Note to self: Don’t squander this fresh start. Don’t allow the failures and missed opportunities of the past year(s) to oppress you and hold you back from being who you really want to be.
You know what you want to do this year: you want to make a difference. You want to deepen your love for God, strengthen your dependence on him, and reflect his love, grace, and mercy more brilliantly. You want to love, forgive and reconcile with others. You want to live the way God intended!
But… and you know the but… that sounds so intimidating. What does it look like? What does it require – how much time, energy, money, love, vulnerability, and forgiveness? How much do you have to change? Will it be worth it, or will you end up depleted and unfulfilled?
Who among us doesn’t want to be a better version of ourselves throughout the new year? Who doesn’t want to grow in their faith? Who doesn’t want to experience a new depth of love for God? Who doesn’t want to make an impact? I think we all do. There’s something within us that longs to be better, to do better, and to refine every gift we’ve been given so that we are more useful for God. Nevertheless, there are also things that keep holding us back: fear, anxiety, complacency, fatigue, _____ (you fill in the blank).
In our hearts, we really do want to live as God would have us, and we know that means we must change, but how do we begin to change? Too often the patterns of life are ingrained so deeply that change seems impossible. We buy books to help us change. We read articles about change. And yet, we continue on as we are and nothing changes. So, we pray for change – I do, I assume you do as well.
We pray for more wisdom and yet continue to spend too many evenings like brainless zombies zoned out in front of the TV mindlessly consuming worthless drivel.
We beg God for depth in our relationships and then we shush the Holy Spirit when he prompts us to place that call, write that note, or reach out for the hand that is closest to us.
We ask God to use us to make a difference in other’s lives, but we find ourselves spending hours scrolling through social media newsfeeds and the only difference we ponder is which emoticon to click on.
We ask God for a deeper understanding of who he is, but we’re too busy to attend a Bible study, let alone pick up the Bible – or open the app we downloaded last January 1 – and read it.
I think we don’t change because we aren’t willing to make the changes. We ask God to miraculously change us, but God doesn’t do for us that which we can do for ourselves. God does that which we cannot do. God will transform us and change the way we think – but only as we choose to follow him (Romans 12:2).
Therefore, once our thoughts are transformed, the actual change is up to us. Doing something, or many things differently is a choice we must make. And when we don’t choose change, we squander a lot of what God gives us.
I will confess, I have squandered a LOT of time this year because I didn’t make changes. And that translates to a lot of lost opportunities. Once time is gone, it’s gone. You can’t go back and grab it, you can’t go back and change it, and you can’t go back and re-do. This moment, once it becomes history, is unchangeable. Every minute is either used or wasted.
But today – today is January 1! A new day. A new year. A new opportunity for change. A new chance to begin becoming the person you want to be. A fresh start to living the abundant life Christ has in mind for you. The past may be the past, but it does not own you, it does not define you, and it does not have to be the pattern for the future. Jesus died to break the chains that bind you to the past (Romans 7).
Thankfully “God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience*.” When we confess our failures, our selfishness, and our wastefulness God forgives us (1 John 1:8-10). Not only that, God instructs us how to go forward with him (Psalm 32:8). The future is bright. Very bright. You can be who you want to be; who God wants you to be.
Are you ready to make the changes you know you need to make to become the man or woman God designed you to be? Or will you take the chance that there is plenty of time to change? What if today is the last opportunity for a fresh start for you? What if this is the last year you have to make a difference? Will you squander yet another opportunity? Or will 2019 be the year of your greatest change? Why not choose to live as if this is the last day, the last opportunity, the last chance for you?
*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 31 Devotion
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