Ten (More) Questions for a New Year
From Gospel Translations
Two years ago, I wrote in “Ten Questions for a New Year” that the close of one year, and the beginning of a new one, is an ideal time to “consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5). In other words, many find it an appropriate season for reviewing our walk with Jesus and reconsidering our priorities. To that end, I suggest ten more questions.
1. What’s the most important decision you need to make?
While some of us have major decisions already looming before us, many do not. Of course, even in a “normal” year, significant decisions typically arise. But what is one decision you may not be forced to make but would be wise to make? Perhaps it relates to your spiritual life or your family life; perhaps it’s one that will impact someone’s eternity. The decision may regard one of the questions below, so you may find it helpful to return to this question after you finish the others.
2. How can you simplify your life?
Most everyone I know feels overwhelmed. You might be thinking, My whole life needs simplifying! And maybe you’re right. But it can also feel overwhelming to think of simplifying everything, and that’s likely to result in simplifying nothing. To adapt the old adage, the thousand-mile journey to simplify your entire life begins with the first step. Identify the one area where simplifying could have the greatest effect, and then determine one step you can make in that direction. Fight the inertia with one practical, simplifying change.
3. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet?
The need might relate to a ministry or a person in your church, your neighborhood, or your city, or even to something on a larger scale, such as disaster relief, injustice, world hunger, or global missions. You can’t meet every need you see, but what’s one step you could take?
4. What habit would you most like to establish?
Perhaps this question sounds like merely an old-fashioned New Year’s resolution. But the fact remains that each of us can almost immediately identify a regular practice that, if it became ingrained into our routines, would bless us and others and bring glory to God. Perhaps it would be the addition of some simple spiritual discipline. Maybe the Holy Spirit has been prompting you to begin a new habit in one of the usual areas of consideration, such as exercise, diet, or sleep. Or it could be something like fresh diligence in housekeeping, marriage or family life, or the use of technology. Either way, pray, make a plan, and start!
5. Whom do you most want to encourage?
Pinpoint one person — a family member, church member, friend, neighbor, or coworker — who has been overwhelmed by circumstances or burdens. Resolve to say an encouraging word to that person, perhaps as often as you see him or her.
6. What is your most important financial goal, and what is the most important step toward it?
Goals for financial stewardship typically relate to giving to God’s kingdom work, reducing debt, saving for something special, or generating a new income stream. But it could be that you need to develop a better biblical and practical foundation for managing your money. Consider reading a book on the subject, asking for counsel from a wise Christian friend, or talking with a professional. Decide which to put at the top of your list, and make a measurable move forward.
7. What’s the single best step you can take to improve your work life?
The Bible encourages not only work, but good work. Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” It’s common to fall into the routines and deadlines of our employment and develop a mindset of just, Go to work and do my job. How can you become one who is better “skilled in his work” this year? Determine to improve one work-related skill and add more value to your labor.
8. What’s one way you can bless your pastor (or another who ministers to you)?
As someone with 24 years of full- or part-time pastoral ministry, and 28 years of experience training ministers, I can testify that most pastors receive complaints and criticisms every week. Often, they are stung several times a week. Resolve this year to become the kind of church member who encourages those whom God uses to minister to you. Be specific about some insightful comment they made that was helpful to you. Tell them that their faithfulness in ministry is an ongoing encouragement in your own walk with Jesus.
9. What’s one step you can take to enrich your family’s spiritual legacy?
The most important step you can take is to provide an example of consistent Christian character in your personal life and commitment to your local body of Christ. You want your children and grandchildren to see you maintaining your devotional life at home and serving in your church. So maybe enriching your spiritual legacy begins with a practical step in one of these spheres. Beyond this, perhaps nothing else could make a greater impact on your family’s future spiritual life than committing to a practice of simple but regular family worship.
You might also consider other ideas for bringing Christ to your children and grandchildren. For example, you could send them emails with a spiritual bent. You could handwrite a note or letter, which they’ll possibly keep since they rarely receive anything written by hand. You could keep a journal that records your spiritual journey, prayers for them, or other reflections for their benefit. Or you could use a different Bible each year in your devotional reading and include your insights as well as notes to a child or grandchild, and then present it to him or her at the end of the year.
I record a video for my daughter and each grandchild on their birthdays, recounting some of the highlights in their lives and our family in the past year, reminding them of my love, and expressing my prayers for them. I have a folder in my file cabinet with important information my family will need after my death, and there I tell them the location of these videos on my computer.
10. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read?
Have the increasing pressures of your life crowded out the benefits and pleasures of reading? This next year, could you choose one book you know you’d really find helpful and read just one page per day? By reading one page per day, you may read the equivalent of two full-length books. That may not sound like much, but it’s far better than not reading at all. Moreover, by some accounts, this would place you above half the American population in the number of books read each year.
Meet the Year
If you’ve found these questions thought-provoking, perhaps you’ll want to print them or copy them into a journal so you can reflect on them more thoroughly and prayerfully. Consider incorporating them into your devotional time today or tomorrow, or just setting aside a few quiet minutes when you can ponder them with a pen and a cup of coffee.
If we’re not intentional, we may find that we spent more time thinking about our Christmas list than about the entire upcoming year of our lives.