Every year, the pastors at my church challenge us to choose a word for the year — that is, a word or theme that describes the spiritual growth step the Lord wants us to take during the year.
At the beginning of 2014, I felt that the Lord wanted me to focus on the word “invest” after hearing a few sermons in a week in which that word was prevalent.
So how can you choose a word for this year? Obviously, prayer is the first step. My pastor, Jimmy, gave us some examples of how he prayed:
“Lord, what do You want to do in my life this year?”
“Lord, what do You want to teach me this year?”
“Lord, how do You want to change me this year?”
“Lord, what do You want to be true in my life, or what do You want to be truer in my life, a year from now?”
In 2014, I wrote down the ways I planned to “invest” in several parts of my life. These goals included investing in my health by exercising at least three times a week for 30 minutes, investing in my finances by refinancing my mortgage, and investing in my spiritual life by memorizing the book of Philippians.
It is helpful to remember, with any goal, this important insight from Scripture: “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, New American Standard Bible).
I started off well and did well in certain categories, but, overall, I came up short of my 2014 goals. Yet I learned a better way to achieve personal and spiritual growth goals for future years: Write them down and put them in a place where you’ll see them
Pastor Jimmy recommends writing your word of the year on three-by-five cards and posting them in places you’ll see them, like a mirror, desk or refrigerator, so you can constantly focus on that word, praying about it throughout the year.
It’s also helpful to conduct a word study to learn how that word is used throughout the Bible. BibleGateway makes it easy to do this with their search engine.
At the end of the year, measure your progress by asking yourself, “Is my life more honoring to God and more attractive to others in this regard?”
Remember that your goals should move you not into legalism but into grace. Rather than worrying about whether you’ve done every single thing you set out to, be content with growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Philippians 1:6 (NASB) is a reminder that God is not finished with us yet: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
began his journalism career as a newspaper correspondent for his local paper in Ohio. He covered city council meetings, wrote features and took photos. Rich served with Worldwide Challenge magazine from 2008-2016. Now, he writes field reports for another Cru ministry. Contact Rich at Rich.Atkinson@isponline.org.
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