Do you make New Year resolutions? Do you find that you end up making the same resolutions year after year because you were unable to keep them the previous years? There are always things that we know we should be doing, things we need to change; but it seems that many of those things never get done.
What are some things that we all need to be doing this year? We all have the normal things: Get organized; help others; learn something new; get out of debt; exercise more; and many other things like these.
I would like to challenge believers to do a few things this year that are guaranteed to make a difference in each of our lives as well as impact many others around us.
First of all, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Confession implies speaking. We need to talk about the hope that we have in our relationship with Jesus. We need to examine our self-talk. Do we speak to ourselves of hope in Christ, or do we discourage and depress ourselves with our negative thinking? Do we speak of hope in our interactions with the members of our families? What about our fellow employees or fellow students? Do we enter into the hopelessness of those around us? Or do we set the tone by our upbeat conversation?
The apostle Paul says in Romans 5:2 that we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Habakkuk says that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). We may not be seeing God’s glory in our circumstances but Paul says that “hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24). Our hope is in the glory of God. It is not in our own ideas and devices. Haven’t we learned by now that we do not have the answers to our own problems?
Paul tells us that “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5). If we put our hope in the Lord and not in ourselves, we are guaranteed not to be disappointed. Why? “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). My hope is in the Lord. He is faithful; He is trustworthy. Therefore, I can confess my hope without wavering. The great hymn of the church expresses it well: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; as Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”
Another thing that we should be doing this year is to “consider each other in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). We need to be thinking about each other in the body of Christ and stirring each other up. We can only do this as we spend time together. One or two hours on a Sunday morning is hardly enough time to “stir up love and good works.” Paul says in Philippians 2:4 that we should “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others.” After all, it’s not about us anyway. It’s about Jesus and His will for us as His followers. He wants us to be thinking about each other. He wants us to be involved in each others’ lives; to stir up love and good works.
This year we should not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (Hebrews 10:25). Again, I believe he is talking about more than just a couple hours on Sunday. The early believers met daily and the Lord added new believers to the church daily (Acts 2:46-47). We can attend the weekly large-group gathering every week and be almost as disconnected from others as if we stayed home. It is possible to slip in and slip out with little or no interaction with another person; but if we are meeting with other believers in small-group settings throughout the week, we will be able to connect with them in life-giving ways.
One more thing that we need to be doing this year: “Exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). To exhort is to encourage. We need to be encouraging each other “daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Sin is deceitful. It can trick us. We need other believers encouraging us on a daily basis so that we not get tricked into sin. Again, small group involvement throughout the week is a great way we can be helping others to avoid the deceitfulness of sin, and to be encouraged ourselves.
We need to be encouraging each other “so much the more as [we] see the Day approaching.” The Day of Jesus’ return is drawing closer each day. It is more important for us to encourage each other today than it was yesterday. It will be more important to encourage each other tomorrow than it was today. Paul says that “the Day of the Lord so comes like a thief in the night” but that we as believers “are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake [us] as a thief” (I Thessalonians 5:2, 4). Not being caught unawares by the Day of Christ’s return is accomplished by our continual encouragement of one another; encouragement to “hold tightly to our confession of hope.”