After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
Christians view time and opportunities in an utterly unique way:
- Rather than simply doing what they want, they “no longer live for themselves, but for Jesus, who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
- Rather than living like there’s no tomorrow, Christians have an eternal future with Christ to look forward to and prepare for, “so whether we are at home [in the body] or away, we make it our aim to please him” (5:9).
- Rather than a humanitarian motive, the Christian’s reason for doing good isn’t the approval of men or peace on earth, but “the love of Christ [that] controls us” (5:14).
“Time is of the essence,” we say, and how true this is, especially for Christians, for life is but a breath before we meet Jesus in person. Controlled by Christ’s love, motivated by his glory, and compelled by his heavenly home, we’re uniquely glad to spend and be spent for Christ all our earthly days.
In light of this joyful goal, here are 10 worthwhile things to pursue this new year:
1. Time alone with God.
No greater pursuit exists than to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). But this is only possible if we spend time with him. You will never know your spouse or loved one unless you carve out intentional space to engage and enjoy one another; similarly we cannot grow to love God or walk with him unless we make time with him a priority. If Jesus withdrew to desolate places to be with his Father, how much more should we?
2. Regular reading of God’s Word.
The Word of God is the Christian’s sustenance. A lifeline of truth to our souls, the Bible is God speaking, and its every word has been breathed out by him, that we would know him and be made increasingly into his image. Pursue the regular reading of God’s Word by carving out consistent time for it in your schedule. Private devotional time with God in his Word and Bible study are means to experience his grace, poured out through Jesus Christ.
3. Involvement in a solid local church.
Jesus is the head of his body, the church. The church is important to Jesus, so it should be important to us. And not just any concept of “church,” but the local church, the church in your area or neighborhood, the church that you call “family” and “home” through a commitment to what God is doing within and through it. For you, perhaps this involvement means becoming a member of your local church, or perhaps it means attending church after many years of being away from it. Wherever you’re at, make it your pursuit this new year to get involved in a solid, Bible-preaching local church.
4. Community in a small group.
One beautiful fruit of the local church is the gift of walking closely with other Christians, our brothers and sisters, in a Word-centered small group setting. If you’re not yet connected to a group of Christians who read and study and pray through God’s Word together, explore this opportunity. Word-centered small group members intercede for one another in prayer, confess to one another (in due time), and spur each other on to Christlikeness. Join a small group this year for your edification and growth, and for helping others in these areas.
5. Intentional Christian friendships.
Intentional Christian friendship goes beyond a small group setting. While we can’t conjure this up by our own whims and wishes, we can pray that God would bring us a close friend or two with whom we can walk. My most intentional friendships involve openness about the fight with sin, confession of sin, accountability for walking in the light, one-on-one prayer, searching questions, and rejoicing and weeping with one another through the ups and downs of life. Is there a Christian friend with whom you can be more intentional this year? Will you ask God to bring you these intentional friendships?
6. Sacrifice of good gifts.
Everything you own has been given to you by God (1 Corinthians 4:7). This includes your time, money, possessions, plans, relationships, energy, and any other good gifts you can think of. This year, how will you use what’s been given to you by God for the glory of his Son? How will you spend yourself to display the gospel? How will you make the best use of the time, and exercise your gifts, and give from your possessions, and serve your relationships to show and speak of Christ?
7. Use of spiritual gifts.
Similarly, how will you use the spiritual gifts God has given you? Christ is the head of his body, and every Christian is a member of his body; God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose (1 Corinthians 12:18). What gift, or gifts, did God choose for you? Are you an encourager? A servant? A teacher? Full of wisdom? Pray this year about how God wants you to exercise the gifts he’s given you for the building up of your local body and his glory.
8. Engagement with non-Christians.
How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news (Romans 10:15)! If you’re a Christian, then God himself has given you a title: “Ambassador for Christ.” God desires to make his appeal through you each time you boldly engage with an unbeliever. This can feel scary, but it usually begins with an building an honest, intentional friendship that’s rooted in genuine love. Engagement with non-Christians is not a checklist activity; if it is, then our love is in vain, and all our efforts mean nothing. If this is a struggle for you, then ask God to give you a genuine love for the lost and desire to build those friendships. This is one prayer he delights to answer.
9. Great Christian books.
I wrote more about this point in another article (here it is!), so I won’t go into it again here. But the point is this: Don’t just read any Christian books this year. Read solid, biblical, true, beautiful books. Great books.
10. Good work and good rest.
“Balance” is a buzzword in today’s fast-paced consumer culture. But “balance” is elusive because it communicates that we can separate the secular from the sacred. We can’t. We shouldn’t. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1). Everything belongs to him. Because the Lord is fully in control (not us), we are free to submit to his plans and participate in what he is doing. We are free to see every activity of our week as important to him and as a platform for displaying Christ. This includes both work and rest. This year, pursue good work that loves your neighbor well; then pursue good rest that gives all this work to Jesus and leaves it in his more-than-capable hands.
Happy New Year. Ready, set—go spend and be spent for Christ.