By Ps Lim Wei-en
Blessed New Year!
With 2023 still fresh in our minds, and most of 2024 yet to come, it’s good to take stock of our lives and set ourselves up for growth (I highly recommend at least two hours of unhurried reflection and prayer for this, perhaps in a park or a quiet café). To that end, here are 5 questions we can ask ourselves to kickstart the New Year.
1. Look back: What can I thank God for?
As you look back on 2023, what are some things you can thank God for, perhaps in the areas of your walk with God, vocation, relationships, health? How has he preserved, pursued and provided for you? In what tangible ways have you experienced his goodness, power and love? Thanksgiving is a spiritual practice we need to cultivate if we want to grow in knowledge of God’s love and godly contentment.
For me, I give thanks to God for preserving my family and I. 2023 begun with my wife breaking her toe and ended with my mother breaking her foot. In between, we endured some health scares and many bouts of ill health (physical and mental), some of which required hospital stays. Despite these, I thank God for bringing us through 2023 in one piece. His grace is indeed sufficient for us.
How about you?
2. Let go: What do I need God’s help to leave behind?
What are some difficult events, experiences or habits of the past that, if you didn’t let go, would prevent you from running the race of faith well this year? Have you experienced any sort of trauma that you need healing from? Any loss that you need God to bring closure to? Any habits that you need the Spirit’s power to free you from? The practice of surrender is a way we give ourselves permission to let go of burdens we need not bear and to make room for the peace of Christ in our lives.
Personally, there were some incidents in 2023 that left a negative mark on my family and I, including an episode of harassment in which the police had to get involved, the death of a beloved pet, and some work-related disappointments and failures. As I have been honest to God about these fears and griefs, I have experienced a measure of his healing and trust that he will continue to unchain my heart from any yokes I was not made to bear.
How about you?
3. Lay down: Who do I need to forgive? Whose forgiveness do I need?
Is there anyone who has hurt us who we need to forgive? Conversely, is there anyone we have hurt whom we need to seek forgiveness from? Both giving and receiving forgiveness require us to lay down our pride and make restitution with those we are at odds with. Often, we would rather not do this and yet, without the practice of forgiveness, we can never experience the fullness of God’s forgiving love (Matt. 6:15) nor the light of Christ in our lives (1 Jn. 2:9-11).
I had some challenging relational conflicts with a couple of close friends this past year. While my instinct was to sweep these conflicts under a rug and not think about them, God gave me no peace till I spoke honestly with those friends, and both gave and received forgiveness to/from them. While some awkwardness remains, I praise God that in each of these friendships, we are still able to call the other “brother”.
How about you?
4. Long for: What are my hopes?
What do you long for in the coming year? What are some hopes you have for yourself and your loved ones? How may these hopes be more aligned with the certain hope we have in a faithful God who will bring to completion the good work he has started in our lives (Phil. 1:6)? The practice of longing for and waiting on God goes against our culture of instant gratification but is necessary if we want to purify our heart’s desires and focus on things that matter.
My hope for 2024 is to love, worship and enjoy God, regardless of what life throws at me. To this end, a prayer I am praying for myself is Eph. 3:16-19:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
How about you?
5. Lift up: How will I put God first?
Finally, how will you put God first in the coming year? Amidst life’s many competing demands, how will you prioritise God and lift him up to take his rightful place in all aspects of your life – work/studies, thought life, leisure activities, finances, relationships etc.? The practice of making commitments to God in the power of the Holy Spirit reminds us to orientate all of life around our True Source and Goal, and to not be given over to false loves and unfruitful distractions.
Each year, I craft or tweak my “Rule of Life” (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/skip-resolutions-make-rule-life/) according to my season of life. I highly encourage you to do the same. This year, some ways I endeavour to put God first are to keep the Sabbath, limit the number of night meetings I have in a week, spend time one-to-one with different family members and friends regularly and give a certain amount to missions. With God’s help, I pray these simple practices will keep me connected with God and remind me to put him first in all things.
How about you?
May you have a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, God-directed 2024.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13b-14)