New beginnings are great gifts from our God. A new friendship. A new opportunity. A new vision. A new job. A new dream. A new goal. A new address. A new attitude. A new discipline. Yet, for far too many, the disappointments from the past year carry over into the new year, casting a shadow over all that God is calling them to do for His glory. Does this resonate with you?
When you look back over the past twelve months, do you see a past littered with disappointment? If we are honest, we can all look back and see portions of our lives that did not turn out as we planned. We see the times we fell short. We see the times we failed. We see the times we stopped short of the finish line. Because this is simply a fact of life living as broken people in a broken world, we must keep the gospel before us each and every day. The truth of the gospel frees us from our past, regardless of how broken it is. “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me” (Psalm 138:7 NLT). The gospel frees us to fight, fall, fail and get back up because the God of the gospel is both for us and forgiving.
Jesus did not raise you from death to life to live a perfect life. He raised you from death to life to live a promised life, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34 NLT). You see, Jesus has promised to get you home, safely and securely, regardless of how many mistakes you make along the way. The past was never meant to define your present and has no power in determining your ultimate destiny. Only those who give power to their past and allow their past to imprison them find themselves being defined by it. Make no mistake, we are to learn from the past, but we are never to live there.
The same power that raised Jesus from death to life is the same power that is in you. You have the power to overcome every obstacle that stands in the way of you growing into the person God is calling you to be…right now, right where you currently are. Let me encourage and challenge you to think about the first four words in the Bible, “In the beginning God…” and keep that thought before you throughout this year. Because God is a God of new beginnings, not only is this the beginning of a new year for you, this is the beginning of a new life for you. But this will not just happen.
God is calling you to participate proactively in His perfect plan for your imperfect life. As a pastor, I can’t ever remember meeting anyone who planned to fail. But I have met far too many who have failed to plan. So what’s your game plan for 2016? Remember, insanity is defined as, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Now I know this resonates a bit with all of us! The psalmist provides many keys in establishing an effective game plan that will impact your life and the lives of all those you have been called by God to impact this year.
Seek God with all your heart
“With my whole heart I seek you” (Psalm 119:10). Not a quarter of a heart. Not a half of a heart. Not three quarters of a heart. But seek the Lord with your whole heart.
Store up the Word of God in your heart
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). If you had a sickness and the medicine to cure it, would you take it? Of course you would! Well, we all have the same sickness (sinful, self-centered and self-absorbed hearts) and we all have the medicine to cure our sickness. The more we get into the Word of God, the more the Word of God gets into us. And the more we are filled with the Word of God, the less we are full of ourselves.
“Deal bountifully with your servant” (Psalm 119:17). The psalmist asked for blessings from God because he was a servant of God. We cannot expect God’s blessings when we are busily engaged in serving ourselves and satisfying our own selfish ambitions. God has saved us to serve Him!
So, as you get ready to hit the ground running in 2016, remember the three keys to putting together an effective game plan: Seek God, Store up His Word, and Serve Him only. On your mark…get set…GROW!
This is the gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that, amen.
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.