By Kristin B. Sizemore
The New Year’s Resolution seems almost obsolete. Instead, thanks to social media, we read our friends’ unresolutions, which are remarkably similar to actual resolutions, despite their vigorous claims to the contrary. Why? Because the New Year’s Resolution seems to be made to be broken and we have inevitably broken so many that we’re ashamed to make new ones. Still, the start of a new year begs the human mind to contemplate new goals, new hopes, new dreams, a new perspective. No matter how many times we have failed to stay true to our New Year’s Resolutions, we really can’t help but make new ones, even if we keep our vows a secret. Regardless of whether you keep these goals to yourself or whether you proudly proclaim them from the rooftops, here are a few things to remember as you evaluate your path through the new year. I’ve learned most of these lessons the hard way, but you don’t have to!
Before you can have a fresh start, you have to get rid of the old baggage. You may not see this as a choice. It is. It most definitely is. You can chose to go forward without all that weighs you down. If you don’t believe me, listen to what God’s Word has to say about it.
Casting all your cares on him; for he careth for you. -1 Peter 5:7 KJV
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… -Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV
God doesn’t promise that Jesus will forcibly remove our cares or steal our weights from us as we hang onto them for dear life. Nothing works like that, ever. Just like salvation and every gift thereafter, you will have to receive your new beginning through faith. Believe that Jesus can handle all you are carrying. Choose to lay your burdens at His feet. Trust Him enough to leave them there. Choose to lay aside the weights and sins that are hindering your relationship with Jesus. Trust that He will take care of you. Trust that He will sustain you. Trust that no matter how much you want to pick them back up, that your cares are better off in His hands, because His Word says so. Your weights and sins are not worth it, because His Word says so.
Now, that you know what to do with those cares and weights, you have to figure out what’s holding you back. Which parts of your life are hindering your happiness and success? Make a list. Write down the things that hurt, aggravate, anger, hinder, and distress you. Which of those things can you change? Honestly, you may be able to only change a few of your problems. You can change your perspective on all of them.
And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it flowed with milk and honey…Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there…But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw giants, the sons of Anak…we were in our own sight as grasshoppers…And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!…And the Lord said…Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles…and have tempted me now…and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it…Say unto them…your carcases shall fall in the wilderness; and all that were numbered of you…which have murmured against me, Doubtless ye shall not come into the land…After the number of days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities…Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord. -Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33; 14:2, 20, 22-23, 28-30, 34, 37 KJV (Emphasis added)
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it…And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us…Only rebel not against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not…And the Lord said…Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun…But Joshua…and Caleb…which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still. -Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9, 20, 30, 38 KJV (Emphasis added)
So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses… -Joshua 11:23
…Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him [Joshua], …my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God…behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years…Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day…And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. -Joshua 14:6, 8, 10, 12-13 KJV
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. -Hebrews 11:1-2 KJV (Emphasis added)
Choose the good report of the Lord. When Moses sent the 12 spies to scout out the Promised Land, they really did see giants, enormous city walls, and lands that were unconquerable from a carnal point of view. The problem wasn’t in the facts, it was in the perspective. Ten of the twelve spies chose a perspective of unbelief and presented an evil report. Joshua and Caleb also saw the giants in the land. They saw the heavily guarded walls encompassing the cities of Canaan. The difference was in their perspective. They believed that they were able to possess the land, because God had promised that they would. The ten spies that brought the evil report died. The people that rebelled against God’s promise and accepted the evil report would wander in the wilderness until they died as well. They didn’t possess the land because they refused to receive the victory through faith. Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land 40 years later, as the only two survivors from their generation because they were committed to the good report of the Lord, even though it seemed impossible. Keep walking toward your Promised Land. Stop looking at the obstacles with carnal eyes. Pray for God’s direction and then follow it. When He answers your prayer and directs you and you choose not to follow His instruction, you’re accepting an evil report. When everything falls perfectly into place, you feel the presence of the Lord, and it seems easy, you are not using faith. When nothing seems to be working, when you feel nothing, when it’s impossible; those are the times when you can put your faith to action. Stop looking at your problems through carnal eyes. Look at your list, pray about it, and listen to what God has to say about what you’re facing. If God promises to make a way, cross that problem off your list and live your life in faith, knowing that it’s taken care of. Before you know it, the victory will come because you’ve truly believed He is able.
If all the drama, unbelief, and hinderances are gone, then what’s left? All the things that matter and are worth the fight remain. If your marriage is in a rut, evaluate what you can do to change things. Stop focusing on what your spouse should do and see if there’s something you can do. Sure, your spouse can absolutely put his dirty underwear in the hamper, or be more attentive, or help more around the house. But the question remains; what can you do? Maybe you can take a different approach as you try to communicate. Maybe you can be more loving and merciful. Fix what you can fix, take the rest to the Lord, and see what happens. If your relationship with your kids is in a weird spot, what can you do? Yes, your horrible teenager can probably shut his/her smart mouth and appreciate you, but what can you do? Maybe you can correct their behavior, at least to a point, through discipline. Maybe you can let them know that you’re here, loving them unconditionally, even though they’re fairly unlikable right now. If your finances are a mess, sit down and make a list or a spreadsheet and honestly assess where you are. What can you change? You may have to replace your Tarte foundation with Rimmel this month. You may have to cook more and go out less.
