As we move out of our teen years (2019>) and into the Roaring 20’s it is important that we properly evaluate and give up the past and own the future. By being honest with our past we can set ourselves on good ground to prepare for and build upon our future. If we are willing to be totally honest there are at least 3 groups of “things” that hinder our past experiences and they are:
THINGS THAT DIVIDE US
It seems like the last 10 years have seen times of unusual division. There have always been things that get us upset with one another but it feels like people are more easily offended by the beliefs and actions of others. These include social issues such as immigration, pay inequality, abortion, globalization, sexual abuse and accusations, music, and race to name a few. While we desperately need to find common ground, we are finding it more difficult to have friendly discussions. We seem to constantly be drawn into very intense conversations whether they be in person or on social media.
It’s as though we have forgotten that Christ calls us to gentleness and a life of exemplary living so that we can win the respect of non-Christians (1 Thess. 4:12). We must learn to be less concerned with winning the battle so that we can win the war with the soul.
THINGS THAT DISTRACT US
I grew up in a very devoted Christian home were mom and dad put Christ first in everything. We prayed before every meal, watched my dad read his Bible in the evening, and always put church services and participation in the body of Christ “first in our lives”.
During the last 10 years it is clear that things of God have been subservient to sports, leisure, family activities, work, business, possessions, people, and money. I did NOT say that Christians are denouncing or denying their faith but simply redefining the way they prioritize their lives. Is it any wonder that more millennials are declaring themselves as religiously “nones” rather than Christian? One cannot make Christ Lord if they are constantly allowing other things to distract them from positioning themselves to be in a place to learn about and grow in their faith. Distractions diminish our focus on Christ. As an atheist friend I have once told me, “You Christians have heaven waiting for you. Why don’t you live like it?” We cannot continue to be distracted from the goal of our salvation.
THINGS THAT DISCOURAGE US
In seminary my Greek professor (who was all over us for rote memory of the Greek language) shocked us by saying, “It is all about relationships”. People today are distracted by so many broken relationships. These broken relationships destroy the foundation of society (the family) and suck the joy out of life. In addition, job insecurity and instability threaten our future and rob us of enjoying the art of generosity and comfort of normative living. Along with job insecurity we have seen unstable incomes and unexpected expenses create untenable lifestyles.
Added to these discouraging life issues are the Spiritual disappointments that every Christian experiences at some point in their lives. While each of us deal with our own sin, the moral failures of so many spiritual leaders (people we looked up to such as priests, pastors, elders, others) has brought on doubt and confusion that has destroyed many churches and caused the turning away of many from the faith.
Thus we can be greatly discouraged and feel let down by life. Perhaps this is why a study done in 2018 revealed that 31% of all Americans deal with anxiety and many others face depression and/or unhappiness.
But as we look ahead into 2020 and beyond with God’s help we can take control of our future by deciding to own what will come our way by targeting just a few items that will set the course ahead. This is not an exclusive list but a list of a few matters that can make a difference. They include:
1. Fixing Broken Relationships.
While you cannot determine how people will relate to you, you can determine how you will relate to others. So here are some steps that may help you connect or reconnect with others:
A. Forgive those who have offended or done wrong to you. Holding a hurt will only crush YOUR spirit. Most people know when they have wronged you…and they know when you’ve forgiven them.
B. Ask for forgiveness. Bring it before the Lord first and then go ask the person you have offended. It means you have to humble yourself and be honest. It may make you look bad to others – but they already have a low view of you if you’ve done wrong. At least now you can rebuild your reputation and people appreciate humility.
C. Ask others to identify what you have done or how you can get things back on track with them. Once these things are stated you might find that the relationships were not as bad as you thought or are now repairable. Somethings others are just as anxious as you are to fix the relationship. Remember the ending of Home Alone? The neighbor called his son and discovered that his son was just as ready as he was to rebuild their relationship.
2. Saving Some Money.
It is important to be prepared for whatever comes your way. It is always helpful to be prepared for the unexpected, be ready to assist others, and keep yourself with less debt in the future. A few ways to saving are to put away a fixed amount (maybe just $10 per week!). You can also pay down your creditors with just one or two extra payments during the year. This will eventually clear your debts and free you into the future. Another easy way to save is to set up a saving account for vacation or another project you desire to do. Too many people overspend while on vacation as they are not prepared for how much it will cost. Saving money will help you to live tension free and joyously.
3. Helping Someone or Assisting Others in a Project.
Very little needs to be said here. We all want to help others but rarely plan for it. When you help a widow, mentor a child, or give to a project or special cause you fill your life with a satisfaction that you are doing something God designed you to do. It reflects upon the image of God in us and refocuses your senses on God’s purpose for our lives. It provides you with renewal and a generous spirit that transforms the way you live and brings him great glory.
4. Learning a Biblical Teaching or Particular Theology.
Too many Christians have no idea how to connect their actions with God’s will. In this media saturated society, there is no reason to be a theological midget or Biblical illiterate. Study God’s Word on the subjects and issues that come into your life. Learn how to articulate your faith and decide you want to learn theology about the person of God and his expectations upon the way we live. The greater you are able to articulate your faith, the stronger you will be to handle issues that come your way. Plan to grow as a Christian rather than always lean on others to hold your faith up.
5. Give up a Vice or Something that Hinders Your Faith.
Everyone has something that creates a spiritual speed bump. It may not only be a negative thing such as smoking, drinking, language, gossip or porn but it may also be something good that gets in your way of trust or belief in God. It could be exercising instead of taking time to read God’s word, or a hobby that keeps us from meeting with other Christians or attending Sunday services. Whatever hinders you get rid of it. Just one thing can make all the difference in the world.
These are just a few random but probably very useful suggestions as we review our past and look forward to keeping our 2020 focus on what God has for us in the coming year and decade. As you consider these things, recall 1 Corinthians 10:31 which reminds us in whatever we do, that we are to do it all for the glory of God as well as to keep your focus on Christ. Hebrews 12:2