New Year – New Focus

A new year gives us the opportunity to focus on where we are located our individual life journeys. Where are we coming from ? Where are we going? How does what is happening now in our lives fit into the bigger plan that God might have?

Many of us would have experienced disappointments in the past year, where we had not achieved our desired goals or had to deal with situations which were unpleasant. A frequent source of internal conflict is when we are let down by people who we love, trust and respect

As Christians we are enjoined to be thankful in every situation.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18 )

Even if things have not gone the way would have liked in the past year, it is important to approach each day with an attitude of ‘Its a new year, Praise God I am alive!’

New years resolutions are traditions which are commonly embraced in different cultures and religions as time to commit to doing something or making a positive change in ones behaviour or habits.

The bible provides us with a basis to approach the new challenges from a standpoint of faith.

We should never doubt that it is God’s well for us to do well.

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 2)

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19)

Our prosperity is tied to our spiritual well being and that should come first. Can a new thing happen in your life this year?

What should our approach be for doing better this year?

Review your past performance. Reflect on what has worked and what could have been done better.

The bible teaches that ‘the vision’ should be clear and unambiguous (Habakkuk 2:2)
Establish impediments to achieving your goals. Are there skills and training needs?. Have you not spent enough time perfecting your craft. Is there need for a change in attitude?
Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men. Proverbs 22:29

Being teachable. Have the attitude of gaining greater insight and knowledge at every opportunity.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning (Proverbs 9:9)

Be willing to acknowledge your past mistakes and take correction
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid (Proverbs 12:1)

Ensure we are focusing on the right things. The key question is ‘what is our motivation?’

How far would we like to go with the project ? Why are we pursuing the goal in the first place? Is there benefit for ourselves and for others? Do we want to get the extra income in order to make a specific purchase for our loved ones, buy a new car, take a holiday etc.
Identify reasonable goals – In the world of business management – the model of having SMART objectives (S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Relevant , T – Time related), is one that has valuable application in the area of personal development.

Our goals should be specific and time related. This gives us focus. For example, saying: I would like to read three books before the end of the year is more tangible than saying I would like to commit to reading more.
Measurable goals are more likely to be attained than in situations where the goals have no fixed point. It is important to be able to assess for ourselves how much progress we are making.

Having a goal that is attainable is important. The bible makes it clear that faith makes all things possible, but it is necessary to have faith for the task before you, believing that you in the right place, and the right time with the right intent of the heart. In teaching about the cost of discipleship, Jesus emphasised the need for taking stock of what we have before us in helping us move forward. Luke 14:28 – For which of you, intending to build a tower stitch not down first and counteth the cost, whether he has sufficient to finish it.

One of the most powerful principles that Jesus taught was that our motivation should be right. We do well when the basis of our life is charity towards others.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these thing. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:31-33)

We therefore are taught to put the pursuit of kingdom of God above the pursuit of worldly possessions for their own sake. We need to ensure that we have as the basis of our lives the foundation that our lives are meant to be a channel of Gods blessing.

Paul explained the basis of this in his letter to the Romans . In Romans 14: 17-18 we understand that the kingdom of God is Righteousness , and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, As we seek after peace and the building up of others we are doing the kingdom business and glorifying Him.

This implies that it is at odds with the purposes of the kingdom when we act in a selfish unjust manner seeking to maximise personal gain at the expense of other peoples well being. Galatians 5:21 reminds us that the key to prosperity is remaining in the Spirit which equates to being in step with God.

In 2016, our aim should be one of living a Spirit Led Life .

Galatians 5:16 – 23 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Overcoming In Christ

The faith of the 21 Coptic Christians in Libya whose callous murder by Islamic fundamentalists was broadcast across the world is one of the standout testimonies of faith in the past few months. The depiction of the savagery meted out was sent to far corners of the earth via a well orchestrated media campaign. People all over the world have seen these images of the most cruel acts committed in the name of religion.

These Christians were singled out because of their faith in God and identification with the message of the resurrected Christ. Their plight bears strong similitude to what has been taking place across several other parts of the Middle East,  and in parts of northern Nigeria and Kenya.

Jesus told his followers that carrying the mark of Christ frequently would make them the subject of persecution, where people would feel justified to mete out acts of wickedness in the name of some religious zealotry.

Most of will never experience the degree of religious persecution that some Christians have almost come to accept as a way of life.

We do as believers have to remember the words of Jesus.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. (John 15:1821- KJV).

The truth for a lot of Christians is that they will face regular persecution at the hands of different people. This will vary in frequency and severity. The young person who is trying to serve the Lord and remain sexually pure receives ridicule and pressure to conform to’societal norms of a pervasive attitude. The influences to attain material success frequently pushes people of faith into situations where by their actions they are denying their faith.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9 KJV)

It helps to know that believers have received the victory in Christ Jesus and any witness contrary to this is a lie.

Even when we are faced with a life and death situation we can have the confidence to know that our future is secure.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5KJV)

Whatever we face we should remember that our future is secure in Christ. We should always remember to thank God for the victory.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.        (1 Corinthians 15:57 KJV)

We should ensure that we endeavour to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ and dwell in victory. We should pray for Christians everywhere to be able to remain steadfast in the midst of serious threats to their wellbeing . May they fully grasp the eternal promise from on high. Death is a defeated foe.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55KJV)