New Year’s Day is always a mix of emotions for me. It marks the end of a year and the busy Christmas season. The week between Christmas day and New Year’s Day is typically free of schedule demands and involves a lot of rest, relaxation, and meaningful time with family and friends.
But, New Year’s Day also means a new season is about to begin. A new year has started, and with it, new hopes, dreams, goals, and plans emerge with an optimism that insures the new year will be better than the last one.
The concept of celebrating a New Year has been around for centuries. The calendars of the ancients included times of celebration for endings and beginnings. And the biblical writers have given us much to consider as we enter a new year determined to make the most of it.
I am often drawn to Psalm 1 on New Year’s Day:
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither--whatever they do prospers.” -Psalm 1:1-3
I’ve always appreciated the promise of this passage.
Do this, and this will happen.
Do be careful who you allow to influence you.
Do find joy and strength in the Bible.
Do meditate on the words of the Bible.
And if you will do these things, this will happen. Not maybe happen, or possibly happen, or hopefully happen--these things will happen: you will live a life on a strong foundation, like a tree with roots so deep nothing can move it.
The word “do” is not widely appreciated in church circles. And I understand why. Many people who grew up in church are well-versed in a “works-based” theology. It wasn’t about who you were in Christ, it was about what you did.
My thoughts on Psalm 1 have nothing to do with the concept of “works-based” theology or imply a “do more, do better” mentality. Psalm 1 paints a cause-and-effect picture. There are certain things we can do that bring God's blessing in our lives.
Psalm 1 is not presented as a mandate or a threat. It just simply tells us a very important truth: God’s blessing comes when we decide to put him first in all things. When we read and meditate on the law of the Lord (the Bible) day and night, we become stronger and are able to live stable lives in all seasons and all circumstances.
Knowing the promised outcome, you’d think we would do it. Eagerly. Consistently. But we don’t.
The apostle Paul reminds us of the dilemma: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.” -Romans 7:15
Our Executive Pastor, Terry Feix, spoke in our OKC services this past Sunday and gave us a challenge for the new year:
- Commit to be in the Bible every day.
- Commit to be with God’s people every week.
- Commit to serve. Put your faith into action.
Terry also mentioned that when you do anything every day for 21 days, it forms a new habit. All the more reason to read and meditate on God’s word. This new year holds challenges we do not yet perceive. There will be seasons of refreshing, but there will also be seasons of difficulty. It’s a fact of life.
When the storms come--and they will--isn’t it wonderful to know that we will make it through the storms? No matter the season, we will be like a tree planted by streams of water, a tree that will bear fruit in season and whose leaves will not wither.
It all comes down to a choice: are you going to do anything differently in this new year? Do you want to finally have the discipline and courage to break bad habits, eliminate the vicious cycle of self doubt, stop giving into temptations that seek to destroy you, have the courage to say “no” to what must stop and “yes” to what must begin?
If you’re waiting for a slower time in life, it won’t come. Take it from me. I always thought life would start slowing down. It doesn’t. It speeds up. And the older you get, the harder it is to break old habits that have taken much and contributed nothing.
Every now and then when the schedule has become challenging, when the demands and pressures of people seem defeating, I will often mutter to myself, ”something’s gotta give."
This coming Sunday, I will begin a new series called “Something’s Gotta Give.” If you don’t decide this week to do things differently in the new year, nothing much will change.
Our schedules lack a sense of priority. We get to the weekends exhausted. We put gathering with God’s people aside. We spend money without a budget. We have little time to sit together at the dinner table and talk about life.
We live in a culture that has a dim view of priorities, and the result is exhausted schedules, financial pressures, and fragile relationships with other people and God. Something’s gotta give.
So in this new year, I encourage you to put yourself in a place where God will give you something you desperately need: a life planted firmly in things that matter.