As we begin a new year, it is good to think seriously of the priorities we should be having this year in our spiritual life. Here are a few suggestions. Consider them seriously - and pray that they will all be fulfilled in your life. May the Lord help you.
1. Make a New Beginning: In Luke 15, in the story of the prodigal son, we read that the father brought out the best robe for a son who had failed him so badly. This is the message of the gospel: God gives His very best even to those who have failed. They can make a new beginning, because God never gives up on anyone. This is a great encouragement for those who failed in the past. Whatever your blunders or failures may have been, you can make a new beginning with God now, as you begin a new year.
2. Be disciplined: In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul says, "God has given us a spirit of power, love and of discipline". The Spirit of God gives us power, love for others and enables us to discipline ourselves. Whatever experience of the Holy Spirit you may have had, if you don't allow the Holy Spirit to discipline you - to make you spend your time and your money in a disciplined way, and to discipline your speech, you will never be what God wants you to be. The greatest servants of God in the history of the church were men and women who allowed the Holy Spirit to discipline their lives. They were disciplined in their sleeping habits, in their eating habits, in prayer and in study of the Scriptures. They were disciplined in putting God first above all their earthly desires. Many Christians remain satisfied with having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and they imagine that everything in their lives will flow smoothly thereafter. But you need to be disciplined too, if you are to fulfil God's will for your life in this year.
3 Keep the fire burning: Timothy had faith and spiritual gifts and yet Paul reminds him of this, "I want to remind you of the spiritual gift you received when I laid hands on you." The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of timidity. Paul urged him to stir up that gift and to kindle it afresh, to keep the fire burning. From this we learn that even though Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11), we still have to do something to keep that fire burning at all times. God lights the fire. We have to keep supplying the fuel - a life totally surrendered at all times to God's will. Don't imagine that just because God anointed you once, that you can now relax and say, "Once anointed, always anointed". That is as great a fallacy as saying, "Once saved, always saved". I have seen people who were genuinely anointed by God who are spiritually dead one year later. The fire is gone. Worldly interests and pride have come in and taken the fire away. They are now running after money and a comfortable life - and have lost the fire of God. That is sad and a great loss for the kingdom of God. So Paul told Timothy, "That fire that came upon you, keep it afresh, keep it burning. It is up to you now. If you don't keep it burning it will die out. Keep it burning by keeping a good conscience, by studying the word of God, by humbling yourself constantly, by seeking God wholeheartedly, by staying away from the love of money, and from arguments with others and from anything that will quench this fire."
4. Make steady spiritual progress: In Hebrews 6:1-3, we are exhorted to press on to maturity. Think of pressing on to maturity like climbing a mountain (of say, 10,000 meters). Jesus has already reached the top. When we are born again, we start at the foot of this mountain. Our goal is to follow Jesus and to press on towards the top, no matter how long it may take. Then we can say to our younger brothers and sisters, "Follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1), even if we have climbed only 100 meters. Spirituality is not something that comes through one encounter with God. It is the result of choosing the way of self denial and of doing God's will consistently day after day, week after week and year after year. It was the consistent denial of His own will that made Jesus a spiritual man. And it is the constant denial of our self-will that will make us spiritual too. In 1 Timothy 4:15, Paul urges Timothy to "take pains with these things." A businessman takes a lot of pains to earn money and to establish his business firmly. If you are serious about the Christian life, you will also take a lot of pains to study the Scriptures, seek for the gifts of the Spirit and cleanse your life from everything impure. One translation of this verse reads, "Be absorbed in them." When you are absorbed with these things your progress will become evident to everybody. Be so absorbed with Jesus Christ and His Word that the temptations of this world don't attract us so much. And we won't be chasing after the many things that worldly people chase after. If you live an "absorbed" life like that, you will make progress constantly. Every year you will be a better Christian and a more effective servant of the Lord.
5. Be an overcomer: In Hebrews 12:1-3, we are exhorted to run the race with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. We look up to Him and run this race. We don't stand still. The race of faith is something in which you can't stand still. The time is short and so you have to run. If you fall down, get up and continue running. There are many runners who have fallen down in a race, who got up, continued to run and still came first. So don't get discouraged if you fall down sometimes in your walk with the Lord. Don't lie there. Get up, confess your sin and continue to run. Look at Jesus who endured the cross and ran till the end of His life. When many enemies oppose you, think of Jesus Who had so many enemies opposing Him (Heb 12:3). You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood like He did, in striving against sin (Heb 12:4). Here we see that Jesus strove against sin. In other words, His attitude toward sin was, "I would rather shed My blood than commit sin." If you have the same attitude - that you would rather die than commit sin - you too will be an overcomer. When you are tempted to tell a lie, if you say, "I would rather die than tell a lie", you will be an overcomer. When you are tempted to cheat a little bit to make more money, if you say, "I would rather die than cheat even a little", you will be an overcomer. When you are tempted to lust after some woman and you say, "I would rather die than lust", you will be an overcomer. That is the secret of living the overcoming life.
6. Be secure in the love of God: The words "He will rest in His love" in Zephaniah 3:17 have been translated as: "He is silently planning for you in love". Do you realize that every single thing that God allows to enter your life comes from a heart that is planning for you in love? Every trial and problem that comes into your life has been planned for your ultimate good. If you believe Romans 8:28, you will never again be afraid of people or of circumstances, for the rest of your life. You will not live in fear that you might have an accident, or die of cancer, or be harmed by anti-Christian fanatics, or any other fear - because your heavenly Father controls everything and everyone.
We desire that you will have a truly blessed year of spiritual progress.