Here we are again. We have been here before and Lord willing we will be here again. A new year. Why do people make such a big deal about the turn of a calendar day?
There’s something exciting about things that are new. Various seasons of life are marked by the description of new. When people get married, they are called newlyweds depicting the reality of their new venture in life together. New parents are those who, for the first time in their life, are embarking on the journey of raising up another human being. There are other times when new is the best way to describe a change in life. For example, think about a new job, a new home, a new car, or even a new puppy. When something is new it carries with it an expectation of potential and an excitement for what lies ahead. This is also felt in simple pleasures like new restaurant or a new episode of a favorite show. The new year is similar, as people look ahead with expectation and excitement.
So as the hype of Christmas settles into the rearview and you begin to regain some routine after the holidays, I want to encourage you to consider why it can be good to reflect on the value of treating the new year with fresh expectation and intention.
The start of a new year is a great time to engage in personal reflection and consider modifications you might want to make in life. But it is not just an exercise in self-improvement. I want to offer four reasons why this can actually be a means of stewarding your life for the glory of God. At the risk of being misunderstood, I don’t want to communicate that setting “New Year’s resolutions” is a kind of spiritual mandate or act of piety. I will say that whether it is at the start of a new year or any other time of the year, making intentional adjustments or participating in thoughtful planning can be a helpful exercise in a Christian’s life. In light of this, I offer four considerations to encourage you in making the the most of this New Year.
1. Reflection allows for re-evaluation. In our first years of life, we visit the doctor regularly for what are called well-baby checks. The reason is not because anything is wrong, but it is to make sure things are right. Taking time to reflect at the start of a new year can be viewed as a wellness check. It is an opportunity to take a look at your life the way a doctor examines a young patient and evaluates how things are going. A careful examination of our life helps us to make any needed adjustments.
It is a sign of spiritual health to take time to examine ourselves. Lamentation 3:40 says, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.” Don’t wait for things to be wrong in your life. Let the New Year be a time of self-examination and prayerfully consider what changes may be needed.
2. A stagnant life is an unhealthy life. Continuing with the metaphor of the well-baby exams, the doctor is concerned if a child’s progress stops or slows. When a child fails to thrive or misses key benchmarks it raises alarm. When personal growth stops in our lives it is also a concerning sign. But change does not need to be a grand event. Slight improvements overtime bring significant change. Big goals or changes can be helpful but small changes eventually create major shifts in the long run. If change is daunting or discouraging, think small. This is often the way the Lord works on us.
Reflect on the year ahead. What small shifts do you need to make? Maybe it is in your spiritual life? Maybe it is with a relationship? Whatever it is, use this New Year as a time to commit to that change no matter how small. God brings change slowly — one degree at a time. Allow 2 Corinthians 3:18 to remind you that, “we all…are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
3. Planning is a part of the Imago Dei. As created beings we bear the image of God (Imago Dei). Every single human being has the likenesses of the God who made them stamped on them. When we create we reflect our creator God. When we manage or lead we do so in part because the image of a sovereign God is on us. When we plan we imitate a strategic God who calculated where to put the stars and at what place the ocean should end. Before the foundations of the world, He was planning.
As we look ahead to a new year with more specific intention we must take all of our plans and lay them before the One who holds our future. We plan but the Lord establishes our path (Proverbs 16:9).
4. New is a gift from God. Some of the best things in Scripture are described as new. In Christ we have new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are given a new name that only God knows (Revelation 2:17). We will live in a new world where all things are as they should be. In fact, the final promise of the Bible related to the Lord’s returning is that He is making all things new (Revelation 21:5).
Celebrating new is a small picture of what we will one day know in full. New is a gift that should be stewarded well. It is a treasure not to be taken for granted.
As you enter a new year consider how you might engage it with intention and purpose. One helpful resource is Donald Whitney’s Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year. Use the questions to pause and reflect regarding the direction of your life.