Put down your eggnog for a second. And your pumpkin pie. It may be only the beginning of December, but your holiday season will go much better if you start getting some vision for the new year.
Where there is no vision from God, the people run wild, but those who adhere to God’s instruction know genuine happiness.Proverbs 29:18 (VOICE)
I love this Scripture because it reminds me that one thing we all need is vision. Without vision from God about who he wants to help us become and the impact our lives can make, we will “run wild” looking for happiness.
I also understand from this Scripture that “running wild” won’t bring genuine happiness. This is a time of year when most of us enjoy being pulled away from our regular lives by a four-week blur of Christmas lights, holiday shopping, traveling, parties and a ton of food. And that’s all good – but in the end, those things are temporary, and the good feelings aren’t around come January.
God wants us to have genuine happiness. I think genuine happiness is a happiness that lasts. It’s not dependent on circumstances like vacation time, alcohol, money in your bank account, or any other transient thing we might associate with being happy.
So let’s start thinking about the new year! Don’t be too scared to make some goals. Here’s how to make the new year scared of you!
Let God cultivate your courage
When the Council saw the boldness of Peter and John and could see that they were obviously uneducated non-professionals, they were amazed and realized what being with Jesus had done for them!Acts 4:13 (TLB)
Spending time with Jesus made Peter and John bold. They were so bold they amazed the key leaders of their time.
Quality time spent with God will cultivate your courage. The amount of quality time you spend with God reading his Word and learning from Jesus will directly correlate to your courage level.
I’m reminded of the famous Cherokee legend about the two wolves:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – his is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”Cherokee Proverb
Do you spend time feeding your faith and courage? Or do you feed your worldliness, selfishness, and fear?
Luckily, we’ve got some great spiritual tools you can use to let God feed your courage over the next several months. Check out our new Fearless Bible study series, in which we will be releasing one new study each week for the next 14 weeks. The first study is all about courage and is complete with music, movie suggestions, and further Bible study you can do on your own.
Don’t be too proud to use these tools! Feed your good wolf over the next several weeks … You’ll thank yourself in January.
Choose the right weapons
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.Ephesians 6:13-18 MSG
While you can’t always choose what battles you will face in your life, you do get to choose your weapons.
One of the most difficult questions for me to ask myself when I am overwhelmed by life is, Am I overwhelmed because I am fighting with the wrong weapons? Usually, the answer is yes. When you are using the wrong weapons, your situation will become much more difficult than it needs to be. Think about trying to cut steak with a butter knife. It’s much harder than it needs to be.
What are some of the “wrong weapons” we choose to fight with?
1. Blame (Job 36:13)
This is usually one of my first weapons. I get mad that my circumstances feel hard and look for someone or something to blame.
Symptoms: You find yourself saying or thinking things like …
- If God cared about me, he wouldn’t let me go through this
- This wouldn’t be so hard if <insert friend or spouse> helped me more
- If it weren’t for this situation, I would be happy.
The problem is that anger and blame don’t produce anything good (James 1:19-20). Anger just pushes us away from God and the friends we actually need to support us.
2. Pride (Proverbs 18:12)
Symptoms: You find yourself thinking things like…
- I can totally handle this. Look how well I am handling this.
- I can’t handle this … but I really want to look like I can.
- I don’t need help, I’ll figure it out myself.
- It’s not like anyone is going to tell me anything I don’t already know.
The Bible says pride leads to ruin (Prov 18:12). I think this is at least partly because trying to look strong (or at least not look weak) will only make us miss out on asking for the help and encouragement we actually need.
3. Fear and control (Psalm 37:8)
Sometimes, to fight life’s battles, we hunker down and isolate ourselves from God and friends. We won’t listen when our spouse or others try to influence us. We begin to trust ourselves more than God.
Symptoms: You find yourself thinking things like …
- No one else can really understand my situation.
- I can’t really handle hearing other people’s advice.
- That person’s input isn’t really right for me because … (and you always have a reason).
Living by and relying on fear can cause a lot of problems. Psalm 37:8 says, “Do not fret, it leads only to evil.” In my life, fretting leads to unbelief, mistrust, self-indulgence, disrespect of those who try to help me, and a host of other unpleasant things.
If you use these weapons to fight your battles, you will most certainly wear out. On the other hand, when you use God’s weapons – like prayer, truth, righteousness, and God’s Word, he promises you will make it through the battle still standing on your feet.
Do you come through life’s battles still standing? Study the list of spiritual weapons in Ephesians 6 above. Which of the weapons above would help you be stronger at facing the battles in your life? When you look ahead at 2019, what spiritual weapons will you practice using?
Change your focus
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.Philippians 3:13
One of the most challenging things about looking ahead is that you have to stop looking backward. Sometimes I don’t want to try to have a vision for the new year because I think of all the years I’ve tried and failed.
This Scripture tells us how to focus: forget the past and look forward. If you spend all your time looking back on the ways you think you have failed, you will miss what God is calling you to in the future.
Have a hard time with this one? Try thinking about who benefits if you sit around afraid to try to grow spiritually. It certainly isn’t God, or you, or the people around you. We are in a spiritual battle and I think Satan wins when we focus so much on the past that we don’t try to move forward.
Okay, now you can go ahead and pick up your pumpkin pie and eggnog. 2019 won’t even know what’s coming!