Consider Your Ways
As we look ahead to a new year, it’s hard not to glance in the rearview mirror and assess another year gone by. Reflection can be healthy, especially at the dawn of a new year. Without reflection, we can slowly but surely drift.
With 2021 on the horizon, we ought to consider the exhortation of an otherwise obscure Old Testament prophet, Haggai: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5). He was sent to a people who had drifted and called them to slow down, consider their ways, and change accordingly.
May I recommend a few questions to help you “consider your ways” as you approach a new year?
- Do you think about God much? What comes to mind?
What do you think about when you think about God? Is He great, glorious, mighty, and majestic? Is He holy and humble? Sovereign and sweet? Or is He a distant deity, restraining you from what you really want? Honestly assess where you are and ask God to give you a bigger vision of and love for Him in 2021.
- How have you struggled to trust God this year?
What circumstances have led you to question God’s love, care, or control in your life? Now consider why you have allowed them to have this effect. In every case, you are probably believing a lie about God. For example, if the pandemic has led you to fear for your health, yielding paralyzing anxiety or unending melancholy, perhaps you believe God’s will for your life is not preferable, or that He has not control over difficult providences, like pandemics. Confess these matters of unbelief to Him.
- Have you consistently been in the Word this year? How can you improve this?
Have you been listening to God this year? He speaks by His Word, so in order to hear Him, you must hear Him in the Bible. Do you have a plan to read? There are many wonderful plans online to aid you. If you have never read the Bible before, I recommend beginning with the Gospel of Mark, then Ephesians, then Philippians, then Genesis. Another question: what has prevented you from reading in the past? Have you failed to plan? Are there distractions in your life? Though people are different, I generally recommend everyone set aside 30 minutes in their morning. Set the alarm clock early. Get a cup of coffee or tea. Find a quiet spot. Ask God to “open your eyes to behold wonderful things from His Word (Ps. 119:18). And read.
- Have you consistently been in prayer this year? How can you improve this?
Have you consistently spoken to God this year? Prayer is an act of worship, demonstrating complete dependence on God. He knows all your needs, so don’t think of prayer as a way to update God or “get what you want.” Prayer, rather, is the main way we conform our will to His. Jesus’ prayer in Luke 22:44 summarizes the purpose of prayer well: “Not my will but Yours be done.” If you struggle with prayer, start a list on a notecard with concentric circles to pray for. For example, begin with yourself. You are probably the neediest person you know. I know I am! Then in the next circle include your spouse and children. Then in the next circle include your parents, siblings, or family members on your heart. Then include close friends, neighbors, or work associates on your heart. Then include your church, any organizations or institutions you care for, and leaders of your country. Finally, the outer circle can be the nations – that God’s glory might advance into the darkest places around the world. Also, remember that prayer can happen all day every day. Your eyes need not be closed. As you drive, as you sit in meetings, as you make daily decisions, silently bring them before God in prayer. Live in prayer in 2021!
- What distraction is hindering your walk with the Lord?
Finally, if you have tried all these in the past to no avail, consider what is keeping you from the basic disciplines as a believer. What is distracting you? Is your iPhone in the morning keeping you from your Bible? Is the TV in the evening keeping you from leading your family? Are your child’s athletics keeping you from worshipping with believers in church? Are your hobbies keeping you from growing in grace? Do what it takes this year to address whatever might be distracting you.
Brothers and sisters, as the prophet Haggai of old called the people of Israel to “consider their ways,” I too call you this new year to consider your way. Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Dr. Kyler Smith, Senior Associate Pastor
Hickory Grove Baptist Church