Happy New Year
Commentary by Jack Kelley
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4-7).
New Years Resolutions
I’m not big on New Years resolutions, because most people break them almost immediately. The two most popular resolutions are also the two most frequently broken, often before the sun goes down on day one. If you guessed “stop smoking” and “lose weight” you’re correct. One problem is that they’re both based on eliminating something and the mind can’t focus on the absence of a thing, only the benefits that the absence brings.
Much better to say, “Today I’m going to begin enjoying the benefits of being a non-smoker” and then make a list of them that you can read when the urge for a cigarette arises, to help you focus on the desired result. You can think of losing weight as a weight adjustment and say, “I’m going to adjust my weight to 185 lbs.” This will allow your mind to focus on the positive result of the resolution and begin to “see” a thinner you.
Another problem with New Year’s resolutions is that there’s nothing magical about the first day of the year. Unless it’s accompanied by a sincere desire to achieve the resolution being set, the fact that you set it on New Year’s day isn’t going to make it any easier to achieve. And if the desire for achievement is present, one day is as good as any other to begin.
Even so, this year I recommend setting one resolution, and since it requires eliminating something, I’m going to include a positive replacement to help make it more likely to work. I think we should eliminate the words “luck” and “lucky” from our vocabulary, because I’m convinced there’s really no such thing. As an expert in the field of human behavior once reminded me, “Luck is simply the intersection of preparation and opportunity.” I see his point. For the one who’s unprepared, an opportunity could just as easily bring about disaster as benefit.
Blessed Are The Believers
And that brings me to the word that should replace luck in our vocabulary, and it’s blessed. Because that’s really what’s happening in the life of a person we call lucky. I think it’s about time we start attributing all the good things that happen in our life to their true Source. God is the Author of our victories (1 Cor. 15:57), the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), and He loves to give good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11). Remember what He had Moses tell the Israelites:
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today (Deut. 8:17-18).
The church I grew up in had a tradition that was part of every Sunday service. After the offering was collected, it was brought to the front of the church to be blessed by the pastor. Then the congregation sang a short response called the Doxology. The first line was, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”. It was to remind us that the money we had just given was not ours but had come from God, and it was only a portion of what He had given us. Now we were giving that portion to Him to express our gratitude.
“But what about things that just happen by chance?” you ask. Attributing God’s blessings to chance denies His involvement in our lives, just as surely as adhering to the theory of evolution denies His involvement in the creation. In both instances chance is the rival conjecture, the substitute for God, and one definition of blasphemy is to credit the work of God to some other source. We laugh at the ancients who attributed God’s work to the idols they carved out of wood and stone, and yet today many believers attribute some of His finest work to nothing but chance. Whose is the greater sin?
Things like chance and luck and their own cleverness are ways unbelievers explain the good things that happen. As believers we know different, and we should take every opportunity we can to acknowledge the Lord’s involvement in our lives.
Now What Do I Do?
If you’ve got your heart set on trying to live in a manner more pleasing to God this year, more power to you. This world could use a lot more people doing that. A good place to start is to decide you’re going to become more aware of the blessings He brings you every day, and more diligent in thanking Him. He really goes for that. Once you become aware of the blessings you’re already receiving, you’ll be amazed at how many there are. And when you become more thankful for them the blessings will increase exponentially. As I said, the Lord loves to give good gifts to His children, and this is especially true when we show a little gratitude for receiving them.
And I’ll tell you what other good things will happen. You’ll begin living a happier, more peaceful life, regardless of the situation you’re in. More exciting too, because looking for God’s blessings makes every day a treasure hunt. And now may you and yours enjoy a happy, peaceful, and blessed New Year.