As we begin a new year, many of us will make resolutions.
Regrettably, still more of us will likely break them.
Losing weight, eating and living healthier, hitting the gym or even committing to reading our bible every day.
All great things to commit to.
But what if, instead of making resolutions that will likely be broken, we go one better and find ways to challenge ourselves to things that are both more purposeful and truly achievable?
It’s said that most of us fail at the resolutions we make because once we’ve stated them, we feel enough of a sense of accomplishment that as soon as we hit a rough patch, we pretty easily concede, say we tried, throw in the towel and pretty easily return to old and often bad habits.
“I tried to make a change or I meant to do better”, we might say, “but it just didn’t seem to be in the cards this year.”
As they say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
In order for us to move from our best intentions to experiencing success through bringing about important/necessary changes in our lives, we need impetus, motivation, purpose and a spark.
To be sure, some of us are just competitive enough that, if an obstacle is presented to us in the form of a challenge, then we fare better because it motivates us to step up and accept that challenge and sometimes, even overcome it.
I recently learned of a man named Gary Miracle.
Yep…that’s his real last name and boy, could he and his family use one.
On New Year’s Eve, 2019, Gary found himself with a severe case of the flu that ultimately put him in the hospital.
Last week, I too found myself down with a severe case of the flu. By severe, I mean it rendered me weak, tired, with very little appetite and outright bedridden for 4+ days. Every time I’d try to exert “my will” over it; to see it as a challenge to be overcome and try to sit up or stand and bear through it, shortly thereafter I’d find myself experiencing the very strong need to lay down again and then later, waking up from yet another nap.
…what I might refer to as one of those proverbial “he makes me lie down in green pastures” or “God knows best when we need to rest” type of moments. The type He communicates very well directly to our bodies and through our very beings.
But it didn’t land me in the hospital and certainly nowhere close to the circumstances Gary ended up facing. In my case, I’m happy to say, I seem to be on the mend (and, thankfully, with a negative C-19 test).
I share this and Gary’s story below as a reminder of how amazingly fragile, fleeting and out of control our lives truly are. Until we come to truly realize that it is God who is in control of every little detail of our lives and that He has a plan for everything He allows us to experience, we’re simply existing in delusion.
So, Gary ended up developing sepsis. After 107 days receiving treatment in the hospital, including an induced coma so his organs could rest and heal, and despite his health care provider’s absolute best efforts, he ended up losing all 4 of his limbs.
What in the world…? Two seemingly similar situations with very different outcomes.
So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions? Well, before I get to that and the rest of Gary’s story, let me first say and pray that may none of us ever again take our health for granted.
I’m going to share here, some ideas from the International Leadership Institute about how each of us can make our resolutions more meaningful and have greater success in achieving them. But I just couldn’t see sharing these tips without including the perspective of Gary’s experience.
How do you imagine this father of 4 and husband to Kelly might have first responded when he understood that he had lost his limbs? How could he muster the physical and emotional strength to deal with, to say nothing about overcoming, the obstacles before him?
What would this man, who was the sole-wage-earning-provider for his family, begin to think about in terms of their future, much less about making resolutions?
But then, God…
Through His grace and with the strength of His Holy Spirit, Gary is learning to live again; “seeing his life for the very first time, through a different lens.”
“To learn what it really means to live and not just be alive.”
As was posted on the Miracle family’s gofundme page, “in November 2020, Gary was fitted for and began using his prosthetic arms.
He’s also started working with a prosthetic leg for pivoting from one chair to another.
His right leg is still healing so he’s not ready to be fitted for walking…YET…but only a few more months and I am sure that will be the next phase.
Gary just finished coaching one of his son’s football seasons which came in second place in the league!! Gary is a HUGE football fan so it was no surprise that he would step up to this position. It was mostly smooth sailing as the ground was turf grass which made it easy for him to use his electric wheelchair up and down the field. What an inspiration!
With God’s help and if it be His will, Gary genuinely also maintains faith and believes he will one day walk again. And he challenges us and anyone else to “say he won’t…”
You can learn more about Gary’s story in this week’s Inspirational Music Video or by searching the internet for “the Gary Miracle Story.”
