The end of a year is a time for reflection. We, as God’s people, are instructed to make self-examination. Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves…” (2 Corinthians 13:5). He again wrote, “Let each one examine his own work…” (Galatians 6:4). Brutally honest self-examination may be uncomfortable to do, but it can be beneficial.
The end of a year is also a time to set goals. Christians should not stagnate. Unless we have become as perfect as Christ (and we have not), then we all still have room for growth.
(1) Let us determine to grow in our knowledge. New converts need to grow. Peter wrote, “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Let us decide to read the Bible. If we will read just one New Testament chapter per day, we will complete the New Testament in about nine months. If we will read three chapters of the Old Testament per day, we will complete the Old Testament in about eleven months. It is not just new converts, but all of us need to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 2:18). Those no longer babes should study deeply, feeding on meat, and not milk (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12-14). “More about Jesus would I know, More of His grace to others show; More of His saving fullness see, More of His love who died for me… More about Jesus let me learn, more of His holy will discern; Spirit of God, my teacher be, Showing the things of Christ to me… More about Jesus in His word, Holding communion with my Lord; Hearing His voice in every line, Making each faithful saying mine…” (Song: More About Jesus by E.E. Hewitt).
(2) Let us determine to grow in faith. The Bible speaks of little faith (Matthew 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8) and great faith (Matthew 8:10; 15:28). It speaks of weak faith (Romans 4:19) and strong faith (Romans 4:20). It speaks of great boldness in the faith (1 Timothy 3:13). Paul commanded the brethren at Thessalonica saying, “Your faith grows exceedingly” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Biblical faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Let’s feed upon God’s word daily, put it into practice, and grow in faith.
(3) Let’s determine to grow in love. Paul wrote to the brethren at Thessalonica, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). Later, he commended them saying, “the love of every one of you all abounds toward each” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). May we determine to be a loving people, a loving church.
(4) Let us determine to be better examples. We should not just be hearers (James 1:22; Matthew 7:24-27) or preachers (Romans 2:1-4, 21-24), but doers of God’s word. We should be examples “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:11). Let us say, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Our works should glorify God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12), and bring others to Christ (1 Peter 3:1-ff).
(5) Let us teach others. God expects us to mature to the point we can teach others (Hebrews 5:12). Peter said we have a responsibility to “proclaim the praises of Him who called (us) out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The early Christians “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Let us resolve to share the good news with someone this coming year. No excuses, we each know someone with whom we can seek to study. If we do not know how to conduct a study, we should learn, or take someone with us to help. This is not an optional part of Christianity.
(6) Let us be a prayerful people. Let us read and learn from the great prayers of the Bible, and also – the praises of God, and other communications with God found in the Bible [Consider: (a) Job (Job 42:1-6); (b) Abraham (Genesis 18:20-33); (c) Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24:12-14); (d) Isaac (Genesis 25:21); (e) Jacob (Genesis 32:6-12); (f) Moses (Exodus 3:1-4:18; 15:1-18; 32:11-14; 32:31-35; 34:8-9; Numbers 11:10-30; 12:9-13; 27:15-17; Deuteronomy 3:23-26; 9:18-20, 25-29); (g) Joshua (Joshua 7:6-11); (h) Manoah (Judges 13:8); (i) Samson (Judges 16:28); (j) Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10-20; 2:1-10); (k) Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10); (l) David (2 Samuel 7:18-29; 1 Chronicles 17:16-27; 29:10–20; Psalm 3; 8; 19; 23; 38; 51; 139); (m) Solomon (1 Kings 3:4-14; 8:22-61); (n) Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14-19; 20:1-3); (0) Elijah (1 Kings 18:36-37; 19:4-5; 19:13-18; James 5:17-18);(p) Elisha (2 Kings 6:14-17);(q) Asa (2 Chronicles 14:11); (r) Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 18:31); (s) Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:12-13); (t) Isaiah (Isaiah 64:1-12); (u) Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:7-9; 32:16-27; 42:1-6); (v) Daniel (Daniel 9:3-19); Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:1-19); (x) Ezra (Ezra 9:1-10:4); (y) Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1-11); (z) Zacharias (Luke 1:13; 1:67-80); (aa) Mary (Luke 1:46-56); (ab) Simeon (Luke 2:28-32) (ac) Jesus (Matthew 6:9-15; John 17; Matthew 26:36-44; Luke 23:34, 46); (ad)The Tax Collector (Luke 18:13); (ae) Church (Acts 4:23-31); (af) Stephen (Acts 7:59-60); (ag) Paul (Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21)]. Make time for prayer. Jesus found time to be alone with God in prayer (Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:23; 26:39-ff). The Muslims pray five times a day [(a) dawn; (b) noon; (c) mid-afternoon; (d) dusk; (e) night, before retiring]. Are we so dedicated?
(7) Let us worship with all our being. The psalmist said, “I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart” (Psalm 9:1; 111:1; 138:1). (a) Let us sing from the heart (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). (b) Let us pray, not with vain repetitions, but with our spirits (1 Corinthians 14:14-15 cf. Matthew 6:7). (c) Let us listen as Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9), and Cornelius “we are all present before God, to hear all things commanded by… God” (Acts 10:33). (d) Let us give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), and liberally (2 Corinthians 9:13). Have you adjusted your giving to ability and inflation? This is a good time to look at such things. Some get in a habit of giving a certain amount. They give that same amount through the years even though income has risen. (e) Let us discern the body of the Lord, when partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).
(8) Let us determine to assemble. Let us not willfully forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:24-25). Let us be as the Psalmist who said, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). Let us “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).
(9) Let us work on our personal weaknesses. Benjamin Franklin had an interesting approach. He listed thirteen items he wished to work on during the coming year. He made special effort on one item per week. He completed the list in thirteen weeks. Then, he started the list again, going through the list four times during the year. He kept a journal, marking the number of his shortcomings each day for the item of concentration. In this way, he kept record of his progress through the year. Whatever the method, know your spiritual weaknesses and work on them.
(10) Let us help our families to heaven. (a) Husbands and wives, what influence are you having on your mate? The Bible is clear that you can be a good influence (1 Peter 3:1-7), or a terrible influence (Genesis 3:6; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 21:25). (b) Parents, what kind of influence are you being? You can be a good influence (Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 1:5) or a bad influence (2 Chronicles 22:1-4). Let us remember, “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).