By Laura Leathers
It is the breaking of a new day, the threshold of a new year. The word threshold according to Webster’s means: the entrance or beginning point of something. There is something refreshing about the beginning of a new year. It’s a time to look ahead. What does this year have in store for me, my family, my friends, my church, the nation, and our world? What will be the celebrations, the anniversaries, the birthdays, and yes, even the heartbreaks?
Many people spend the last few days of December or the first few days of January setting goals and making New Year’s Resolutions. However, if you are like most people, after the second week, the goals and resolutions have been broken. What if we took a different perspective and began each year by asking the following questions: What is God’s plan and purpose for my life this year? Will I be able to trust God with the new challenges I will be facing? What do I need to do to draw closer to Him?
Life is to be lived with an eternal perspective. Begin by establishing a spiritual theme or goal for each new year. This is a new concept for me. Several years ago, my friend and accountability partner, Becky, and I met one day for coffee. We were discussing things that she had written in her Bible. In the front she had a list of about 20 years’ worth of “spiritual themes.” The theme for each year actually rhymed with the year. When I asked her why, she said she did it to keep her focus on one particular aspect of God’s character or even something she knew that God wanted her to change in her life. It gave her life God-focus and centered her on His purposes for the year.
I knew this was something I had to do. I was tired of setting a long list of resolutions that were the same things every year. This new idea had an eternal perspective and focus. I accepted the challenge and began to form my spiritual theme for the next year. Here are a few things I have learned about setting a spiritual theme and writing my resolutions.
Breathe a Prayer
The first year I was honestly more focused on setting a theme that rhymed than on what God wanted to teach me and how He wanted me to grow in my relationship with Him. However, because of God’s grace and faithfulness, He took my theme and blessed it. My theme was God’s Word is True is 2002 – Claiming His Promises, Precepts, Power, and Presence. I wanted to begin this journey by going back to the foundation of a Christian’s life.
Begin with a Verse
The next step was to find the Scripture verses for the year’s theme. These were my verses for 2002: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isa. 43:18-19).
One of the ways you will find your verses for the new year is through consistent daily Bible reading. The verses just seem to leap off the page. There always seems to be a major prompting that says to me this is it.
Two years ago I began to pray about my spiritual theme for the next year. I had a message to prepare in January and I decided to do it on Hannah from 1 Samuel. My theme became Call unto Me on Bended Knee. A word study on the word “call” took on a new and deeper meaning for me. The Scripture verse that stood out over and over again was, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).
My prayer journal began to grow with additional verses. I learned to actually use these verses in my prayers.
Blessings Beyond Belief
“The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land He is giving you” (Deut. 28:8). The Lord wants to bless you. Blessings come when we are obedient. We miss blessings when we’re disobedient or we aren’t looking for them. The greatest blessing I have received from this new endeavor is to see my daughter making this a part of her life. One day she will look back at the front page of her Bible and see her years of spiritual themes. Her journals will reflect what she has learned. One can only wonder how God is going to use this to mold and shape her life.
Boast Only in God
After the Christmas holidays, I go back through my journal and briefly review the year. Were there days I forgot to focus in on my spiritual theme? Absolutely! However, one thing I’ve learned over and over again is that God is faithful even when I am not. That’s why anything that happens in my life is not something I can boast about. Psalm 34:2 says, “My soul will boast in the Lord.”
What were the blessings? What heartaches did I go through and how did God see me through these situations? He was faithful, therefore, I shall boast in the Lord! What were the notes and praises of gratitude? My heart sings and I shall boast in the Lord! What were the God-stops where I knew only God could have orchestrated everything that happened? Ephesians 3:20 says, “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than I could ask or imagine,” therefore, I shall boast in the Lord! Why? The rest of Ps. 34:2 says, “…let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” Our lives are to give a testimony and exalt the name of Jesus and His work in our lives. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
Begin to Write
It’s hard to remember what I did yesterday, let alone a month ago. Journaling is important when it comes to setting a spiritual theme for the year. First, it provides a written record spiritually, physically, and emotionally of your life. Second, it tells where I was and how far I’ve come in my relationship with God. Hopefully by the end of the year, you have learned to trust Him more and your love relationship with Him has deepened. Third, a journal leaves a written legacy to your family. These have been some of my heart’s desires: resolved to allow God to teach me how to love Him with all my heart, soul, and strength; resolved, to pray for a powerful passion for His Word and to boldly proclaim it; and resolved, to fear God and to tremble before His Word.
In the devotional book Diamonds in the Dust, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote, “His plans for you this year may outshine those of the past. His blueprint is hot-off-the press and He’s prepared to fill your days with reasons to give Him praise. That’s why you can begin the year with hope and expectancy.”
It’s up to you to join Him there and say, “Lord, I hereby resolve to allow You to teach me this year. What is our spiritual theme?”