Time truly waits for no man. The year has sped by quickly and here we are at the end of 2017. As we approach a new year, this is the time that most people begin to set goals and make resolutions. Almost half of the United States engages in making yearly resolutions, though we all could admit that we struggle to keep them. You may feel that you are not the goal setting type, but I would beg to differ. You may not call them goals or resolutions but we all have things we want to accomplish.
One writer has said we can’t help but set goals for ourselves, it is how we are wired. Many want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or finish school in the new year. While these are good goals, from the spiritual side of things there are goals that deserve more of our energy and attention. Let me offer a few suggestions for goals in 2018 and how we can go about achieving them.
Study a Neglected Book of the Bible
Let’s admit it, we are all guilty. There are certain books of the Bible that we do not spend as much time with as others. Some of the more neglected books in the Bible are books like Leviticus, Judges, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, The Minor Prophets, 2 Corinthians, and 2 & 3 John. Maybe you could think of others. Make this new year the year you give attention to at least one of these books we often overlook. Jesus said we are to live by every word that comes from God (Mt. 4:4). Paul told Timothy that all scripture is inspired and is profitable for the Christian (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Maybe we sometimes neglect certain books because we believe they do not apply to our lives as much as others like Proverbs or the gospels. If we read some of these books and take time and study them, we will be surprised at how they address things we face in our daily lives. A suggested way to get into this would be to give yourself a time frame. Set aside or month a two that you will spend with the book you choose and stick with it. Read it through several times in one sitting. As you read, write down questions you have from the book and go back later and study them more in-depth with a good commentary. Also, as you read, write down things that God is teaching the immediate audience but also things that apply to you.
Reading the Bible through every new year is great, but what if along with your regular reading you devoted a few days a week for a month or two to get to know a book of the Bible that you have ignored or perhaps never studied at all?
Lead Someone to Christ
When is the last time you led someone to Jesus? If we are supposed to be fishers of men and we never catch any, can we really be called spiritual fishermen? Part of our failure in personal evangelism may be from us not planning to succeed. We think that if an opportunity comes by we will take it, but if not so be it. This is a recipe for failure. Jesus was successful in saving souls because he knew his purpose and worked toward that end (Lk.19:10).
Think of one person you want to reach out to this new year with the gospel, or maybe a couple of people in your sphere of influence, and get to work leading them to Jesus. Many say, “We are not responsible for others response, all we can do is plant the seed.” This is true but we can often do more than we think. A few ways to accomplish this goal is to pray to God for open doors (Col. 4:2-3). Paul was an inspired apostle and he often prayed for evangelistic opportunities and courage to speak boldly when they presented themselves (Eph. 6:18-20; 2 Thess. 3:1-2). Along with prayer, get to know people just for the sake of being friendly and kind and watch how those relationships can blossom. Learn what other people are like and show genuine interest.
Paul was such an effective evangelist because he knew human nature and was sensitive to the cultures of others (1 Cor. 9:19-22). Live a godly life before others and speak openly about what God has done and is doing in your life when the opportunity presents itself (Mk. 5:19).
I know that each individual is responsible for how he or she responds to the gospel, but if we are prayerful and intentional we can accomplish more than we think. Think souls and try to win one. It may be one more this new year than you won last year and that would be worth it.
Prayer and Fasting
Maybe this new year you would like to get serious about prayer (1 Jn. 5:17). Paul said we should pray without ceasing but sometimes our prayer lives are more sporadic than we would like to admit. Our goal should not be so vague that we say we simply want to pray more. We need to be more specific. Daniel had a custom of praying three times a day (Dan. 6:10). David said God would hear his voice in the morning and three times throughout the day (Ps. 5:3, 55:17). Set aside times of prayer and stick to them.
Have you ever fasted? I know fasting can be empty and abused but there is also value in fasting. Saying no to food so that we can devote more time to God is a good thing. Jesus gave instructions on how fasting can be done properly and the early church engaged in fasting (Mt. 6:16-18; Acts 13:3, 14:23). We should too. Find a set time this year, even if it’s just once for a part of the day and commit to fasting and focusing more on God.
Remove a Habitual Sin
We do not need to wait until the new year to get rid of sin. We need to confess and forsake sin as soon as we know of it (Prov. 28:13; 1 Jn. 1:9). There are some sins that may be reoccurring in our lives that we have not broken ties with. Jesus said we should not hesitate to take radical measures to get sin out of our lives (Mt. 5:29-30). Make this the year that you get rid of little besetting sins like gossip, sarcasm, lust, lying, and rudeness.
Stay close to the word of God. Find someone who will hold you accountable and be serious about getting rid of sin in 2018. When we are too comfortable with sin we need to remember that the payment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23; Jas. 1:14-15).
I don’t know what your goals are for the new year, but I hope you accomplish them. Do not neglect the spiritual goals that you can reach this new year. Blow the dust off the neglected books in your Bible and dig in. Lead a soul to Jesus or at least give it a try. Engage in the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting and uproot sins that may have had a hold on you for a long time. Christians are goal-oriented people. Let us strive for what really matters in the new year (Phil. 3:12-14).