January first, the start of a new year, is the time that many of us put pen to paper with a set of “resolutions”—lose weight, read more, be nicer, do good deeds, spend more time in prayer, etc.
However, as Christians, we underwent the ultimate renewal when we accepted Christ. We became new creatures in Christ.
Yet, as I certainly know, and Paul warned us in the book of Romans, our sin natures continually try to reassert themselves. So, the idea of setting new goals, releasing our love of the world to rest in Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to continue His work of our Sanctification—well, it is not a bad idea.
As a rabid list maker and goal setter, I do list things I want to accomplish in a new year. However, I also set before myself a verse each January.
I spend time in prayer and try to listen to God’s voice in my quiet time with Him, guiding me to one verse that will be a primary reminder for me during the year, that I must let go and let God become greater in my soul and in my daily life. It will become key in the renewing of my mind, helping me to become more like Christ.
As I write this, I have not yet found the verse for 2018, but I can tell you that Joshua 1:9 has been a verse of mine for several years.
These words, as translated by the NIV read, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you may go.
Each time, something happened in that year, that was a problem. The first time that this verse became my annual standard bearer, my mother died.
Last year, (2017) the verse stood out again and so, I prayed it regularly, but it did not seem that there was much in the way of discouragement happening—until the end of the year, when in quick succession, my children’s book publisher went out of business and two poetry journals (to which I was a regular contributor) folded.
In spite of other successes during the year, these hit me hard and I have been procrastinating. Instead of working feverishly to put out more poems, to find a new editor, I have let discouragement rob me of initiative.
At present, I am reflecting on what work that I do is done for Christ and trying to concentrate on that—to run the good race. In Philippians 3, we are called to forget what is behind and to press on toward the goal—not success in writing or performing, but toward what has value for Christ.
This year’s goal setting and verse choosing are of special importance for me. On January 10, I will turn 70. This is a number used in the Bible to tell us how many times we should forgive others—70 times 70.
So, I need to look at forgiveness this year. People may live up through 100 or a bit longer, but I definitely have fewer years ahead of me in this world than I did when I turned 30—all things being equal , since God can take any person at any time.
Thinking on this is not a sad time—it is a motivator—for it reminds me more starkly that each day has both its troubles and its gains for Christ. I must treasure each day and live it in the joy Christ has for me. I need to act always and only for Christ.
In our church’s weekly prayer meeting we are studying the 17th chapter of the book of John and read today the words of Christ Himself about what he wants for His believers:
John 17:13– I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
God wants me to live with a full measure of joy. So, as I take out pen and paper to chart the goals I hope will honor Christ, I am confident that He will finish His work in me, as long as I am walking according to His will and word.
And that no matter what happens this year, God’s desire is for me to have joy, an emotion; a peaceful resting in Him that is a decision of faith.
Each morning’s dawn will remind me, as the song says, that each day holds new mercies from Christ and that there are good deeds He has prepared, waiting for me to perform.
In His name, to His glory, and to encourage you, I offer the following reminder in verse of God’s love for us, shown at the start of each day.
by Joan Leotta
Daylight explodes in a
splash of gray storm clouds
mingling with chimney smoke
from night’s dying fires.
Ambition and hope reflect
each other in the golden
glow of sun taking over sky,
as wind-herded clouds
drive the dark of night and
storm back into oblivion.
I take a deep breath.
My day begins.
(This poem was written for an ekphrastic competition, and was selected to be one of the ones read, and included in their book by Craven County, NC Arts in 2016.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling. Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973