“This new year, God, what do You expect of me?” I asked. I wasn’t talking about New Year’s resolutions. I wanted to pull back and see the big picture so I could discern God’s will for me in 2014.
My heart and my Bible were opened to Matthew 22. The narrative finds Jesus before the Pharisees – the religious leaders of His day – and he is asked to choose the most important commandment in all of the Law. Jesus answered clearly:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
There are 613 commands in the Law. Jesus didn’t just pick the most important commandment. He summed up the whole counsel of God in just two commands.
After reading those words, I assessed myself in three areas that New Year’s morning.
First, I ruthlessly analyzed the affections of my heart. At the top of the page in my Bible above Matthew 22 I have written, “The human heart is an idol factory.” We like to deceive ourselves that we have our priorities in order, but the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that “The heart is most deceitfully wicked, who can know it.” We choose to love other things more than God, and those things become idols.
As I looked back over the past year, I asked myself, “What did I love?” I thought of the ongoing battle to love myself more than God. I’m really good at that. We seem to do a good job about thinking about and meeting our own needs.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Look through the factory of your heart to see what it had produced in the past year. What things did you love more than God? And how well are you loving your “neighbors” — especially your wife and children?
Second, I contemplated where God is working, and how I could join in what He’s doing. Dr. Henry Blackaby wrote in his classic book, Loving God, “watch to see where God is working and join Him in His work.”
One reason I don’t hesitate to challenge people to be involved in helping reach families is that this is an area where God is at work. It’s also an area where the devil of hell is attacking. One of the purposes of God since the beginning of time is for His image to be reflected in marriages and families for generations. Where is that learned? It’s learned by a little boy and a little girl looking at a mom and a dad, hopefully in a marriage and a family committed relationship, learning what it means to be a man, to be a woman, investing in your marriage and your children. God is at work in this issue today on many levels, and He’s at work generationally.
Finally, I took a hard look at the horizon. The conclusion of one year and the genesis of yet another should result in us sharpening our eyesight on where we’re headed. My personal mentor, Dr. Howard Hendricks, would often say, “Man is immortal until God’s work for him on earth is done.”
With each new year, the finish line for me is getting closer, and so I need to look more attentively at the horizon. I need to make sure I’m running in the right direction, and that I’m stretched out toward the finish line.
As I reflected on this for the coming year, one question I wrote is, “How do I get the gospel to more people?” The essence of who I am as a Christian is to proclaim Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. That’s also the goal of FamilyLife. As a ministry, we touched over 14 million people last year. This year, we want to touch more people, and do that more effectively.
I really like the urgent picture painted by 18th century preacher Charles Spurgeon, imploring us to implore others to consider who Jesus Christ is.
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there un-warned and un-prayed-for.”
I urge you to do the same self-evaluation I did on New Year’s morning. Ask God to reveal what and who you truly love and to help you make necessary corrections in the factory of your heart.
We have a heavenly Father, full of grace and mercy, who pursues us, even in the stubbornness of our idol factories as we continue to love the wrong things. Ask Him, as David did, to create in you a pure heart. And as Christ commanded those Pharisees as he summarized the Law, in 2014, pray that you may better love Him with all your heart, and to do a better job of loving your neighbor.
Ask Him to help you see where He is working and show you how to get involved. And ask Him to open your eyes to clearly see the horizons set before you, and to help you run the race with endurance that is set before you (Hebrews 12).
May God’s favor be upon you – in your marriage, in your family, in the work of your hands and our hands this year. Is there any better way of making 2014 count?