As the new year unfolds, all of us want our year to be “happier” than the previous one. Based on Scriptural advice, here are three keys to help you experience a happier new year:
One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14-15, NKJV).
1. Leave the Past Behind
While we may have difficulty “forgetting” the past, we can all choose to learn from it and leave it behind. We can ask Jesus to help us cut our losses, heal our wounds, and remove any unwanted baggage from the previous year. Foolish mistakes, wrong decisions, or harmful habits/attitudes can all be swept away–if we will learn from them and allow Jesus to recycle them into future, positive actions.
In some cases, the consequence of past errors will follow us. But we don’t have to let those consequences imprison our attitudes or our future. As believers, we have been granted unconditional forgiveness; God has placed our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12, NKJV). As followers of Jesus, the Son of God, we have accepted Jesus’ death on the Cross as penalty for our sins. As believers, sin breaks our fellowship with God temporarily, but not our relationship as His eternal children. Besides that, sinning as believers should break our heart and move us quickly back into the restorative arms of our Father.
In the Philippians passage above, the apostle Paul is not just talking about leaving painful things behind. Earlier in the chapter he referred to his pre-believer, misguided zeal of persecuting Christians. Transformed by Jesus, he made a complete turn-around and followed Christ the rest of his life (Acts 9). But he also chose to put behind him any “credentials” that might elevate his ego: his education, status, successes, and achievements–things that he once thought as important but now considered inferior–anything that might take away from his purpose to “live for Christ” (Philippians 1:21) Paul could have also mentioned his numerous, difficult challenges: being shipwrecked, imprisoned falsely, stoned, beaten, persecuted, and in perilous situations repeatedly. He refused to let the past (or any unpleasant circumstance) dictate his future or his contentment.
Refuse to let the past define you. Instead, allow Jesus to refine you.
2. Embrace the Future
“Reaching forward,” or embracing the new year allows you to choose a positive response toward what is ahead of you, instead of focusing on what is behind you. All of us can get stuck in the past if we allow our enemy to attack us emotionally or spiritually with thoughts like, “Look what you did!” “You don’t really matter!” “Why try, anyway? You’ll just fail again.” That’s never the voice of Jesus.
As long as you have breath and life, you are capable of believing the best, and of letting hope influence your attitudes and future. God is still the God of the impossible, and He not only wants to transform us daily; He promises to finish the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6). Paul, too, testified to the power of Christ: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). Some days you may question what to do–or what Jesus is doing–but faith keeps going, reaching, and believing that Jesus is in control. Embracing the future means welcoming whatever Jesus wants in our lives in order to make us more like Him.
What’s keeping you from embracing the future? Maybe no one but you. Reach forward prayerfully with confidence and hope. Celebrate every step, every victory, every moment Jesus gives you. He will never fail you.
3. Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
“Press toward the goal.” In a sense, the “goal” is Jesus. But even more, as we keep our eyes on Him, we will uncover and discover the life for which we were made and the purpose for which we were created. Living for Jesus, allowing Him to live through us, and hearing God’s “well-done” as we finally arrive at our eternal home is a prize unlike any other. As we live to give Him glory, not ourselves, Jesus will constantly “teach us what is best for us” (Isaiah 48:17). And as we run our race toward the goal, He will reward our faith constantly with the peace of His presence and the same joy that was set before Him.
Running our race with eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, is the way to make every year a happier one.
The choice is ours.
My Personal Prayer for You
Lord Jesus, as we begin this new year, help us indeed to leave the past behind, to embrace the future You have designed for us, and to keep our eyes constantly on You. Protect us from those who would attempt to pull us away from the goal set before us or who try to turn us away from following You. When we don’t know what to do, our eyes are on You. Thank You for second chances, for unconditional love and forgiveness, and for another new year in which to live and serve and bring You glory.
Which key needs more work for you? How will you allow Jesus to make this year a happier one for you?