As we move towards the New Year I wonder if, like me, you begin to reflect on the events of the year gone by and start thinking about what 2017 will bring and any changes you would like to see happening.
A long time ago, a very good friend of mine said something to me that was very simple but which stuck with me and has remained a touchstone for me in the way that I think about things.
We had been talking about difficult situations – and without going into detail, each of us had been through particularly difficult (nah, let’s just call them horrible) seasons of life. My friend then said something like this: “No matter what it is Sime, the question’s always the same: What am I going to do?”
No further explanation or elaboration was needed. No matter what the circumstances, how tough the situation or how much we might desperately wish that they were different, the important thing is – what will we do about it?
Sometimes we feel like quitting, baling out, giving up. I know what that feels like. Sometimes the right thing to do in certain circumstances is indeed to quit, bale out and give up – if the things you have been continuing on with have been harmful to you or other people. This shouldn’t be mistaken for quitting or giving up on the bigger picture, on life, however – just on those harmful things. Sometimes the right thing to do is to exercise a strategic retreat from some things so that you can advance in other directions.
Winston Churchill is often (wrongly) quoted as having said “Never, never, never give up” and whenever I hear that quotation used I can’t help but think that if Churchill was around to hear it he would insist that context and qualification be given. Here’s what he actually said, in the middle of a speech given to his old school, in 1941 – remember this was after the desperate retreat from Dunkirk and victory in the Battle of Britain -
You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period—I am addressing myself to the School—surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
Sometimes there are stern seasons of life to endure. Sometimes the devil – the very real presence of evil in our world – can seem like an overwhelming enemy. But – you cannot tell from appearances how things will go. What you can do, is pray and persevere, giving in only to those things which good sense and convictions of honour tell you to give in to and never giving in to the rest.
So here’s my question – and I invite you to ask it of yourself too:
What will I do in 2017 to bring about the changes I would like to see happening?
I think if we are to actually get on and do what needs to be done to bring about the changes we would like to see, a few things are required -
Know our own starting point. This will require an honest assessment, and courage to ask people who love us, so that we can get a true fix on where we are now. Only then can we really set the course towards becoming the better version of ourselves that we aspire to being, whether that is physically, mentally, spiritually, realtionally, emotionally, professionally, recreationally or all of the above.
Know where we want to get to. This means spending some time really reflecting on what changes we want to bring about, in light of our starting point. Asking ourselves searching questions such as : What will I give up, in the name of honour and good sense? What will I strive to improve about myself ? How will I go about becoming more and more the person I really want to be? What would the "ideal me" do more of or less of? What would the best version of myself start doing, or stop doing? What little thing can I do today to turn things around? How can I be a blessing to people? What can I do in my own way to help people in need?How can I encourage? Whom can I praise? How can I better show the love of God to people? How can I better represent Jesus? What do I admire in other people and what can I do to emulate them in my own way? Who have I been neglecting and what will I do about it? What have I always longed to do, but never made a start on? How can I clean up the temple of the Hoy Spirit (myself) so that it befits Him?
Be determined. When we say New Year’s resolution, usually we miss the key word – resolution. The New Year makes a nice “blank page” to start from but the key is to have that steely resolve implicit in the word “resolution”: The dictionary definition speaks of “a firm decision to do or not to do something” and “the quality of being determined or resolute.” Do you want to make changes – really? Show me some determination then – what are you going to do? How will you go about it? What time and structure do you need to put in place to make it happen or let it happen? Whose help will you need? How will you go about seeking it? Will you humbly ask God for His help every day? Will you seek and listen to his counsel on the issue?
One of the things I would strongly recommend you include (OK, I’m telling you!) in your resolutions is this – find a time and a place to read your bible every day. Don’t be discouraged if you miss a day and don’t be thinking you have to read a vast section every day but don’t miss out on the positive, affirming, life-changing wisdom that is on offer every day. Oh, and keep coming to church, obviously!
The rest I’ll leave to you. One of my own resolutions is to be more thankful in 2017 so on that note, may I close by saying a massive thank you to all the people who have helped EBC and/or me personally in 2016. God bless you all – and may He watch over you and help you become everything He hopes for you to be.
I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.