Anytime you get ready to make a new start, it is normal to look back and reflect while, at the same time, looking forward and dreaming. Some people may think that looking back is something we should never do. They equate this to living in the past. However, scriptures teach us something quite different. We find there were times that stones would be placed as a memorial for people to remember the past. Each of us have things we reflect on that may give both pride and pause—accomplishments that we are proud of, but also things that we would like to do better. As important as celebrating is, so is honest evaluation.
It has been said that it is important that we learn from our history or we will be bound to repeat it. A word of caution should be given here because we do not want to spend too much time in the past nor do we want to allow the enemy, the accuser of the brethren, to place us under guilt and shame (Rom. 8:1) for our past. When we get to these watershed moments and we begin to reflect, it is important that we celebrate the things worth celebrating, ask forgiveness for our failures, and then learn from all of our past. For it is our past that has prepared us for the new journey before us.
There are several things we need to do as we look at making a new start. First, we need to accept responsibility for our own situations. We live in a day where no one wants to take responsibility for their issues. People today want to accuse everyone else for what is going on in their life. They say, “I am this way because of my parents.” “I did not get the promotion because my boss does not like me.” “I lost my temper because of my red hair.” The list could go on and on. They have an excuse for everything that did not go their way. In Proverbs 22:13, the Living Bible says, “The lazy man is full of excuses. “I can’t go to work!” he says. “If I go outside, I might meet a lion in the street and be killed!” The truth is that this is nothing new—it has been this way since the beginning of time. We find the first man, Adam, blamed is wife for eating the fruit. She blamed the devil. Some things just don’t change. If we are going to reach our full potential, it must change with us. I am where I am because of my own actions. I may not be able to change some things like the weather, the economy, or what others say or do, but I can control how I respond to those circumstances.
Let me use myself as an example for this. Last year I chose to be fat. Someone says, “Pastor you shouldn’t say that.” Well, the truth is that I do not have a medical condition, and nobody placed a gun to my head and forced me to eat the Twinkie. I chose to do it and by doing so, I made a bad choice which had bad consequences. I must own my choices.
I must declare, “I choose to accept responsibility for my own life, goals, and happiness. I’m not dependent upon somebody else. I choose the direction of my life. I’m not depending upon the crowd.” If we do this, we will ready for great things ahead. If you and I believe that our footsteps are ordered of the Lord and He has a plan for our life, we must decide to begin to walk a different way this year.
Not only do I need to take responsibility for my own actions, but I also need to be a person of faith (Heb. 11:6). I must believe that I can change. I must turn my “I can’t” into “I can” (Phil. 4:13). Paul stated that there was nothing he could not do, but it was because he knew his source that he could make that declaration. If I had an employee working for me and I knew there was a challenge he was going to face I would do everything I could to help prepare him for that challenge. Because we love our children, we spend countless hours with them helping them prepare for the challenges of life. How much more does our heavenly Father love us and want us to succeed and prosper (Jer. 29:11). God is not going to lead us anywhere that His grace will not take us through. God did not call the qualified but qualified the called. If God is leading you to it, He will lead you through it. You can and will succeed. Think about some of the people God used in the Bible. They refused to allow their past to define them. Let me give you two examples. First, God called Moses to be a liberator for the nation of Israel. Moses could have easily allowed his past to dictate his future; he was a murderer. He could have allowed his present to impede his future; he was tending sheep. He could have allowed his limitations to obstruct his future; he was slow of speech. But he chose to believe God and he became what God called him to be. God used another man named Gideon when the nation of Israel was overrun by the enemy. God said, “I’m going to use you, Gideon, to save the country.” Gideon said, “Me? I am the youngest kid in the poorest family in the smallest tribe in the nation.” God said, “Yes. I’m going to use you.”
Once we take responsibility and believe God for the big thing(s) He is calling us to, we must commit to those things (James 1:8). We now must walk in the way God is leading us. This means I must be willing to commit to what I believe I need to do concerning the “new thing” I feel God is calling me to. For some it may be a healthier life style, for others it may be an educational pursuit. God may be leading you into a new ministry such as teaching, singing, visitation, preaching, just to name a few. Still others may feel His hand on them dealing with daily disciplines as prayer or Bible study. Whatever it is that needs to change, we must be willing to commit to it and then walk toward that commitment. A resolution for a fresh start is great, but without determination, it will do little good. A lot of people make a New Year’s resolution about weight loss. Now understand that every one of these have a desire to lose weight. But that, in and of itself, is not enough. Desire must be coupled with determination, a commitment to the cause. It is at the intersection of desire and determination where things will get done. It is that “stick-to-it-iveness” that will help you complete what you have started. Understand that it is God’s desire to push us to be better than our excuses and bigger than our fears (Isaiah 55:9).
Nike was known for their advertising slogan, “Just Do It” for years. I think Nike was on to something as it relates to this article. It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, so is it with everything we do in life. We must start. We must “do it.” If God is leading you to work in a certain vineyard, start the process. Talk to leadership, begin to study, set smart goals.
Someone once said, “We must live within the knowledge that we are going to grasp something, either the glory of our yesterdays or the destiny of our tomorrows. We can reach back or we can reach forward but if we try to reach both we will reach neither.” A new day can dawn in each of our lives if we will just do these four simple things. Accept responsibility, Believe that we can change, Commit to finishing the course, and then just Do it.