What is ‘a great year’ anyway?

Happy New Year everyone! We trust you had a blessed Christmas and as a New Year is already upon us, we thought it appropriate to share some words we’ve been reflecting on. 

Today’s post comes from guest blogger David Binder who can be found over on Thoughts of Binder. Thanks Dave for your thoughts in this article.

I can’t have been the only one to have noticed those ‘It’s been a great year’ posts on Facebook. It seems that a group of techy employees from the world’s largest ‘social network’ have dreamed up a neat algorithm which collates all your best ‘moments’ from the previous 12 months, puts them in a montage for you and all your Facebook friends, alongside a generic message saying ‘It’s been a great year, thanks for being part of it’ which is customisable.

Even if you’re not on Facebook you may well have been asked by friends or family ‘How has your 2014 been?’ or ‘What are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2015?’ Even if you haven’t, many see this time of year as a period to inwardly reflect on what has come and gone and what might be in the future. The question is though – What actually makes a great year?

Whilst the World around us sees holidays, buying your first home, a new arrival in the family, a new job / pay rise / promotion as indicators of a worthwhile year, we as Christians are called to measure ‘goodness’ in a rather different way. It’s not that the things listed above are inherently wrong, they’re not, and should be enjoyed in their right context as gifts from God. Rather, my point here is that we should measure how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ our year has been by different standards to the World. ‘What standards are these?’ I hear you ask. Well, here are three for starters, plus some suggestions for 2015 New Years’ resolutions.

  1. ‘Lose life now to gain life later’ Mark 8.35-38

A lot of the time it seems, the World tells us that we’ve only got one life so we might as well maximise our own wellbeing now, hence the saying ‘Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’ Jesus had something quite different to say however. In the passage above, he is talking about self-sacrifice (losing life now) for the gospel of Christ and his eternal kingdom (gaining life later.) In 2014, this might have meant getting to Church early to put out Bibles, ending a romantic relationship with an unbeliever, or rejecting that promotion which may have added five grand to your salary but would have stopped you from attending mid-week Bible studies. Losing life now in this sense and in 2014 might not have been particularly fun, or produced any amusing photos for our friends, but is still nonetheless good in the sense in that it helps us prioritise what really matters.

  1. Suffering proves our faith as genuine and matures it–1 Peter 1.6-7and James 1.3-4

For many of us, 2014 will have been a pretty tough year typified by illness, job loss, spiritual struggle, bereavement etc. Yet in the Bible we see great words of encouragement regarding the suffering believers experience. Rather than suffering being a bad thing, God in his infinite grace uses it (amongst other things) to make us more like Christ (Rom 8.28-29), and for the maturing of our faith. Indeed, having come through trials of various kinds, many including myself can testify to this. Such experiences also help us look forward to a time where suffering, pain and sadness will be no more (Rev 21.4), and focus and appreciate God’s strength in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12.9-10). For all these reasons, don’t despair if the previous year has had its fair share of pain; God is surely using it to develop your faith, make you more like Jesus and enable you to rely on him more.

  1. Growing in Godliness and enduring until the end should be our priority – 2 Peter 1.3

As noted already, fun experiences in whatever form are no bad thing and should be seen as good gifts from God to be enjoyed. However, whilst society seems to suggest that our priorities should lie here, the Bible states that our focus should be on growing in Godliness (Rom 12.1-2) and enduring to the end (this end being eternal life) (2 Tim 4.7-8Hebrews 12.1-2). Indeed, I don’t think the two are unrelated. That is, as we seek to grow in Godliness through spending time with the Word, in prayer and building up the body of believers we become more focussed on endurance. These priorities cited throughout scripture again may not be seen as especially admirable by the World, but their importance to the believer is obvious. In this vein, growing in Godliness probably won’t happen overnight, and is better viewed as a more gradual process taking place over a lifetime. Even if we feel 2014 has been a real battle spiritually, we can be sure that our faith alone is a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1.13-14) and that God in his grace will sanctify us (1 Thessalonians 5.23-24) and see us through to the end (1 Corinthians 1.8-9).

Looking forward to 2015

As we look forward to 2015, why not make use of the principles already cited in this piece to shape our New Year’s Resolutions?

  1. Losing life now to gain life later
  2. Suffering well if and when we encounter trials in 2015 and beyond.
  3. Focussing on a perfect eternity and enduring in faith to this end.
  4. Pursuing Godliness and making this a priority.

To this end, here are some questions to reflect on.

  1. How can I be sacrificial in 2015 for the gospel of Christ and his kingdom?
  2. What Bible verses and principles should I be remembering if and when I encounter suffering in 2015? What verses and principles can I use to encourage others going through trials?
  3. What things will help me in 2015 focus on the eternal kingdom?
  4. How can I be pursuing Godliness in 2015 and encouraging other brothers and sisters in Christ in this vein?

David Binder
Thoughts of Binder