Ah, the New Year. The anticipation of all that’s to come and all that’s hoped for lies stretching out ahead of you, like a blank canvass. And then the expectation of resolutions descends upon you like a flurry of wet, heavy snow. You knew it was coming, and you mentally prepared for it somewhere in your subconscious. But now people are sharing theirs on Facebook, or asking you at the coffee shop what yours is – or if you have any. You even kind of expect it of yourself. Americans do New Year’s resolutions. That’s what we do. We’re doers. We make plans and we expend ourselves in the direction of something productive. Huzzah, capitalism and self-improvement! All these thoughts run through your head and crowd you into a corner of “should” as a new year has barely begun. Already the weight of 2017 is heavy on your shoulders, and the calendar page has barely flipped over.
This year, before you go dizzy trying to figure out what all you should do, or even want to do, let’s discuss a nice little foundation for the “new you” going forward. A little something to build on.
I propose finding it in yourself, with the Lord’s help, to BE some things. You can’t really do what’s not in you. Choose being over doing. So it’s time to adopt some qualities or values that make us ready for the good deeds set aside by our Father in heaven for us to do:
R – Resilient: When hurdles come along and block your agenda, do you shrink back from your task and start searching your pocket for your victim card? Or do you recall that “all things work for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28), and keep forging ahead when you know what you do is right?
E – Encouraging: Encouragement is one of those things that seems to swirl around and catch everyone up in it once it’s started; it’s contagious. Our words have the ability to drag others down and kill emotions or ideas, and also to infuse vigor and hopefulness. “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up,” says Romans 15:2.
S – Sacrificial: The most sobering question I ever ask myself is Am I just living for myself? We were created to serve a purpose in this world, and yet our self-servient nature must always be battled with to take back time, talents, and efforts that would be more fulfilling to spend on others. Learn to see and seize opportunities. Remember, humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less often.
O – Observant: Our modern society makes us live in a blur. Even when we’re stationary, technology, shortened attention spans, and thoughts about what we could be doing can make us miss so much that’s in front of us. We can learn to truly see other people, and take note of their lives. Then, action to serve and love can be taken. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
L – Lenient: This is another way of saying gracious. Allow for people to be who they are, understanding that we all are flawed in our own ways, and yet all are valuable to God. Check judgment and anger in all interactions, and that will allow the edifices of relationship to stand the test of time. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Especially in today’s increasingly godless culture, we must allow others to see that we are bearing with them, because we want to connect them with ideas that are life-giving.
V – Victorious: “Ya can’t win em all,” the saying goes. Yeah, well, as Jesus-followers, we’ve won the only one that matters: the battle over sin and death. Christ fought and won for YOU, and then hung the medal around your neck. Remember to look down at its gleaming beauty and know who you are. Then go out and live like a champion. Not arrogant, but exuberant.
E – Empathetic: When you decide to go out into your world and really mix with it, to make a difference, you’ll encounter so much that’s different from you, so much that’s painful to hear or see, and so much that offends your sensibilities. Remember that every single one of us is God’s child, and we’re all sinners. Some of us just hide our messes better. But whenever you find messy situations, serve with the words of Galatians 6:2 in mind: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And what is Christ’s law? Love one another. Always love.
While it may sound just as difficult to increase in any of these qualities as it is to do tasks, there are some encouraging things to consider. First off, pause for a second and think about these things above. Don’t you feel more in tune with those values, and more ready to live them out, just from having read about them? If so, that’s proof that meditating on things like that can be a method of growth. Any time you act those things out is real growth and foundational improvement. So keep this list out somewhere and meditate on it often! Or make a list of your own qualities – whatever keeps you focused on the mind and heart of Christ.
Speaking of Christ, the other encouraging element to this approach to resolutions is that, so long as the qualities are things that are of God himself (notice how often I could attach Scripture passages to these qualities), they’re sure to be perfect prayer cannon fodder. God loves to give you more of what you need, to be a shining light in this world. James 1:5 assures us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Boom! It’s that easy! Don’t you love how God’s Word answers all our misgivings?
So in this dawning light of a new year, don’t get buried in sticky notes or To-Do lists that are daunting and sometimes impractical. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Start with being before doing. The being will lead to the doing. We at Lutherans for Life sincerely hope that your new year finds you busy at work with a full heart, moving towards our cause for the sanctity of life, and all other worthy causes that God sets us toward. May God be glorified through all that we can become, and all deeds we do in His name!
Have a blessed 2017, friends of Life!
Author: Jeff Ulrich
Jeff is a husband, father, and graduate school student. He attends Hope Lutheran in Oconomowoc. Jeff’s background in ministry education and future in the counseling field reflect a heart that loves to serve others and make a difference. He shares his personal or spiritual reflections in his own time at www.missionpossiblejeffulrich.blogspot.com
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