Well, it is that time of the year for New Year resolutions. It seems that most of us have a few areas that we would like to improve. I recently came across the title of a book “What If God Wrote Your Bucket List?” I did not read the book but the title got me thinking about areas of my life that God would want me to work on in 2018. Here are three areas that I covered this past Sunday.
Pondering the items that God would add to my 2018 bucket list my mind raced on the many things that He could add. The more I thought about this, the more the phrase “for this is the will of God” found in the New Testament. The phrase is actually used twice in 1 Thessalonians and identifies four bucket list additions. If you are interested in a more detailed handling of these passages, you can check out the message here.
We read, “For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification:” (1 Thessalonians 4:2–3a) It is in this context that we learn that one of God’s desires for His followers is to be different from our culture. The difference is primarily reflected in our lifestyle choices. One aspect of sanctification is that of spiritual growth and maturity. What is interesting here is that God expects, or commands, His followers to grow. Well that means that we need to add spiritual development to our 2018 resolutions. This can range from reading our Bible to the media we consume and many other spiritual practices.
It is in the next chapter that we again come across our phrase
“for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18b) It is actually a summary statement for three more bucket list items. The first is “Choose to be Happy!” now I could more properly call this “Choose to be Joyful!” “Rejoice always,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16 ) We tend to use the word happy more often than joy. Culturally, our happiness is derived from things that happen to us. I got a raise at work so I am happy. I go out with friends so that makes me happy. Yet, this is not what God desires of our lives. His definition of joy, or happiness, is where we chose to be happy regardless of what happens to us. So you may ask the question, “ How can I be happy when bad, painful or difficult things happen in my life?” Well, the simple answer is, “You can choose to be happy because God has your back.” He is working through all things to accomplish His good. And even though life is painful there is joy/happiness in knowing God has a handle on it! What a great thing to add to our goals for 2018, to choose to be happy.
The next two follow the same line of thinking by choosing to trust our Creator. “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Does not speak on unbroken prayer, but being in continual communication with God. The phrase without ceasing is used in Greek to describe a hacking cough. What a powerful picture of our need to be in such a relationship with God that our prayers come out almost automatically! It is hard for us to grasp this aspect of continual communication. It can be demonstrated by our use of social media. Think of how things like texting have changed our work by allowing us to be continually in communication with others in small bits. God is commanding us to stay in touch with our heavenly Father in 2018.
The last bucket item God wants to add to our goals for 2018 would be, ““give thanks in all circumstances;” (1 Thessalonians 5:18a) Thanksgiving is very powerful in our lives. When we choose to give thanks to God in all circumstances (notice the word all?) we are forcing ourselves to take our focus off us or our circumstance. And again we can give thanks in all circumstances, not because they are enjoyable, but because we have a relationship with the Creator and He is working in us and through us.
So let me ask you this, “Will you make excuses for not setting God honoring goals for the New Year?“ Or will you let God do an amazing work in you and through you over this next 12 months. It all starts with adding God’s bucket list items to your 2018 goals for the New Year. Just remember, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18b)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson