2018 - A Perfect Environment For Growth
By Daniel Willis
Of all the people who spent time with Jesus while He walked the earth, I find statements made by James the brother of Jesus among the most challenging. See the eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life tell us he had several brothers and sisters, and James was one of them. And none of His brother’s believed Jesus was the messiah (John 7:5). But when you see your brother die on a Roman cross, and then see him several days later risen from the dead, it seems James was convinced he had been wrong. It totally changed his perspective on who Jesus was, and who he was.
And in his letter to the believers in the first century, James writes “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22).
What a challenging statement. It seems to me that James came to the realisation that all of life is connected - that what we do in the past will influence today, and what we do today will turn up in the future. And if we really think about it, this holds true for our own lives - your current financial situation is largely dependent on decisions you made in the past. For many of us, our health is inextricably linked to how we looked after our bodies in the past. Our need to increase the size of our clothes may be predicated on what and how much we consumed over the last year... and the list goes on.
And here’s what we know - hearing alone doesn’t get the job done in terms of improving our current situation. Hearing the accountant tell me I need to reduce my spending to match my income isn’t the solution - writing a budget and sticking to it is. Similarly, realising I need to include some form of exercise into my lifestyle to keep doing what I want to do as I get older is not going to make me any more capable of achieving this outcome, unless I do something about it. This has even greater implications for our marriages, our connection with family, and our relationship with God.
Put simply, I think James may have been also suggesting we cannot give ourselves credit because of our devotion to God, if we put nothing into practice. If you are anything like me, there is a tendency to judge ourselves by our intentions, but judge everyone else by their actions. Church attendance and listening to inspiring podcasts will not change my life. Doing something and making positive change in my life is the key. Its not knowing the right thing to do, it’s doing it. And this was the crux of James’ challenge to believers at the time within a context of acknowledging that Jesus had made a way for all of us to be in right standing with God. And the focus of his message is then directed toward practical application - watching what we say aligns with what God is saying (about our siblings, our friends, our spouse), and helping others.
So, what opportunities does 2018 present for you to grow? I really do hope that your financial position improves in 2018. I hope your health and general level of fitness also improves. But I am certain that in addition to these, God has hopes and dreams for your life that relate to more fundamental matters of humanity - that you find peace, that you know that you are loved, that your life is full of purpose and hope.
In the years to come, what’s the story you want to tell when you look back on 2018? More of the same, or this is the year I decided to put into practice what I had been hearing for a long time. To be generous, to be kind, to chose to hope despite what is going on around me. Its asking the question for every opportunity “in light of what I hope to accomplish in the future, and in light of who I want to be in the next season of life, what is the best thing to do?”
If we accept that all of life is connected, and acknowledge that the present eventually becomes the past and the past has a way of turning up in my future, what decisions should we make to guide the year ahead?