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How to Prepare for the New Year – Part One

Why prepare and plan for 2014?

An instinctive reason is that we all need new starts. From time to time we need to bury the past and start again to go further. God is the God of creation, of seasons and rhythms, of night and day. Jeremiah says, “Your mercies (compassions) are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22). So my regular prayer – often in the mornings when I come before God – is “O God of second chances and new beginnings, here I am again!” And God promises us, “Do not hold onto the former things… I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Look for the new things he’s doing.

We need to prepare for 2014 because we need vision and direction: “where there is no vision (purpose from God), the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Viktor Frankel (in Man’s Search of Meaning, his observations from the Holocaust) said to live for a purpose beyond yourself is to have real reason to live. In terms of vision, if you aim at nothing you will surely hit it! If you aim at some things you will grow, you will be directed, you will be stretched and achieve some things. It’s important for self-image and living well with yourself. And “new year’s resolutions”, “turning a new leaf”, etc, is mostly a self-defeating exercise. Most people revert back to their old habits within a few weeks. We need an approach that is long-lasting and more long-term, that is deeper in terms of vision and convictions and sustainability.

Underlying Considerations

Prepare with God and for God – if indeed God is your (G)god! God planned your life: YOU have a life-purpose and destiny, a particular role in God’s economy. How much do you value your life as God’s sacred gift to you and the world around you? What you do with your life, who you become, is your returned gift to God. In terms of preparation and planning, take a long-term view of your life – who you want to become, and eventually achieve – and then work backwards to this year, 2014. Do not be in a hurry and seek quick success, God has all the time in the world – he’s not in a hurry in growing you into the person he wants you to be! So be intentional in your planning; be clear, specific, and led by convictions.

The Key: Planning and Prayer

There are two extremes in terms of life and planning: humanism and false spirituality. We must uphold the tension between planning (human responsibility) and prayer (dependence on God). It’s not either/or… it’s and/both. The Rabbi’s say, “When you pray, pray as if everything depends on God. When you work (or plan) work as if everything depends on you.” Both are true at the same time. Do both! This balance of intensely depending on God while planning/working diligently in your life, is taught by Solomon, the wisest man in the world. He said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:4-5).

In fact, he goes further… meditate on these verses:
“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but the proper answer of the tongue is from God”
“All a person’s ways seem right to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord”
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans”
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”
“Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it’s the Lord’s purpose that prevails”
(Proverbs 16:1-4, 19:21)

Preparing for 2014 – short way! (The long way next week – Part Two)

Plan to take extended quality time alone with God this week. You have to slow down, become silent… be still… and reflect and listen. First reflect on 2013 – thank God for the good things, and then resolve before God the painful things from last year. To move on without laying to rest unresolved past issues is often to repeat the past; or it will stumble you going forward, again and again, till it’s resolved.

Now invite God into your new year, and dedicate it to him. I listen carefully to God in my daily devotions every new-year, taking what he is saying to me through his Word as my year theme (in terms of Following Jesus, our local church, our year theme is: “Being the Beloved – A Year of Spiritual Formation”). Then ask God to show you the three or four key things (priorities/goals) that you need to focus on for 2014. Keep it short and specific. More than four or five becomes too many to focus on. Decide on them and record them in your journal.  And plan specific strategies or ways to achieve them. Think about it. Record them as well. Resolve to do them with God’s help. Commit them to the Lord and begin the process now!

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