And if you’re in a financial position to be able to help the Miracle family with any part of their mountain of medical expenses and feel led and called to do so, you may donate here. They also gratefully accept all prayers, blessings and good wishes.
And as we seek to learn more about how we may improve, may we never lose sight of how important it is to do it with and through the help of God.
His grace will sustain us no matter where he leads us. (Philippians 4:13)
And so it is that I now share this 4-Day Reading Plan where, with me, you can learn how to live in this new year with purpose.
Everyone looks forward to a fresh start at the beginning of a new year. The way to have the best year yet is to be intentional with everything you do. God has created you for a purpose. This is the year to discover your purpose and learn how to live it out.
I encourage you to print this plan out; then read, process and apply these principles one-day-at-a-time so as to gain their full beneficial effect.
Day 1 of 4: On Track – The Importance of Purpose
Bible Reading: Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” or (KJV) 11“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
Devotional: Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse of many people. It is a verse that reminds us that God’s intentions toward us are for good. This should encourage us in any situation, and for that reason alone, it is an important word for us to hear and know.
Q1: What are some of the first thoughts that come to mind, right in your current circumstances when you read this verse?
As often is the case with scripture, there are other things we can learn from this verse. One overlooked truth from this verse is that God does indeed have plans. God is purposeful. Do not think that God only reacts to things and tries to do the best He can with whatever happens. God is intentional. God has specific plans and acts accordingly to those plans. If God does not approach life randomly, neither should we.
The new year offers us a wonderful opportunity for a reset, and we should take advantage of that opportunity.
As your new year begins, take time to reflect on 2020. Don’t let the past year be wasted, instead, learn from all we have experienced.
Q2: As you think back on all of the things you experienced in 2020, what are 1 or 2 things that changed your perspective?
Q3: How might your new perspective guide you toward making some meaningful, purposeful changes in your life moving forward?
Now, commit to living a purposeful life in the year ahead. Do not live the entire year without purpose, only reacting to what happens from day-to-day.
Take time to prayerfully decide on a word or phrase for 2021 as something that will direct your approach to life for the next 12 months. Better yet, begin to ask God what your focus should be in the coming year.
- Remember, He has plans for you.
- Finding your purpose is empowering.
- A purpose is life-giving.
- God is purposeful, and He has created us for a purpose.
- Begin work today to make 2021 a purposeful year!
Day 2 of 4: Finding a God-Given Purpose
Bible Reading: Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Devotional: It is important to approach life purposefully, but to really make life all that it can be, we need to not simply have a purpose, but have a God-given purpose. We may have some good ideas, but “God ideas” are always better than good ideas. The ideal way to live a purposeful life in 2021 is to have a vision to accomplish for the year, and that vision is best when it’s given by God. A God-given vision will not only give you purpose but will be something with eternal significance.
Vision is a clear mental picture of something that God desires for your life. Vision clarifies purpose, helps establish priorities, motivates commitment, maximizes productivity, and fuels passion. Vision is a specific desire that God has for our future. It gives us a direction to head in. Vision grows out of a need that we see around us, something so strong we just can’t get it out of our minds. It gets into our hearts and becomes a burden for us. As we are burdened for this need, we begin to let God use us in fulfilling the cause. As we move to action, we ask God for direction to see His vision of a better future realized for this particular need. As God responds, He provides our mission, our purpose, and our focus for the year.
- So, what needs are breaking your heart?
- What do you see around you that God wants to change?
- Ask God to lift the greatest desire above the rest, and see what becomes a burden you carry.
- Then, ask God what your role will be to see that need met or changed.
- When you have your mission, you will have a purpose every day.
- Let 2021 be a year of eternal significance.
Ask, and it will be given.
Day 3 of 4: Be S.M.A.R.T.
