Gearing Up for the New Year: Getting Started

Ecclesiastes 3 famously says there is a time for everything.

This month, I think, is our time to plan. Our time to dream. Our time to decide what we want to accomplish in 2020 — to decide how we want our lives to be different a year from now.

Throughout the month, I will be posting devotionals on Facebook and Instagram to guide us as we gear up for the new year. This week, we focused on the first step: dreaming big, narrowing our focus, and setting our goals for 2020.

Here’s what we talked about:

STANDing BEFORE THE LORD

In the very first chapter of Mark — toward the beginning of Jesus’ ministry — Scripture says that Jesus woke up before dawn, sought out solitude, and prayed. Mark doesn’t say what, exactly, Jesus prayed, but this brief interlude is sandwiched between the very first acts of His public ministry (calling His disciples, healing “many who were sick with various diseases,” and casting out many demons) and his quick rise to fame. 

I would guess that Jesus used this time to center Himself and seek His Father’s guidance, away from the distractions of the world. Not because He needed to, but to set an example for us.

Action step: Seek solitude and simply stand (or sit) before the Lord. Center yourself — away from the noise and distractions of everyday life — and listen for that still, small voice. Ask the Lord to clarify your purpose and set His will in your heart as you make your New Year’s resolutions.

DREAMing BIG IN JESUS’ NAME

Setting big goals and chasing big dreams is hard. It’s scary. As soon as we imagine what we want, we begin talking ourselves out of it. Our heads fill with doubts and fears. We worry about what others will think. We become paralyzed by “what ifs.” We convince ourselves we can’t do hard things, or that we should just be content with what God has already given us.

Where did we get the idea that God doesn’t want us to dream big? Scripture reminds us often of God’s omnipotence. Knowing that nothing is impossible for our God, how could we not dream big? We may not be able to accomplish much in our own power, and we are certainly not called to do big things for our own glory — but in the name of Jesus, when we work for His glory and through His strength, nothing is impossible.

Action step: Let yourself dream big, knowing that nothing is too hard for God and that it’s impossible to dream bigger than He has.

Asking

It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of self-defeat. We try and fail. We get discouraged. Things get difficult, and we have doubts. We struggle. We throw a pity party and give up.

You know what we don’t do, more often than not? We don’t ask.

Scripture often refers to God as our Father. Jesus draws on that image in Matthew 7, asking, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” (v. 9-10) If we know how to give good gifts to our children, Jesus explains, how much more so does our Heavenly Father, in His perfect goodness, know how to bless us? All we have to do is ask.

Action step: Take your big dreams and impossible goals to God — and ask.

Holding Fast

Our adversary is always on the prowl, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce and destroy our faith. Big dreams mean big doubts, big fears, big obstacles, and big temptations. Whatever life throws at us, we must hold fast to our faith.

The author of Hebrews, assures us that because of “the unchangeable character of His purpose,” we “have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18). He refers to our hope and faith in Christ as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (v. 19). 

We may walk through dark times — times when we are beset by doubt, worry, fear, danger, and struggle — but we don’t have to succumb to the darkness. We can and should hold fast to our faith and walk as children of light, trusting in the faithfulness, power, and goodness of God even when we do not feel His presence.

Action step: Hold fast to your hope. Stand firm in your faith. Walk worthy of your calling. remember that God sees all and trust that He will guide you.

Running Your Race

The words I want to focus on are “your race” — emphasis on “your.” To run your race, you’re going to have to pass up a lot of other opportunities. You’re going to have to say no. You’ll have to narrow your focus by ruthlessly cutting out things that don’t fit in with the bigger picture. Some of those things will be perfectly harmless things. Good things. Things it will be hard to turn down.

But here’s the thing: You can’t do everything well. In fact, you can’t do everything, period. If you aren’t intentional about how you spend your time, you’ll look back and wonder where it all went. You have to prioritize. Carve out time to pursue your goals. Plan your life around your dreams. Remember that your time is limited, and “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15).

Action step: Lay aside every weight, and run your race. When you’re considering a new commitment or making your schedule, be discerning. Ask yourself, “Is this mine to do? Will it put me closer to or further from my goals? Is it really helpful or necessary?” 


This weekend, focus on setting your goals for 2020.

How you do that is up to you. You can create a vision board, choose a focus word, or write a traditional list of goals. The internet is full of ideas. Ruth Soukup’s website, in particular, has a lot of helpful articles about setting goals.

If you feel comfortable sharing your goals, we’d love to hear them! Maybe we can help inspire and encourage each other. 🙂

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