A brand-new year is here, and I'm excited to see what the Lord has for us! Keeping Christ at the center of our thoughts takes a great deal of discipline and determination, but so does everything else we really care about. It comes down to how serious we are about knowing God and how willing we are to give him total control of our life.
Whatever we become involved with, he simply wants us to listen and obey his instructions, which is the reason we are here. If we abide under the shadow of his wings, we will walk in the peace and joy of his Spirit, but if we choose to live our own way, we will remain empty and miserable.
Matthew 22 gives us the meaning of life: "Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment."
Actually, the Bible contains many passages where God declares how much he loves us and wants to save us, but most of the time we're so busy making our own decisions that we hardly ever consider the distractions that are preventing us from serving him.
In Revelation 2, he's disappointed with how the Ephesians had left their "first love," and today is a perfect time for us to examine our heart and think about this important decision. The incarnation, crucifixion and the resurrection are all about God's passion to have a personal relationship with us.
Along with making resolutions, the new year is the perfect occasion to start developing spiritual lifestyle changes. You notice I used the word "developing" because drawing closer to God is a process of patience much like losing weight, exercising or any other type goal in which we are working toward a goal. For example, eating a salad today is not going to automatically fix our weight problem, but it's a positive first step, and the same is true with learning how to become a follower of Christ. There have been many adaptations from the original Alcoholics Anonymous credo that warns everyone to be realistic about trying to change everything all at once because personal transformation is a lifestyle change that will require serious concentration and perseverance.
It's great to have long-term goals, and we should release our faith into accomplishing our destiny, but it's also important to focus on our mission one day at a time. It would be much better to go slow with permanent results than to rush and become overwhelmed with frustration and disappointment. Philippians 3:14 says, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus," and this reveals a critical truth that no one else can do this for us. Personal change is always between us and God!
A great place to begin would be to dedicate a few minutes each day simply talking with God. Daily Bible reading is another excellent place to give our attention because his words are spiritual nourishment to our soul and will help fill our mind and heart with strength and confidence.
A new way of thinking will require courage and a fierce tenacity because our old nature hates to be disciplined and to surrender control. Also, as many of you know, the Christian life is a serious challenge because of the added resistance from the dark side. Long story short: It's not easy, but absolutely worth it!
I've recorded an 80-minute CD where I narrate more than 100 encouraging Bible passages, along with prayers and several original songs that are filled with hope, joy and faith. This is an encouraging resource for those who would like to fill their mind and soul with God's promises. Contact me and I would be glad to send you a free copy.
God is always faithful, and if we look at the past year, we will notice that he has been working in our lives even when we did not realize it. This coming year, may you discover the wonders of God's love and receive the peace and contentment you are searching for. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become brand new" II Corinthians 5:17.
Dr. William F. Holland Jr. is a Christian minister and outreach chaplain in central Kentucky. To learn more, visit billyhollandministries.com.