Bible Reading: Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
Devotional: We know if the new year is going to be a great year, it will be because we are living with purpose. We need to live with a vision from God, focusing on doing things significantly. God gives us the vision and what is necessary to accomplish that vision. God is the Source that allows us to be successful in living with purpose. This does not mean that we don’t make plans.
Proverbs 16:9 says clearly that it is the Lord who directs our steps. But it also says that we make our plans. Some may understand this to mean that we foolishly make plans because it is the Lord who directs our steps. However, it seems more consistent with scripture and the character of God to think that God is pleased with our intentional and careful planning. We count on God to direct our steps, both through our planning and independent of it, but we should prayerfully make plans.
One good way to plan for a purposeful year is to set goals that will enable you to accomplish the vision God gives you for 2021. These should be goals known as SMART goals. SMART goals are:
- Specific: General goals are “fuzzy” goals; make goals as specific as possible.
- Measurable: Goals must be measurable so you can monitor your progress as you work on them.
- Actionable: Goals are designed to involve action; they speak of something to be done.
- Realistic: Your goals should involve faith, but must be in touch with the reality around you.
- Time-targeted: Every goal must have a deadline; a time it should be completed and evaluated.
One of the problems with our New Year’s resolutions is that they usually are not SMART goals. Again, to “lose weight, get in shape, read my Bible, and pray more” are all worthwhile endeavors. They are not, however, SMART goals because they don’t meet the standard. How much weight will I lose and by what time? How often will I read my Bible and for how long? Our goals certainly need to be worthwhile endeavors, but they also need to be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-targeted in order to help us live purposefully.
Once you receive a vision from God for what He wants to do through you in 2021, then set SMART goals to help you achieve that vision by living with purpose!
Day 4 of 4: Live Every Day
Bible Reading: Ephesians 5: 15-16
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Devotional: Having a year filled with vision, purpose, and goals will make for a year filled with meaning and a sense of fulfillment, but only if you commit to live into these things every day. Many people will have a vision and even set good goals, but will never follow through with them. Their enthusiasm for a life of purpose will last a couple of weeks but soon fades away. The words Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus are so critical to a purposeful life. We must give attention to how we live, day by day. We must determine to make the most of our time. How then, can we manage to live every day, not randomly, but on purpose?
There are four simple, practical tools that can help us do this. Individually, they will be helpful, but success is likely to increase dramatically as all four tools are practiced together. To live on purpose, we focus on these four things every day:
- Remember your vision. Vision breeds purpose, provides direction, and fuels passion. When we have a vision for what God wants for our lives in the new year, reminding ourselves daily of that vision will help us to live that day with greater intentionality and with our vision before us. Print it out and post it somewhere where you will see it regularly and several times throughout your day.
- Review your goals. Goals help us monitor our progress, so if we review our goals daily, we can make sure that we are moving toward our vision, and not wasting our days.
- Make a list. Take time to determine the focus of the day. Decide what is most important to accomplish that particular day. Some days it may simply be a phone call that needs to be made to accomplish the next goal that moves you closer to your vision. Sometimes, it may even be to rest, or to relax and be refreshed in your body, soul, and spirit. Every day has value, and we should not waste them.
- Most importantly, begin each day with prayer. Make sure you take a few minutes to pray over your vision, your goals, your list, and your day. Remember how Jesus said to abide in Him, because apart from Him, we can do nothing. We actually can’t live this kind of purposeful life, except by the Spirit of God. We should, of course, pray throughout each day, but we can’t do that if we do not start the day with some time in prayer. If you want to live a life of vision and purpose, God will help you do it. The starting point is prayer.
Next week, I’ll repost another set of helpful suggestions so that 2021 may truly become a year where you achieve new goals and begin again to live your life with purpose. In the meantime, once you’ve developed some God-inspired, purposeful goals for 2021, consider sharing them with those closest to you – maybe even with one or more members in your Life Group. When we are vulnerable enough to share with one another, we can work together to hold one another accountable and to encourage, challenge and support one another in achieving our purposes.
I also love hearing your thoughts, comments and any ways in which I might continue praying for you. Drop me a line through this link. I look forward to hearing from you.
Right here with you,