When we’re overwhelmed, it’s hard to see the answers, but if we can take a deep breath, roll up our sleeves and get to work, the crisis at hand is often more manageable than we think. For example, I’m honestly not the best housekeeper. At my best, I struggle. When things get hectic, home time is limited, and everyone is running around like maniacs, it gets embarrassing. At that point, I’m overwhelmed. There’s no hope. My house will never be clean again. I consider calling Social Services to remove my children from their unsuitable environment. (I’m prone to be a little dramatic.) The last time this happened, I was literally face down on my bed, my feet sticking off the side, when my very logical, black and white husband came in and was pretty amused. I let it all out, bemoaned the situation, and cried when I told him that I didn’t know what to do. He had some sensible advice. Even though I hate sensible advice, I knew he was right. We had to clean the house. That was it. He helped me and it was no fun, but we targeted a room at a time and just cleaned up. Slowly, the problem was solved and we lived in a nice, clean home again. If you don’t struggle in this area, you’re probably either amused or disgusted about now, but, honestly, this is just like whatever you struggle with. Nothing will ever get fixed until you take steps to fix it. Cut back on spending. Choose your battles. Fold the laundry. Whatever it is, just get started. Break the situation down and take the actions you need to take. Nothing will change until you take action. So, evaluate your obstacles and formulate a plan.
DON’T FORGET YOUR ARMOR!
You’re getting ready to move forward, not only into a new year, but possibly into a new era in your life! Before you continue on your journey, make sure you are armed for the battles that lie ahead, because they will be there.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand, Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: -Ephesians 6:10-17 KJV (Emphasis added)
First, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! This requires faith. Don’t lean on fleshly accomplishments or abilities. Find your strength in the power of His might! You are nothing without the Lord.
Take advantage of all God has to offer, the whole armor of God, but first, know what you are facing. The enemy is going to fight and attack. Actually, enemies would be a more accurate articulation of what we face. If you’ll notice the words principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, are all pluralized. If you want to better educate yourself regarding the forces of darkness that you face, do a little research on the gods that continually tried to draw Israel into idolatry, the fallen sons of God from Genesis 6, and their offspring; scary stuff. We may never understand the order of evil completely, but we know this; all cosmically evil entities hate God and they all hate humanity. Put your armor on, people.
The armor of God offers promises to withstand the most evil and powerful attacks. It’s everything we need. When we have it on, even when the battle has been long and hard, we are promised victory if we can just stand, fully armed. The armor won’t help you if you don’t stand in faith. Remember Joshua and Caleb? Once they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they still had to conquer the enemies before them. It took a few years. They were old and tired. Still, they pressed on in faith and possessed the land they had set their hearts on decades before. The battles are coming, but don’t be afraid if the Lord is with you.
FORWARD IN FAITH!
[At the red sea…] And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:” -Exodus 14:15 KJV (Emphasis added)
For we walk by faith, not by sight: -2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV (Emphasis added)
You’ve purged you’re life, evaluated what remains, and armed yourself with a determination to stand. Now, just walk forward in faith. No matter what comes, keep walking forward toward the good report of the Lord. If you’re walking forward in faith, you’re living your life knowing that God is who He claims to be in His Word. Think about that. If you’re serving the Creator of the Universe, the very present help in trouble, the beginning, the end, the Lord of Hosts, what do you fear? Nothing. Nothing is greater than His hand. When things don’t work out the way you planned, you don’t doubt or question because you know that His ways are beyond your understanding and you trust His ultimate plan. Your worries won’t be all that overwhelming because you know that you are in the hands of Jehovah-jireh, God your Provider. When you truly have faith, when you truly believe in who He is, you’ll be amazed at how little can shake you. When you live in faith, you live in victory because you are constantly turning your battles over to the God who doesn’t fail. Your fleshly vision of victory may not match His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful decisions, but that won’t matter when you trust Him with all of your heart. So get up, get yourself together, put your trust in an Almighty God, and walk forward in faith.
DON’T LOOK BACK!
Remember Lot’s wife. -(Words of Jesus), Luke 17:32 KJV
Jesus simply warns us to remember Lot’s wife. If you want to refresh yourself on the story, read Genesis 18-19. Don’t ever look back; to the good, the bad, what could have been, or what should have been. Your past and your future run in two different directions. You can’t follow them both. If you’re looking back, you’re not walking toward the good report of the Lord, your potential in Christ, God’s plan for your future, or Heaven, the ultimate goal. You have to choose between your past and your future. Only one leads to life. The other leads to things you can’t change, things that will never be again, things that weren’t meant to be in the first place, and even good things that will hold you back if you dwell on the old victories instead of pursuing new ones. Press onward toward new victories. Look straight ahead and run the race.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city. -(Words of Jesus), Matthew 10:14-15
Sometimes people or places seem to trigger the desire to stop for a moment, turn around, and look back. Sometimes people trigger an evil report on purpose. Sometimes people openly oppose the good report of the Lord in your life. If the same triggers keep popping up, it’s time to make some changes. No, I’m not saying be mean or unforgiving. I’m saying, shake the dust off your feet and let the Lord deal with it. Sometimes we have to choose to leave things behind. You can love. You can forgive. You still don’t have an excuse to look back. Leave whatever you need to leave behind and press forward, toward the prize.
DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE ULTIMATE GOAL!
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-14 KJV
Don’t forget where you’re headed. No matter what your flesh desires, no matter how hard life gets, no matter what it takes, you have to remember that Heaven will be worth it all. When you struggle, suffer loss, feel overwhelmed, or get discouraged, encourage yourself in the Lord and dwell on the eternal reward He has for you. As you run this race, cherish the joy of the Lord. Have fun! Help others! Hide His Word in your heart. It is the Word of Life. Strive to be faithful to God. He’ll be faithful to you in return. Worship Him with all your heart, just for who He is. This year, more than ever before, be determined to make Heaven your eternal home and reach your full potential in Christ along the way.