“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me …” — Psalm 23:6
Do you have bright hopes and ambitious plans for the year ahead? I think we should purpose to make this year a great one for God’s glory. But how can we do that? We lay our plans and make our resolutions, and yet, sometimes what we deemed the year of great prospects turns out to be a year of disaster. One recent study found that seventy percent of people couldn’t keep their new year resolutions even through the month of January, much less the whole year.
So how can you and I make this new year great? Let me offer a prescription of five elements that can contribute to an excellent year … even to a successful life. You can find these elements in Proverbs 3:1-10, wherein God promises that if we obey His commands, we will experience “long life and peace.” As you read through the passage, you’ll find these themes:
Keep God’s commands for a long and happy life.
Live by mercy and truth for popularity and a good reputation.
Trust in and acknowledge the Lord for direction and guidance.
Fear the Lord, and forsake evil for good health.
Honor and give to the Lord your possessions for financial well-being.
Generally speaking, if you follow each command, you’ll receive each corresponding reward. But keep in mind that these are general principles, not guarantees. Many people who live good and godly lives do not experience all five consequences.
Neither are these “five easy steps” to Paradise. We don’t achieve admittance to Heaven by following any set of rules or living a good life. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we receive salvation by God’s grace only; never by human works. But if we love Jesus, we want to show Him that love by obeying His Word.
This year ask God to show you what goals He has for you. Then ask Him how you can achieve those goals. Submit yourself to Him and purpose to love Him in all you do, and you’ll most definitely have a happy and spiritually prosperous year.
“”A year of self-surrender will bring larger blessings than fourscore years of selfishness.””
Keith was feeling down as he trudged through the produce aisle. His hands trembled from the first signs of Parkinson’s disease. How long before his quality of life began to slide? What would this mean for his wife and children? Keith’s gloom was shattered by laughter. Over by the potatoes, a man pushed a giggling boy in a wheelchair. The man leaned over and whispered to his son, who couldn’t stop grinning. He was noticeably worse off than Keith, yet he and his dad were finding joy where they could.
Writing from prison or under house arrest as he awaited the outcome of his trial, the apostle Paul seemingly had no right to be joyful (Philippians 1:12–13). The emperor was Nero, a wicked man who had a growing reputation for violence and cruelty, so Paul had reason to be concerned. He also knew there were preachers who were taking advantage of his absence to gain glory for themselves. They thought they could “stir up trouble” for the apostle while he was imprisoned (v. 17).
Yet Paul chose to rejoice (vv. 18–21), and he told the Philippians to follow his example: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4). Our situation might seem bleak, yet Jesus is with us now, and He’s guaranteed our glorious future. Christ, who walked out of His tomb, will return to raise His followers to live with Him. As we begin this new year, may we rejoice!
The believer’s primary focus should be on knowing and loving God, not on merely following rules
To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the scriptures referenced throughout.
The Gospel of John tells us about a group of Pharisees who want to stone a woman accused of adultery (John 8:3-11). The men are so focused on the technicalities of the law that they fail to understand why the law exists in the first place: to help human beings know and experience God. If their hearts weren’t so hardened, they might have discovered that the law is fulfilled not by punishing wrongs but by love (Romans 13:8 NIV).
When Jesus tells the woman that she is free of condemnation, He does so having sympathized with her every weakness (Hebrews 4:15-16); He has compassion regarding all the trials she’s faced and knows each detail of her background (Psalm 139:1-24). He is a Savior of infinite understanding.
When we redirect our attention from rule-following to God Himself, we discover both His true character and His will for us. And like this woman, we encounter a God full of mercy and grace—one we’re eager to love.
Think about it
• Today is a good day to focus your attention on God and remember what you love about Him. Read Psalm 139. What stands out to you?
“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:5)
The coming of a new year is a good time to consider that glorious time to come when Christ will make everything new again. In the present age, all things “shall wax old as doth a garment” (Hebrews 1:11) under the bondage of the universal law of decay and death; indeed “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22).
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). There, in the “new Jerusalem,” we shall each have “a new name” and sing “a new song” (Revelation 21:2; 2:17; 5:9). We shall have new bodies, “fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21), and a new dwelling place, prepared by Christ Himself among the “many mansions” in His “Father’s house” (John 14:2).
And all the old and dying things will be completely and forever gone. “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).
What a “Happy New Year” that will be! In the meantime, we have His “new covenant” and have each been made “a new creature” in Christ (Hebrews 12:24; Galatians 6:15). Since all His words “are true and faithful,” we know His promises are sure. Therefore, already, “old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” through faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). HMM
Put off concerning…[that] which is corrupt…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. —Ephesians 4:22-23
For some of us last year was one in which we did not acquit ourselves very nobly as Christians, considering the infinite power available to us through the indwelling Spirit….
The man of illuminated mind will learn from his mistakes, yes even from his sins. If his heart is trusting and penitent, he can be a better man next year for last year’s fault—but let him not return again to folly.
Repentance should be radical and thorough, and the best repentance for a wrong act, as Fenelon said, is not to do it again….
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter. WOS095-096
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message? SAN058
We focus on what is without doubt the most noble and loftiest of themes: the nature and character of God. I have noticed that Christians, generally speaking, seem to be preoccupied with knowing more about themselves rather than knowing more about God. Ask any Christian bookshop manager: “What are the best-selling books?” Not those that unfold for us the nature of God, but those that direct us toward such things as how to get a better self-image, how to manage money, how to find inner healing, how to get more excitement out of life, and so on. Not that these subjects are unimportant, but they are explored in a self-absorbed way that gives the idea that the most important thing in life is knowing ourselves better. It isn’t. The most important thing in life is knowing God better.
John Lancaster, a minister in Cardiff, South Wales, in an article entitled “Where on Earth Is God?” asks the question: “Given a choice between attending a seminar, say, on the ‘Glory of God in Isaiah’ and one on ‘The Christian and Sex,’ to which would you go?” He makes the point also that although the church often answers the questions that people are asking, the real problem may be that people are not asking the right questions. In today’s church we are far too man-centered and not God-centered.
It is not by accident, I believe, that the Bible opens with the thunderous acclaim: “In the beginning God.” I tell you with all the conviction of which I am capable: if God is not our primary focus, then everything else will soon get out of focus.
O Father, from this day help me determine to make You my primary focus. And give me the grace and strength to maintain it, through all the fluctuations and uncertainties of the days ahead. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”—John 21:15
Jesus has a wonderful way of restoring us when we fail Him! He does not humiliate us. He does not criticize us. He does not ask us to make a resolution to try harder. Rather, He takes us aside and asks us to reaffirm our love for Him.
Peter miserably failed his Lord when he fled with the other disciples from the Garden of Gethsemane. Later, he publicly denied that he even knew Jesus. Peter must have wondered if he had been capable of being Jesus’ disciple when he was unfaithful to Jesus in His most crucial hour.
As you begin a new year, you may be painfully aware that you have failed your Lord in many ways. Perhaps you were not faithful. Perhaps you disobeyed His word to you. Perhaps you denied Him by the way you lived. Jesus will take you aside, as He did Peter. He will not berate you. He will not humiliate you. He will ask you to examine your love for Him. He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” If your answer, like Peter’s, is “Yes, Lord,” He will reaffirm His will for you. If you truly love Him, you will obey Him (John 14:15). Jesus does not need your resolutions, your recommitments, or your promises to try harder this year. If your resolve to obey God last year did not help you to be faithful, it will not make you successful this year. Jesus asks for your love. If you truly love Him, your service for Him in the new year will be of the quality that He desires.