It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. It seems that time is passing more quickly the older I get. At the end of each year I try to objectively gage where I am in my spiritual life. Have I grown this year? If so, what areas do I notice growth or improvement? Just as students receive grades at the end of the course, in a similar way we Christians should grade our spiritual life at the end of each year. Grades may intimidate or even scare us, but if we’re honest with ourselves the grades will highlight the strengths and weaknesses in our spiritual lives. After an honest end of the year assessment of our spiritual life, it’s then that we’re ready to begin thinking about the New Year and how we can use it for growth. One thing we all must be mindful of is that in each of our lives there is always room for growth and improvement. My point is, I never arrive at the end of a year and realize that I’ve finally achieved that “spiritual platform” of perfection with no need for growth or improvement. I know that goes without saying but I think it’s important that we understand that spiritual growth is a lifelong process. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”(II Cor.3:18) We are “being transformed into his likeness”, it’s a process. I encourage everyone to use the start of this New Year to set some personal spiritual goals for yourself. Remember to set attainable goals. Goals that are too lofty to achieve often discourage and tend to encourage us to give up. These should be simple goals that will help you to draw nearer to God in this New Year. Goals such as spending more time studying the Bible and setting aside time every day to pray. Choosing to always focus on the positive and avoid having a negative attitude. Striving to be more of an encourager this year. What about simply finding a church ministry to become involved in? I hope and pray that 2016 is your best year ever and a year in which you draw closer to God and His church.
I recently had a phone conversation with a good preacher friend of mine. We attended school and graduated together so we’ve known each other for a while. Unfortunately, with our schedules we don’t talk as often as I’d like so I truly enjoyed his phone call and our time to catch up. He said something to me that really impressed me and challenged me. He mentioned that he had been with his congregation for fifteen years. That alone is pretty special but what really impressed me was his next statement. He said, we’ve had our problems and I’ve had opportunities to leave but I figure every church has its problems so we decided to work through everything and stick it out. I was so challenged with my friend’s simple truth. Of course every congregation has its problems. Every marriage has its ups and downs. Every family has their issues. Every relationship has its disagreements. Every job has its negatives. We have to learn to do what Paul taught and what my friend did and that is persevere together. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”(Col.3:13) I want to focus on the first four words of that verse, “bear with each other.” This concept of bearing with each other means we’re going to persevere together no matter what. Not every situation or circumstance is ideal and it’s at those difficult and uncomfortable times that we’re tempted to flee. Instead of moving on we need to learn to bear with each other and persevere together.
It helps having something to look forward to. The soon to be bride counts the days until her big wedding day. The expecting couple looks so forward to meeting their newborn baby. I’m sure everyone looks forward to their vacation time away from work or school. Having something to look forward to helps us to remain focused and motivated on the task at hand. The upcoming Christmas break should help teachers and students to press on to complete this semester. The same is true in our spiritual lives. As Christians, no matter how difficult life becomes and no matter how discouraged you are, we always have heaven to look forward to. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”(John 5:24) We do face hardships in this life. (John 16:33) Having heaven to look forward to should give us the strength and motivation to endure anything life brings our way. Having heaven to look forward to should ground us in spiritual matters and mature us spiritually. Having heaven to look forward to should help us to keep our eyes on Jesus and be faithful to Him. Christian, remember, every day you do have something to look forward to.