I was feeling overwhelmed this week. I know that’s not unique to me and my schedule isn’t more busy or crazy or stressed than anyone else’s (to me it seems like it is, but I know that is self-delusion). Seriously, as I was thinking about that I remembered something I wrote a while back and wanted to share again—I did the following blog just before New Year, but I truly think that where ever we are in life, whatever time of year it is, it can always be a New Year with our Lord…so following is the reminder that encouraged me.
Death as a reminder
This past year the father of one of my friends died. My friend shared with me that in the time they spent together as death approached, he asked his father, “Is there anything you need to do?”
What a kind and wise question to ask a loved parent in the twilight of life—to be there to help him do whatever needs to be done to rest in peace. We all want to know our lives mattered and that we finished up the tasks, the calling, and if possible, all we were created to do before we leave this earth. We may not be able to finish those things alone and the offer to help seemed incredibly insightful and caring.
As I thought about it in the days that followed, I realized that it’s an important question for all of us to ask ourselves and those we love. As the New Year is about to start, it’s an especially good time to do that. As many of us make resolutions at this time, we ought to take time to make worthwhile ones.
What is it we need to do?
Though the specific application for all of us may change, Jesus has an overall answer. The question isn’t new. Life has always been busy, always pushing and pulling in many directions. Long ago, Jesus gave us this answer on one busy day with friends, as Luke tells us in his gospel:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NIVUK)
The one needful thing in life, what we all need to do, is spend time with Jesus.
It sounds simple, but it is difficult to put into practice because like Martha, we are often “worried and upset about many things.” Often they aren’t “bad” things—after all Martha was busy about serving Jesus. But even as she was doing service for Him, she wasn’t paying attention to Him.
Attention to Jesus starts by time in His Word, reading it, listening to it, thinking about it, discussing it. The world is so loud with its demands, messages, entertainment and empty noise. If we want worthwhile dreams to fill our hearts and minds we’ve got to intentionally fill it with God’s Word.
That’s why his year and every year I pray that we’ll daily read the Bible through so that we’ll learn to think like Jesus thinks, to know what matters to Him, to understand how He would respond to the events of life. More than simply reading to learn the content, history and facts (though all that is important), read it through to see the heart of your Creator, Savior, Forgiver, and Lord. You must have the broad overview to correctly understand the parts.
We wouldn’t think of reading part of a text-book, bits and pieces here and there and attempt to pass a course on the subject. How can we claim to be a follower of Jesus and not ever have read all that he wrote for us?
We would never assume to be a follower of any popular series of books, such as the Harry Potter series, if we didn’t read them all, cover to cover. Can you imagine saying something like, “Oh, I love Harry Potter!” but then admitting you’d only picked up one book a few times, opened it at random and read a few pages. Someone who really cares about Harry Potter, reads all the books and knows in detail about Muggles, Quidditch, Gryffindor, and Lord Voldemort. If we don’t take seriously someone as a fan of a popular series of novels who knows little about them and has never read them, how can we expect our Lord to take us seriously in our love for him if we haven’t read the Book, he wrote for us?
He speaks to us through his Word and we must spend time individually and with others in worship and study reading, listening to, discussing it. We must allow God’s Word to “dwell in us richly” so we can hear his voice.
If we do that, most likely He’ll make clear some things He wants us to do. As you listen, ask yourself:
- What is it that you need to do to make your life focused on the one thing that is needful?
- What is it you need to do to care more deeply for those you love?
- What do you need to do to serve more fully those who have needs?
- What is it you need to do for Jesus, this year, for it to be a year obediently lived?
His answers may involve some difficulty for you to carry them out. We always want to take the easy path—but like any path, if you take the easy, level road, you’ll miss the view available only after an exhausting climb. If you don’t focus on Jesus in the coming year, chances are your life will be easier, but easy, fun, and comfortable are rarely God’s descriptions of the lives of those who counted the most for Him.
Decide on a pattern of faithful study and service
Not just the coming year, but every year the path of our life goes in a certain direction and the grooves of direction get ever deeper each year. God has given us the opportunity to choose that direction, each New Year gives us an opportunity to change directions and travel down new paths that will bring satisfying joy and peace. In the coming year and always, may your life be like this verse:
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Prov. 4:18
Wherever you are at in your knowledge of God’s Word or obedience to you, there is always room for growth in the learning more about it and the grace of living it more completely. It isn’t the action of reading or checking off a list that’s important when we read the Bible–it’s a way to spend time with Jesus, listening to Him, the God who loves us, saves us, and walks with us now and forever.