I’ve been thinking about looking forward – I want this article to be about looking forward to this year 2021, the blessings that it will hold for us, and the hardships that it will inevitably bring as well. It’s important to lay a solid foundation for this, like a man who builds his house on the rock (Matthew 7). Our foundation, the core of our existence and purpose, should be rooted in God, and when we allow our lives to be directed for Him, we shouldn’t be surprised when we start to feel more fulfilled.
When we look forward to what this new year has to offer, let’s not forget this past year, completely erasing it from our own personal histories, but instead let’s extract the lessons we learned from the tragedies and blessings that came our way.
Reflecting on 2020
What does the year 2020 mean to you? Many people lost jobs, parted with family members, and experienced severe anxiety and depression. Isolation, sickness, and depression have attacked the world in a way that none of us millennials have experienced before. While we all share some experiences from 2020 and suffered in some aspect of our life, everyone has had a completely unique year.
This year in particular has probably damaged you in some way, whether you realize it now or not. And for a lot of us, it’s not just 2020 that has left scars. Our past has a way of making us feel unworthy. We have all sinned, and we’ve all tasted failure before. When we grasp onto our failures and use them for excuses, however, we are losing the battle.
If you remember the story of Lot escaping Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), you might remember Lot’s wife, who looked back upon the city she was escaping.
32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:32-33 ESV)
2021 can be about overcoming: conquering our past tragedies and mistakes, and building on a foundation that can not be shaken.
My goal this year is to look forward to the future and leave the baggage of my past behind, reaching more people and becoming more of a warrior for Christ. What goals can you set for yourself to make 2021 a great year?
Looking forward to 2021
What goals should we set for ourselves in 2021? The obvious include fitness goals, reading goals, relationship goals, etc. Fantastic, but let’s challenge ourselves to become more spiritually active as well. As always, our foundation going into this next year should be rooted deeply in faith – faith in our salvation, and in God’s unique purpose for our lives.
When we allow God to take the reins of our lives and steer in His divine direction, we might not see the purpose at every step, but we can be assured that it is worthy of our focus.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28 ESV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
One of our goals should be to serve the people around us. For this upcoming year, we can look for opportunities to serve in our communities, or extend our ministries online. Another thing that we should keep in mind is that Christianity is a team sport. We should not neglect our Christian friends, but keep them in close fellowship, and look for ways to mutually build each other up in the faith.
19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.Romans 14:19 ESV
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.Mark 12:28-34 ESV
When we pursue our secular goals, such as becoming fit, we develop specific intentions that lead to action, such as planning to work out. It’s important, therefore, to consider the actions we can take to strengthen our faith and expand our own ministries when creating goals for the new year.
Similar to a game of chess, we can look to activate ourselves spiritually by giving ourselves more potential to let our light shine, like a knight on the chessboard wants to be in the center of the board, giving it potential to reach better squares. A knight on the rim is dim – this can be applied to our lives when we corner ourself off from opportunities to let our light shine. What position can you put yourself in that will allow you to be a gateway to God for the people around you?
Here are some categories we can focus on, to guide us to positions that make us more potent pieces for God’s use in His divine plan.
Self-care – Self-care is important to our faith lives and also to our relationships with the people that decorate our lives. When we are mentally (and physically) healthy, we are more inclined and able to bear fruit.
–What are some ways that you struggled this year? Did this make you less effective in your faith-life?—What are ways that you can improve your own vitality?
Friendships – Our friends should be central in our lives. Our relationships with people play a huge role in our own quality of our life, and can stand as a reflection of our own well-being. As Christians, we should plant seeds of hope in our own relationships, and pray for our friends as well.
– Who are some people that you can reach out to to reactivate a friendship? Are there people in your life that might be wanting to find a church community or start a relationship with God?
Relationships – A lot of people rely heavily on romantic relationships to define their lives. However, I believe that relationships are not cure-all medicine to our lives, but should be pursued when the time is right and we are comfortable on our own.
- Were you in any bad relationships in 2020? Why did it start? Why did it fail?
- What parts of yourself do you want to work on to make yourself a better future partner?
Relationship with God – This is the most important of our relationships, and should be fostered accordingly. Prayer should be a staple of our daily life.
- How has your prayer life been recently? Can you use a journal or some some other tool (maybe devotionals) to boost the quality and quantity of the time you spend in conversation with God?
- Is there something you think God wants you to do?
- What can you ask God to do in your life to help you to become more effective for the Kingdom?
Ministry – What are some ways that we can use our story (testimony) and our resources to support the people around us in their walk with Jesus?
The beginning of the new year also provides a wonderful opportunity to forgive those who have wronged us.
3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”Luke 17:3-4 ESV
When looking forward to a hopefully exciting and awesome new year, it is worth noting that extracting the lessons of our past is important, as is leaving behind the parts of our past that make us less fruitful Christians. When we let go of the things that weigh us down, whether it be drugs, technological addictions (tv, phones, video games), or guilt, we open ourselves up to a more fulfilling and confident future.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.John 12:24 ESV
So after a year of heartbreak, loneliness, and hopefully reflections, let’s let ourselves be healed, and take the next steps.
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”(John 5:8 ESV)
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5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 5-8 ESV)
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12 ESV)