Happy New Year. I’m believing God for an AMAZING 2013.
To kick off this year, I wanted to send you a great article written by my best friend Tim Clark. Tim is the District Supervisor over about 150 Foursquare churches in Los Angeles. His words will serve as a great springboard into our new year.
Abraham Lincoln, who was a skilled woodcutter before becoming president reportedly once said: “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” It seems in life there is never a shortage of work to be done, but when we try to accomplish this work with a dull life (yes, we are the axe), we expend much more effort for a much diminished result.
Around the beginning of a new year, it’s been my habit to take two or three days to spend some significant time with the Lord, and to prepare my heart and life for the coming year. I’d love to encourage you to find time to do this, too. This is an opportunity to really assess where you’ve been, and to discover where you should be going.
Here are a few tips to make this kind of experience rich and meaningful:
1. Find a set-apart time and space, and leave your burdens behind.
Whether you can only tear yourself away for a day, or you find the luxury of two or three days, make sure you seek out a space that is not part of your normal work environment, and don’t take any normal work with you. If you have burdens you just can’t shake, write them down, give them to the Lord for a few hours and try to move on. Turn off your cell phone if possible, and shut down your email. This isn’t a time to catch up; it’s a moment in time to sharpen your axe for the year ahead.
2. Assess and celebrate what fruit God has produced over the last year.
Spend some time reflecting on what the Lord has done in, for, and through you in 2012. Remember the moments of obedience and consider what those produced. Review the lessons learned. Re-read your journal or somehow remember what personal things God spoke to you in your devotional times. Rejoice in answered prayer. This all helps to remind you that God has consistently worked with you, and so you can embrace the fact that He will continue to speak to you and teach you in the year ahead.
3. Review your life patterns and schedule, and discover what you need to change.
This really is about repenting; not necessarily turning from sin (though this is also a good time to do that), but turning from unhealthy and unfruitful ways of living. If you have found that your schedule is running you, take back control. If you realize that you are missing your kids or grandkids growing up, readjust your life. If you find yourself buried in the minutia of life, figure out what needs to change. I like to address the following four issues at least once a year: What must I do; what must I develop; what must I delegate, and what must I ditch? Taking a critical look at the things that will get your life back on track.
4. Ask God what the “big rocks” are that you need to add to your life this next year.
This is part of the “what must I do and develop?” I once saw a man preach about priorities. He started with a large jar and put three or four big rocks in. Then he poured in some gravel. Then he filled the jar up with sand. And THEN he poured a pitcher of water in it. Amazingly, it all fit! However, he pointed out that if he had started with the water or sand, the big rocks would never have made it in. Each of us has a few big things that need to take precedent in our lives. If we don’t know what those are, or if we don’t give them priority, they will never fit because of all the smaller stuff we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Take time at the beginning of the year to determine what your big rocks are and make sure to give those things predominance as you consider 2013.
5. Press in for a prophetic word to carry you through 2013.
Ultimately, we can plan our calendars and rearrange our priorities, but at the end of the day, what is most important is that we hear the word of the Lord concerning His heart for us in this season. Every year I want to know what God is leading me towards. Rarely is this a specifically detailed plan for my life; most often it is a sense of a big picture direction He wants me to be headed.