Many faith communities like the one I was raised in celebrate the longstanding tradition of gathering for a New Year's Eve Watchnight Service. A watchnight service is a late-night worship experience, often held on the last night of the year, offering a chance for people to thoughtfully reflect upon the year that has passed, make solemn confessions, and prepare their hearts and minds for the new year through prayer, preaching, singing, exhorting and fellowship. Central to many watchnight service worshipers is the watchnight Sermon. This is a moment for people to lay the year passing, along with its issues and challenges, to rest, and receive hope and spiritual direction for the new year.
I'm not sure if every reader of this blog has had an opportunity to receive spiritual direction or encouragement for the New Year, so I decided to share 3 Keys to a Promising New Year as a word of encouragement for those who may be trying to figure out how to approach 2013. The scriptural references are taken from Job 22:21-30, MSG:
KEY #1: REPENT: "Give in to God; come to terms with Him, and everything will turn out just fine. Let Him tell you what to do; take His words to heart. Come back to God Almighty and He’ll rebuild your life." -We all have things we regret about the choices we've made. But God is not interested in beating us up over poor decisions. GOD LOVES US, and He has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). We don't talk about repentance as much as we used to in the Church, mainly because we misunderstood the word. To repent means to DECIDE TO CHANGE. Make a decision today to give up doing things your own way. Don't carry any problems, regrets, habits or drama from 2012 into 2013 with you. Let the past stay in the past. Don't bring up old issues anymore. It doesn't matter where you find yourself in life today, surrender IT ALL to God, and He will give you the hope, wisdom and direction you need to rebuild your life.
KEY #2: REARRANGE YOUR PRIORITIES: "Clean house of everything evil. Relax your grip on your money, and abandon your luxury. God Almighty will be your treasure; more wealth than you can imagine. You’ll take delight in God, the Mighty One, and look to Him joyfully, boldly." -If you were honest, most of what got you (and me) in trouble in the past were faulty priorities; chasing after things that really don't matter; things we really wanted that actually hurt us in the end. But when we make God a greater priority in our lives than things like money, status or image, a beautiful thing happens: we realize that only the Creator [God] can improve His creation [us]. We learn that if we seek God first, and HIS authority in our lives, then everything else we need will be given to us; and without straining for it, everything we need will fall right into place (Matthew 6:33).
KEY #3: RECEIVE GOD'S PROMISES: "You’ll pray to Him and He’ll listen; He’ll help you do what you’ve promised. You’ll decide what you want and it will happen; your life will be bathed in light. To those who feel low, you’ll say, ‘Chin up! Be brave!’ and God will save them. Yes, even the guilty will escape, escape through God’s grace in YOUR life.” -I know that many people had their heart broken in 2012; perhaps your prayers went unanswered, your dreams got delayed, and plans got pushed back. But I'd like to share with you what the Lord whispered to my own soul: He said that 2013 will be a year of FULFILLED PROMISES. When we Turn TO GOD, Live FOR GOD, then we can receive FROM GOD. Our lives become perfectly aligned to receive everything God has in store for us. We will know that He hears us when we pray, because we will know we are praying with His heart and according to His will (I John 5:14-15). And as God blesses you, and fulfills His promises to you by His grace, that grace will spill over into the lives of others around you, and YOUR LIFE will be a blessing.
Are you ready to be so blessed that your life becomes a blessing? Now that you have these keys, here's how you can practically "turn them" and unlock the promises of 2013:
1. Start by giving God praise for the wonderful grace, mercy and favor that He has shown you in 2012, and celebrate how He carried you even in the most difficult moments. This will help you approach this process with an open mind and a humble heart, rather than a sense of pride or entitlement.
2. Make a list of the things you need to change. These are NOT your New Year's Resolutions, this is a List of things you need to SURRENDER TO GOD. What areas of your life do you need God to take over?
3. Make a list of the things that should be priority in your life. Set that list to the side. Now, make a list of the things you spent the most of your time, energy and money on in 2012. Compare the two lists. If they two lists are out of sync, then think about how you can spend more time, energy and money on healthier priorities in 2013.
4. Make a list of the things you are hoping and praying for in 2013.
5. Put all of this together, make a copy and share with your spouse or a trusted friend. Ask them to commit to asking you about these things at least once a month, starting at the end of January, and the end of every month thereafter.
6. As you see the promises fulfilled in your life, PRAISE GOD!
7. Feel free to edit your list as the year unfolds.
I pray that you have a fantastic new year!