A New Year With Purpose

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Making new year’s resolutions is a tradition for many. Yet, while we celebrate the arrival of a new year, it is often repetitive of the one that just ended! We anticipate four seasons to come and go. Day in and day out we get up, follow our routine, eat 3 squares, work and play and depending on our stage in life, care for our families, keep in touch with friends, celebrate birthdays and holidays and despite the routine, hope for a good year. In the unfolding of each year’s cycle, what is to change this repetitive pattern? Without our focused endeavor to alter our patterned existence, life just seems to happen.

Diminishing Resolutions

No wonder we make new year resolutions – they are designed to give us some sense of control! Despite good intentions, how often have you made a new year resolution only to experience it diminish quickly as your old patterns re-emerged and took precedence? What is it about human behavior that tends to take control of us as though we were automatons?

All Is Meaningless and Vanity

Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace…
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart…
All is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 3 – 4.

If Solomon, the wisest person of all time saw life with such a jaded view, who are we to contend otherwise?

The Unexpected

There are those unexpected events that often blindside us and create unplanned change and even chaos. It could be something in the economy, a weather event, natural disaster, a career crisis or layoff. Perhaps a personal health issue, family crisis, or accident disrupts our otherwise patterned life. In times like these, we cherish the old and resist the unanticipated negative challenge.

On the other hand, there are welcomed changes – a growing family, a marriage, promotion, graduation, or other milestones that we celebrate. We seek to advance our careers and provide for our families. Whether planned or unplanned, these are changes we embrace and often promote through goals, plans, and accomplishments.

Life’s Paradox

Life is meant to be both predictable and unpredictable. If you hold too tightly to the predictable, life can become monotonous and lose meaning. There are traditions and patterns that help us stay grounded, feel needed, and provide order. Then there are both the unexpected and planned life-altering events to keep us sharp and engaged. Perhaps a vacation, a new home or car, a remodel, or just a change in schedule. These combine to fill our time, expand our horizons, and bring hope for a better tomorrow.

Add Value

Where are you in the trajectory of life? Are you mired in the routine, or seeking new horizons? Are you focused on your past accomplishments, or pursuing new goals? Are you caught in a seemingly meaningless trap of busyness, sociability, and distractions? Whatever life stage you are in, the ability to gain a sense of control and navigate change effectively provides purpose and meaning. Do not succumb to life’s vicissitudes lest decline and despair overtake you and hijack your year.

Do not wait for change in others to bring meaning to your own life and situation. Yes, you should enjoy your maturing family, the new generations, and advancing career with accompanying changes in home and work environments. But in each new event, each opportunity, each challenge, seek your own purpose and meaning. How will you add value to every moment of the new year?

Purpose Overcomes Vanity

Solomon concluded, “Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear (love, reverence, worship) God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
Ecclesiastics 12: 13-14

Through all of life – the predictable and unpredictable, the good and the evil – when you faithfully seek His purpose there is genuine hope for a new tomorrow, a new year with purpose. Solomon’s father David admonished God, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

The Hebrew meaning for “numbering our days” is not simply awareness that they are finite, but also that our days are “appointed”. When one recognizes the God-given purpose of life and seeks to fulfill His appointed times, life is enriched with meaning.

The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. The former refers to chronological or sequential time, while the latter signifies a proper or opportune time for action. Chronos is quantitative, while kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. Recognizing this distinction helps us to endure in our daily routines while anticipating the opportunities to fulfill our appointed times.

It’s a Wonderful Life

The traditional Christmas movie classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, is a perfect example of how one’s life can be purposefully fulfilled regardless of circumstances. George Bailey had dreams he could never realize because of unanticipated family, business, economic, political, and war-time situations, yet from boyhood, he confronted every challenge with courage, integrity and love. Every event was turned into an appointed time, every responsibility met with commitment, every relationship honored with others placed before self. When confronted with a business crisis, he thought all was lost and he was worth more dead than alive; his family and friends prayed for him and in the end of the movie rallied to his aid.

In despair, George wished he had never lived and was given a vision of how things would have changed had he not lived. In his vision, the entire community and world beyond were altered for the worse without his actions that impacted many lives! He awoke to the revelation of the importance of a purposeful life. George rushed home to embrace his family and life anew, not knowing if he would go to prison over the missing savings and loan funds, yet he was prepared to face the situation regardless of the outcome. God answered all those prayers including George’s desperate call for help, not only through George’s vision, but through the generous help of many people whose lives George had touched for good. The angel Clarence said it well, “No one is a failure when they have friends.”

Live Abundantly

God has given us the desire for life, and through spiritual rebirth, a reason to live abundantly. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. II Timothy 1:8-9

Jesus is our best friend, who gives us hope and purpose for our new year’s resolutions, all of life on earth and ultimately for eternity. As Solomon observed, without Him life is merely vanity! Seek His will, make your resolutions for His purposes, dedicate yourself to your appointed times and you shall find meaning the whole year through and for eternity. Live the new year with purpose!

By Sheryl Dawson
New Year’s 2019

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