NEW YEAR, NEW ME

By Krystal Chan

At the beginning of the new year, many make New Year’s Resolutions. These usually involve going on a diet, exercising regularly, working harder, managing finances better and the like. But as we all know, it is usually the case that these resolutions are short lived and we easily relapse into our old ways. Statistics clearly show that gyms see a spike in memberships in January and up to 80% of those who join quit within the first 5 months.

Now bringing this back to a spiritual context, this pattern is sadly also true for many of us. Often when we are first converted, we have the passion and the ‘fire’ to serve God. Then, maybe after many years we grow tired, disillusioned and revert to our old ways. What does God have to say about this?

When we become Christians, the Bible says that we are to be renewed and to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:21 – 24). But is that the end of our renewal? In Romans 12:2, it reads “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. Again, we see ‘renewed’ here being used with reference to the renewal of our minds, as in Eph 4:23 ‘be renewed in the spirit of your mind’- it is not a physical renewal, rather a spiritual one. It is also interesting to note that renewing here is in the present continuous tense, indicating that it is a continuous process. We are not renewed once at the start of the year like a department store membership card, but we are renewed day by day.

“16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” 2 Cor 4: 16 – 18. Reading the context of this passage in 2 Corinthians, we read what causes the writer to conclude that we should not lose heart. In verses 8 – 9, it describes that “we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” because we have this spirit of faith, which gives us life and hope in Christ Jesus.

Reflecting on our own lives, have we grown weary? Have we forgotten our first love as the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:4)? Why?

1. Is it the challenges of life?

Have we been hard-pressed on every side? Persecuted? Do the cares and trials of the world threaten to extinguish our faith?

“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35 – 39)

Our attitude towards challenges should be as in James 1:2- 4 “2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Take each new challenge as a way to learn and strengthen our faith.

In Isaiah 41:10, God promises “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Key takeaway: We need to reflect and remember that despite the challenges we face, God is always with us and that challenges that we face help us to grow.

2. Is it because of our age?

Do we think that perhaps we have served the Lord for many years already and it is time to ‘retire’ and let others do the work? This mentality was clearly not condoned by God, as we read in Matthew 20: 1- 16. Those who had worked from the beginning complained saying “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.” They thought that it was ‘unfair’ that they did more work than the others who had joined only in the eleventh hour. If we think that we have ‘worked enough’, are we not being like these workers, complain- ing against God?

Do we think that because we are too young, we cannot do much?

“12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” 1 Timothy 4:12. Young people can be a great encouragement and example to others. I had once heard that one of the older folks visiting the church was very much encouraged because she found the young people to be very respectful because the young people greeted her and talked to her.

This may seem like something small but it does make an impact on others. Young people are given the gift of youth and energy – use it to honour God.

While our roles may change and evolve as we age, we are never excused from doing our part in service to God.

Key takeaway: We need to remember that despite our age, whether young or old, God has a role for us. We are called to serve Him as long as we are able to because this present life is but a moment in comparison to the eternal life that God has promised us in heaven if we continue to serve Him faithfully.

3. Do we think that we are not talented enough?

Maybe we think that we are not that eloquent, or that we cannot sing well or we do not know how to teach others. Are we insulting God by saying that we are ‘useless’? God is, after all, our creator. He is the potter and we are the clay; we are vessels who should be “sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim 2:21). We may not all be given the same talents, but each of us has been given our own special talents. As in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30), what we do with them is our choice; we can either use them for His glory in godly reverence and fear, or we can hide them away in carnal fear.

Key takeaway: Each person has their own role to play in the body of Christ (Romans 12:48) and their own talents that God has blessed them with.

And so we are without excuse. To those who have grown weary, remember Isai- ah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

The Christian race is a marathon that we should run with endurance in order to obtain the prize (1 Cor 9:24; Phil 3:14; Heb 12:1).

So for this new year, let us make a lasting resolution – to continue to be renewed daily, to refresh and encourage others – “Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all” 2 Cor 7:13, and to serve God as fervently as the day we were converted.

Reflect on what each of us can do to serve God more this year. Can you be more active in personal evangelism? Can you help to encourage and minister to the needs of others? Can you learn to teach others?

As we often pray for the church to be growing and God-glorifying, will you help the church make it a reality?

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