With Christmas in our rearview mirror and the New Year straight ahead of us, the mind of many turns from the Christ-child, seasonal snacking, and presents received or given to resolving to do better in various areas of life. Some will focus on the body – lose or gain weight, exercise more, drop bad habits, or commit to a healthier diet. Others will set their attention to relational issues – argue less with their spouse or children, vow to be more loving, kind, and considerate, make more friends/ leave bad influences behind, have intentional conversations, or spend less time online (as my daughter is fond of saying – “disconnect to reconnect”); the list of relational resolutions is nearly endless. Still others will resolve to meet financial goals, educational goals, prep for the future, become more activistic, or…you fill in the blank.
While all of the above are good and often temporally necessary, there is one area of our lives that must not be neglected as we consider areas that demand our attention, strengthening, growth, and even, in many cases, streamlining. I’m talking about our spiritual life – our soul – that which will continue on into eternity after our temporal body is lifeless. With all the demands of life and political concerns both foreign and domestic, do you give much thought to your soul? Too many, even in the church, neglect to consider the vast importance of their soul, for all practical purposes, neglecting their spiritual life, that which truly defines who we are.
The spiritual impact we make on others – for good or for bad – is often more lasting than the money we may leave behind or the education we may push them toward. It’s with these thoughts that I urge grandparents and parents, teens and children, singles and married alike to prepare spiritually for the upcoming year; nothing will be more important than loving God with all you are and loving your neighbor as yourself.
The best exercise you can do, the most important relationship to cultivate, and if you really want to be a “prepper” for the future is to be in the Word of God, exercising your faith, and cultivating a life of holiness, becoming more deeply rooted in Jesus Christ, the Savior. The Puritans were right as they urged believers to be reading the Bible personally, leading their families in family devotions, developing the practice of prayer and meditation, evangelizing the world around them, cultivating a holiness of heart and life, and being in a Bible-believing, truth-preaching, doctrinal-applying, lifestyle-enhancing church.
Nothing can replace the Bible; above all, be in the Word of God. The best way to keep at it is to have a good Bible reading plan. There are many good ones out there; Ligonier offers several that one can download for free.
For help in application, find a good daily devotional book to read alongside God’s Word. A few of my many favorites are Voices from the Past volumes 1 and 2, William Gurnall’s Christian in Complete Armor, and Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest. Another great Bible help that covers every chapter of the Bible is the Family Worship Bible Guide – it’s really quite invaluable.
As we enter this new year it’s important that we do some serious self-examination; what are we feeding our minds with and with what are we allowing into the minds of our family members? We should resolve to do better, be better, and to better the community in which we live by being all that the Holy Spirit leads us to be and do. If we will listen to the Spirit, we will likely pick up some things and probably lay some things aside. That’s really what growth is about. Like the Apostle Paul wrote: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (I Corinthians 13:11) We dare not be content to live as spiritual children; we must become men and women for the Lord, to the glory and honor and praise of Almighty God.
The first verse of a well-loved hymn puts it this way: “I am resolved no longer to linger, Charmed by the world’s delight, Things that are higher, things that are nobler, These have allured my sight.” Don’t be blinded by the allurements of this world or the terrors of this world either; keep looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
In closing, I would encourage you to spend some time looking over the resolutions and self-examinations of two mighty men of the faith:
The resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (70 of them)
John Wesley’s 22 questions for self-examination
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