New Year, New You?

new year, goals, plans, surrenderLast year is gone and a new year is here.  With the arrival of the new year our thoughts will often shift to reflection and review of the past year and how we could improve and do things differently going forward.  Some folks make resolutions or plans for improvement and there are probably more diets started in January and promises to begin exercising than there are at any other time of the year.  There’s just something about a new calendar year that makes us think about a clean slate and a fresh start and a desire to begin again in a better way and this is not a bad thing by any means.

But from a Christian perspective there are a couple of things that we need to keep in mind before we make any improvement plans or start any journey towards a goal and the first and most important of those is this: we are not our own.  We belong to Jesus and therefore anything that we set our minds to needs to be done in a way that brings glory to Him and His name.

We first need to prayerfully examine our motives (do we want to diet and exercise to be more healthy or just because our vanity tells us that we should look better in that pair of jeans?) and once we have done that we can then include the Lord in every step of our planning and preparation with the knowledge that the outcome and the victory already belongs to Him.

We can praise Him and thank Him for His provision and draw strength from His presence and from His counsel.  We are not alone and we best show that when we work towards a goal hand in hand with Him, filled by His Spirit.  Difficulties and challenges can and will be overcome if God is with us and our relationship to Him will be strengthened as we work with Him towards our goal.

The most joyful aspect of all of this is that our improvement and the power to reach our goals does not rest with us and is not dependent on our strength.  God provides based on our surrender to Him and our obedience to His Word.  We don’t have to wonder about what will happen or worry about the outcome.  If God is in it, it will be done!

And furthermore, we never have to wait for a new year to come around to decide to do things God’s way or to commit our ways and thoughts to Him.  He provides renewal and regeneration to all who come to Him and it is available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

I hope, like me, that you are excited about the new year and the new opportunities and challenges that it will bring.  I also hope that you are walking into the near year hand in hand with Jesus and secure in the knowledge that you belong to Him.  Because once you are in that position there is no power in the world that can stand against you and you will be amazed to see what God can do in your life.

 

Do What You Want?

plans, goals, 2 Samuel, King DavidHave you ever planned something that seemed like a great idea at the time but then turned out to be totally wrong?  I know I have and I think the answer for most folks who are old enough to make their own decisions would be an emphatic “yep, I’ve done that!”.  Despite our best intentions, sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes even our best ideas are not what God has in mind.

The thing of it is, God most certainly does use and bless human initiative.  We can study the Bible and see many instances where this is clearly the case.  Not everything that we desire to do is wrong just as not everything we desire to do is right.  So how do we tell the difference?  How can we be sure that we aren’t going against God’s will as we are making our plans and living out our lives?

For sure, this is a complex question and one that I will not be fully able to answer with a simple blog post.  But it is a question that is worth asking and worth thinking about if we want to be the kind of Christ followers that God would have us to be.

Here are a couple of examples from scripture to get us started:

 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.  When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.  Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might,  while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.  2 Samuel 6:12-16 (NIV)

David, as King of Israel, decided that he wanted to bring the Ark of God home.  David and a group of men went to retrieve the Ark from where it had been staying and David purposed in his heart not only to sacrifice a bull and fattened calf but also to “dance with all of his might” before the Lord.  Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what God thought of David’s plan and his subsequent behavior but it certainly does tell us that someone very close to David (Michal – David’s first wife and daughter of the former king Saul) thought very poorly of how David went about praising God.

David’s response to Michal is recorded in verse 21: David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.  2 Samuel 6:21 (NIV)

In essence he says “God made me King and I will celebrate and praise Him in the way that I see fit” which is, it seems to me, a reasonable response.

I think it is interesting to note that God could have stopped either plan (the moving of the Ark and David’s enthusiastic praise) but chose not to.  And I think that sometimes, just as David did, we need to make the best plan that we can with what God has already revealed to us and just do it.  David could see how God blessed the former resting place of the Ark (the household of Obed-Edom) and I am sure he wanted those same blessings for his home city.  He set about carryout out his plan to bring the Ark home and he did it with praise and thanksgiving – always the best way to carry out any plan!

Here’s another instance from scripture with a different outcome:

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him,  he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?  I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’  2 Samuel 7:1-7 (NIV)

David has now brought the Ark home and has now finally subdued the Philistines and another plan begins to form in his mind.  He now wants to build God a temple (and by extension, move the Ark into a permanent resting place instead of the movable tent that it was in at the time) and “upgrade” God’s dwelling.  And this sounds like such a great idea that Nathan, a highly respected prophet and man of God, immediately agrees with him.

That night, most likely as Nathan slept, God gave Nathan a message for David.  David’s plan was not God’s plan, at least not yet.  We know from history that Solomon, David’s son, was tasked with building God’s temple but that was not to be David’s task.  God had other plans for David and He used Nathan to deliver His message.  This time, God stepped in and asked David to change his plan and, to David’s credit, he listened to God and did as he was asked.

It comes down to trust and acknowledgement.  We must trust God with our plans and trust that He will lead and guide us as we go.  We must also acknowledge that only He has the authority to change us, change our lives and change our direction.  He has the final say and we must give Him the opportunity to change our minds, change our circumstances and ultimately to change any plans that we might have.

His plans are perfect.  Ours tend to be less so.  Do we trust Him with our plans and then acknowledge His authority in our lives as we go?