Take Advantage of the New Year

    It is interesting to consider how the calendar can make a lasting impact on our lives. I am thinking of the New Year. There is a psychological motivation that results from the change of one year to the next each January 1st. The entrance of a New Year for many presents an opportunity to make improvements in our lives. We know that there is nothing magical about the transition but it does provide an opportunity for Jesus’ followers to “Take Advantage of the New Year!”  

     There are many passages of Scripture that encourage us to take responsibility for our lives. The Apostle Paul encouraged Pastor Timothy to take advantage of the opportunity to grow in his faith. Now, the Apostle was not speaking about the New Year, but his instruction does apply to the calendar roll-over that happen this Sunday. He writes, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7b–8) His words remind pastors and all followers of Jesus to invest in our spiritual development. There are many distractions that can pull us away from what is really important. I like to say, “We often sacrifice what is best on the altar of what is good!” The challenge in this passage is for Pastor Timothy, and us, to not get side tracked by stuff that keeps us from what is most important.

     The Roman culture, much like today, was passionate about sports. It is worth noting that the word “training” is from the Greek word from which we get our word “gymnasium.” Fitness is one of the areas many focus on in the New Year. It could be financial fitness, or relational fitness and many times physical fitness after our Holiday excesses. Consider for a moment how much time, energy and money we invest to hopefully improve in these areas. The Apostle’s challenge does not negate the need or benefit for the improvements. He is emphasizing the importance of our spiritual development as a priority.

   His point is that these other areas of improvement are important, but they are temporal. They only apply to our live here and now. The time, energy and resources that we invest in our spiritual development also impact us here and now, but also produce eternal benefits.

     While we can invest in our spiritual development at any time throughout the year and we should; the cultural psychology of a New Year provides us additional motivation to make changes to “train yourself for godliness.” It is a great time of the year to start a Bible reading plan. It is also a get time to commit to regular church attendance, joining a small group Bible study or helping out in an area of ministry.

     One of the obstacles to “Taking Advantage of the New Year” is our past failures. We tell ourselves we have tried this before and it did not work. The challenge with this way of thinking is that if we do not start, we will never know, what would have happened. It is amazing what the Lord does in our lives when we commit to grow and ask Him (and other Christians) to help!  

-Pastor Joe Parkinson

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