count in the long term.
The challenge for us is to ensure that there is congruence between what we say matters most and how we’re really living. Are our preferred values our actual values? The truth is that often we’re disappointed with ourselves. Most of us feel some pain because we realise that the way we are living does not fully match what we say really matters most to us. It’s like our lives are out of sync. There is a “gap” between what we really value and how we are living. Even Paul experienced this same frustration (Rom.7:15-25).
The good news is that the gospel is not just about eternal life in the hereafter but about another kind of life available to us right now. It’s about “transformation” – you and I changing and growing to become more like Jesus, someone who knew what mattered most and lived in total harmony with it every moment of every day (Gal.4:19. Rom.12:2. 2 Cor.3:18).
Bridging this gap between what matters most and the way we are living is going to take some “training” not just “trying” harder (see 1 Tim.4:7-8. 1 Cor.9:24-27. Luke 6:40). You can’t go out and run a marathon simply by trying really hard. Trying hard only accomplishes so much. No, you need to train, which means to arrange your life around certain practices or activities that will empower you to do what you cannot now do by will power alone. In the same way, spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely by the use of appropriate spiritual disciplines (for a great read on this subject, see John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”).
Another important way to bridge this gap is to ensure that our time is spent on the right things. Set some goals and then schedule time in the New Year to do what matters most. May the coming year be a time where you become more intimate in your relationship with God, where you become more loving in every relationship you have and where you strategically invest your life for the benefit of others and the kingdom of God. Have a wonderful and a fruitful New Year!