Something is happening right about now: the person you were in 2017 is meeting the person you want to be in 2018, and there’s a bit of a standoff. Actually, your brand new resolutions are beginning to wave the white flag of surrender, and it’s all because you didn’t leave the 2017 version of you in 2017.
If you truly desire to live differently in 2018, then there are a number of habits that you need to lay down as the foundation of what you’re building in the new year. I’m sure that there are many more than 4, but here are the first 4 that came to my mind as I was writing. Small improvements in these areas will lead to big success in leaving last year’s you in last year.
Have you ever played the lottery game? I don’t mean the lottery. I mean the lottery game where you sit around and talk about all the things you’ll do if you ever win the lottery! Whenever I hear people play that game, I’m always struck by 2 things: they always want to do good and they don’t want the good to feel bad. So they practice “imaginary” generosity with “play” money instead of practicing real generosity with real money. Last year’s you may have thought, “I’ll give more to God when I have more” but that was the old you. This year, start practicing generosity with what you have now. Even if it’s just a little, intentionally start to give more of your time to people, more of your resources to charity, more of your talents to a cause.
You need to get intentional about your personal, “just me and Jesus” time. Be devoted to the development of your devotional life! So many arrive at the end of the year on fumes because, at some point during the year, they stopped putting fuel in the tank. Devotional time is the fuel. Set aside a time every day – for me, it’s in the morning – when you’ll connect with God and be reminded of what matters most. I love the simplicity of 3 John 1:2 – “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” Devotion is soul time, and when you devote yourself to it, it pays off big time throughout the day!
I’m a pastor and so community is a really big deal for me and is something that we talk about a lot at The Gathering where I lead. But community isn’t a “church” thing. It’s a human thing! All of us were made to be in relationships with other people who were made for relationships, and nothing will drain the new you out of the new year faster than being alone. Do you know why? Because you’ll start to talk to yourself and convince yourself all of the reasons why you can’t change. “That was a stupid thing to try. I’ve tried it every year since 2000 and I still haven’t stuck with it.” You need others around you to help you stick with it when you feel like life is sticking you! There’s a story in the Bible about God’s army winning as long as Moses had his hands raised. Kind of a weird story, yes? But of course his arms got tired (think Survivor immunity challenge tired) and they would start to drop. When they did, the army started to lose. So 2 men – Aaron and Hur – sat Moses on a rock and held his arms up. That’s community, and that’s something you need as we move further into this new year.
If you’re like me, the more tired I get, the quicker I start to live like it’s all about me. You may not have expected something as practical as sleep to be in this list, but think of sleep as the intentional act of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first so that you are then able to help others around you. A rested you leads to a successful you.
One of the shortest chapters in the Bible – Psalm 127 – talks about striving to accomplish things in our own strength, and the second verse packs a punch and a promise:
“In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
God’s got big plans for you in 2018 and He wants you refreshed and ready for the adventure. So sleep, and then get up and get to it!