New Year’s Resolutions
Rev. Rebecca Mihm
Well, a year has passed. People are looking back on 2021 and assessing how it went. People are assessing what went well, what went poorly, what was accomplished, and what wasn’t accomplished. These assessments usually lead to determining one’s New Year resolutions. Many people’s resolutions include things like losing weight, exercising more often, traveling more often, connecting with loved ones more often, quitting smoking, or learning a new skill or hobby. However, as disciples of Christ who seek to follow our Lord and Savior above all other things, we need to remember to prioritize our discipleship in our assessments.
When looking back on 2021, instead of just assessing how much weight we’ve gained or the state of our physical health, we should ask ourselves about our faithfulness to God. Our outward words and behaviors do not indicate everything that is in our hearts, but they should not be dismissed either as they do indicate many of our priorities, thoughts, and feelings. Luke 6:45 states, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Also, Scripture calls our outward words and behaviors “fruit,” and we are called to bear much good fruit.
As disciples of Christ, looking back on last year may mean assessing areas in our lives like quality time in prayer and Scripture reading, praising God, growing in faith, fellowshipping, building/mending relationships, discipling our children, discipling other people, witnessing, listening, outreach, overcoming temptations, and tithing. We should ask ourselves questions like, “Where have I seen God at work in my life in this past year?” “What have I done for God in this past year?” “How have I been the hands, feet, voice, witness of God in this world?” “Where does God’s heart break in this world, and what have I done to address it?”
Once we have assessed where we have been, we can look forward to how we want to move forward into 2022. Once we assess our strengths and weaknesses in 2021, we will be in a better position to determine where to prioritize our time and energy in 2022.
Be Intentional in Seeking God’s Will
Making resolutions is all about being intentional. Lewis Carroll writes in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” The path disciples take matters greatly. And what plans we put into place must be sought with prayer and consideration. We need to seek God’s plans for our lives, and not arrogantly decide for God what would be best. We need to be prayerful with our resolutions. We need to seek God’s direction in our planning. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” We read in James 4:13-15, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” We need to constantly be seeking what God wants for our lives.
Focus on God
If we look at all that’s going on in the world, it is easy to get disheartened and overwhelmed. People, parties, politics, pandemics, and pollution can cause us considerable concern. Also, if we look at all that Scripture tells us to be, then look at all our shortcomings of 2021, we can condemn ourselves and wallow in our failures. We have a gracious God who loves us and is still active in this world. Our God is a forgiving God and wants what’s best for us and has made a way for us to spend eternity together in heaven. We need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and on following him. If we mess up along the way, we need to repent, and get back on the path of faithfulness, knowing that God loves us and is with us. Corrie ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But, if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, not the world, and not on ourselves.
Reminders and Encouragement
There are many distractions in this world. Not only that, but there are marketers who excel in finding the best ways to get our attention, which, depending on what is being advertised, pulls us away from what’s most important in life. With all the distractions around us, it is helpful to program reminders and encouragements into our lives to help us stay on track with fulfilling our resolutions. Perhaps a reminder can come in the form of a note on the refrigerator, or programming a smartphone to send a text when needed. In the world of technology, there are endless resources available to help us in our journey of faith. For me, daily activities serve as reminders. When I go to eat, I am reminded of spiritual food, which leads me towards Scripture. When I’m tired, I am reminded to stop and pray. When I wash my feet, I pray that Jesus would wash my feet and help me to wash other people’s feet. When I experience anxiety, I consider that an alarm going off indicating I forgot to pray and take my concerns to God. When I experience answered prayer, I take time to rejoice. I share the experience with others. I write the details in my journal to re-read every so often. Of course, our spiritual family serves as a rich source of reminders and encouragement. The Body of Christ is filled with people with different gifts and perspectives. They help us to acknowledge “blind spots” in our walk of faith. They encourage us to stay on the right path. They teach us and inform us of opportunities of which we might have missed.
First Presbyterian Church’s Core Discipleship plan includes Bible reading and Discipleship Essentials. There are CBR (Community Bible Reading) journals and reading plans available at the church office. The reading plans will take a reader through the New Testament every year, and through the Old Testament every three years. A downloadable plan is available on our website. Discipleship Essentials is an immersive, 25-session study, done in microgroups of three to four people, that guides participants through key elements of what it means to be a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. The community of believers is a rich source of encouragement, and can be a way God intends for us to grow.
Attitude of Gratitude
Plowing through life with a focus on a list of duties and chores is a sure way to experience burnout. Following God because we have to follow God is an unpleasant approach to discipleship. We should see our discipleship as something we get to do. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are now freed to be who God created us to be. Think of all the things that God has done for us. God created us, redeemed us, shows us the way, and provides for us. He is always with us, loves us, gives us the peace that passes all understanding, gives us joy and eternal life. God hears and answers our prayers. Focusing on God creates in us an attitude of gratitude. Following God is our response to God’s loving us, blessing us, and providing for us.
The New Year is a great time to look back at last year’s journey of faith and assess how we have grown in faith throughout the year. That assessment then helps us to look forward to how we can be faithful followers of God in the new year. We don’t have to be ordained to follow God. We don’t have to be in validated ministry to be a disciple. We don’t have to have qualifications to be a Christian. God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called. Let us prioritize faithfulness in this new year. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus in 2022!
Rev. Rebecca Mihm
Rebecca has served as our Associate Pastor of Discipleship since October 4, 2021. Prior to serving at FPC Lakeland, she served in various ministry roles in West Virginia, Massachusetts, Southeast Asia, and New York. Rebecca went to Geneva College where she earned a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree. Upon graduation she worked in urban ministry in New York City. Then she worked for US Airways for several years before sensing a call to go to seminary. She graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and spent several years doing ministry in Southeast Asia. Once in Massachusetts, she worked in Christian education, in crisis services, and with high utilizers of the emergency room. Before coming to FPC Lakeland, Rebecca served a congregation as a solo pastor in West Virginia. Rebecca enjoys hanging out with family and friends, walking/hiking, traveling, eating chocolate, and spoiling her fat cat, Oreo.