New Year’s resolutions usually are focused on what to do in the year ahead, such as losing weight or getting out of debt.
However, of the many sermons I’ve heard since becoming a Christian at age 29, one that’s stayed with me is a New Year’s message from Lee Strobel, who was then a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago. Instead of thinking only about what we plan to do in the year ahead, he suggested thinking about who we’re going to be. He explained that who we are dictates all that we do.
As Scripture cautions us, our words come from what’s in our heart, as do our actions: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).
In other words, what we say and do flow out of who we are. This insight goes a long way toward explaining one of the greatest financial ironies: Even though there is no end to the amount of readily available free information about how to manage money, there is also no end to the number of people who struggle with financial issues.
Clearly, we need more than information about what to do with money. As Christians, we need to consider the beliefs and convictions that make us who we are, and allow them to be the primary determinants of what we do.
It’s a point brothers Chip and Dan Heath make in their 2010 book, Switch. They present a scenario in which a scientist is approached about consulting for a pharmaceutical company. The offer is tempting because of its financial rewards. However, when he stops to consider the question, “What would a scientist like me do in a situation like this?” it gives him pause, raising concerns about what strings might be attached and what compromises he may have to make to please the client.
As we go about planning for the New Year, we would be wise to consider, “What would a Christian like me do?”
The starting point of a conversation about our identity is to consider who we are in God’s eyes: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, emphasis added).
That stunning reality, that the God of the universe considers you and me to be his children, leads to questions about how a child of God is to live.
Early in my journey of faith, The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30) opened my eyes to my place in the world. For the first time, I understood God’s ownership of everything and my role as a manager of everything He has entrusted to me — not just money and material things, but relationships, opportunities, and more.
Everything we have–our spouse, children, job, resources — has been temporarily entrusted to our care. For me, that was a completely new way of thinking.
One day the Master will return and take account of what we did with all that He entrusted to us, so it would be helpful to live each day asking, “What would a child of God do in a situation like this? And in this one? And this?” Fortunately, His Word gives us direction in each of our areas of responsibility. Here are a few examples.
As a husband, I am both convicted and motivated by the question, “How can I love my wife sacrificially and unconditionally (Eph. 5:21-33)?”
As a father, “How can I help teach our children (Deut. 6:5-9, Prov. 22:6), discipline them (Prov. 13:24), and not frustrate them (Eph. 6:4)?”
As an employee, “How can I work every day ‘as working for the Lord’ (Col. 3:23)?”
As someone with financial resources, “How can I daily acknowledge the Source of my income (Deut. 8:18), faithfully grow in generosity (2 Cor. 9:10), save adequately (Prov. 21:20), invest patiently (Prov. 21:5), make God-honoring spending decisions (Luke 16:10-11), and avoid materialism (Luke 12:15)?”
At first glance, all this being may seem to point toward a whole lot of doing. For me, though, it comes down to just one action item. Instead of my typical routine of starting my day catching up on the news, I plan to start each day cultivating my relationship with Jesus through time reading and meditating on His word and an extended time of prayer. I want my words and actions to flow out of who I am: A child of God.
So, to paraphrase Thoreau, instead of starting each day with The Times, I’m going to start with “the eternities.”
What plans do you sense God calling you to make for 2018?