Saturday, 2 January 2016

Happy New Year! Resolutions?

Happy New Year! I wonder how you celebrated? Did you make any resolutions?

Here in Africa, it seems very popular among churches to have an overnight celebration on New Year's Eve. Our church met from 9 pm until about 6 am. I confess, I left at 1 am, knowing it would not be a wise choice to begin the new year without sleep. All around, you could hear noisy praise and prayer meetings lasting throughout the night. What a contrast to what I would normally associate with Hogmanay! In my home village in Scotland, there would often be a party lasting until breakfast time, where everybody would bring an instrument or simply their voices, and we would play traditional songs and dance the old dances through the night, often out in the cold, frosty air; I loved these parties. There seemed to be a remnant of good, old-fashioned fun, without excess. In contrast to that, I remember one night when I went to Edinburgh with friends for the street party; that was quite a terrifying evening with large crowds of rowdy young teenagers and young adults, mostly under the influence of excessive alcohol (and probably more). I remember feeling cold, lost, alone and yes, quite frightened at times. Whilst some of the praise parties that go on over here may be loud and not always theologically precise, it is amazing to be part of a culture which places putting Christ first as a high priority. I enjoyed spending those hours reflecting on God's goodness and faithfulness over the past years, and committing the year ahead to Him.

People often talk about resolutions. I gave up on the idea of specific new year resolutions a long time ago; if something needs to be changed, then why wait until new year? However, I do find it profitable to spend some time reflecting on the overarching goals of the year ahead. What should be our priorities? 

A friend recommended a list of 70 resolutions, written in modern English but attributable to the great Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards. These were not so much New Year resolutions, but the standards by which he sought to live his life, and against which he continually measured his spiritual state. It's impressive! When I read through it, I feel quite challenged that I don't really think in such depth about all aspects of life.

But what does the Bible say about resolutions? There are so many exhortations and admonitions to live pure, holy, righteous lives characterised by love and acts of service underpinned by pure motives that I will not attempt to list them. But in one place the Apostle Paul specifically talks about his resolutions:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 

I suppose my goals as we move into 2016 could similarly be summarised. To quote Paul again,

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Whatever you do... The big, obvious, public things. And the small, seemingly insignificant, hidden, private things. And not only what you do, but the thoughts you think, the motives that drive you, the desires of the heart. In all these things to give ultimate glory to God.

The ramifications of this will be different for each of us. But I  think that anybody who reads that verse prayerfully will be convicted. I wish to get to 31st December 2016 (if the Lord spares me) and be able to see ways in which God has been glorified in all areas of life. I won't have a checklist quite like that of Jonathan Edwards, although it might prove helpful to have a shorter, focussed list of areas to consider. But my prayer is that in ALL things I can resemble Christ more and more.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27 - the word 'whatever' refers to any kind of outward circumstance which may present itself. Some months and years are characterised by relative peace, prosperity, material blessing and strong relationships. Other times may seem marred by illness, discordant relationships, financial hardships and spiritual despondency. But WHATEVER happens, we are to live God honouring lives.

As you move into 2016, may your life resemble Christ more and more. May your words bring blessing and encouragement. May your home provide peace and security. May your choices be wise. May your Bible reading bring greater understanding of God's goodness. May your hope be fully in Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment