Seven Areas We Can Be Better This Year
It’s March. The normal rhythms of the new year have quite fully set in. If you made new year resolutions, have you been able to keep them up? Irrespective of whether you made new year resolutions, here are seven areas to which we can direct our energies to live for the honour of Christ in what remains of 2023.
But first, why? Why must a Christian do anything good? Because, “man’s chief end,” the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 1 says, “is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
The macro goal of glorifying God and enjoying him is achieved by drawing close to him through the means of grace (Word, sacraments and prayer). Drawing close to God equips us to move forward with those areas of our lives that no one may appreciate. Keeping our chief end in mind reminds us that God is not just the God of what we consider the grand and extraordinary but of the ordinary too.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Who doesn’t eat and drink? God says that people with the humblest living conditions can glorify him. So, take up your life and see how you can glorify him in all that he has given you. Let me encourage you to see how you can glorify God in the following seven areas, starting with those requiring the taking of a vow.
1. Love Your Church
Take your membership vows to your church seriously. If you have not taken your vows or you have been a regular church attendee, I encourage you to take them. A Christian who says I don’t need to formally commit to being a church member is like a man who says he doesn’t need to formally commit to marrying a woman. Your commitment to the local church looks like showing up to gathered worship Sunday on Sunday, taking a look at the budget and its needs and seeing if you can give more generously so the elders can lead the church to do more good next year and making time for at least one other churchwide activity during the week such as a Bible study or prayer meeting. Pray for others regularly.
2. Love Your Spouse
Take your marriage vows seriously. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18–19). Commit to loving your spouse exclusively in heart and cultivate habits such as a date night to show it in deed. Perhaps read a book together on marriage to identify weak areas in your marriage.
3. Love Your Children
A couple that takes their marriage seriously tends to take parenting their children seriously. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). Read and talk to mature believers about parenting techniques. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. Fathers, make a plan with your wives to plan for regular family worship. For instance, take the Lord’s prayer. Memorise one petition a week. Make two comments about the petition each day. Pray.
4. Keep Your Friends Close
Whereas the previous three areas are priorities based on vows we have taken, friendship is a basic human necessity for our overall well-being. And, yet, we live in such a friendless world. Who is a friend? JC Ryle, an eighteenth-century pastor, said, “A friend is one who halves our sorrows and doubles our joys.” Remember David and Jonathan. When David was in the wilderness and struggling with hardship in life, Jonathan spent time with him: “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1).
One of the regrets of many in their old age is how they wish they had friends. Apart from God’s extraordinary kindness, we must expect starting deep friendships to be difficult. Good friendships are hard to come by, and it takes time to recognise good friendships and then cultivate them. Our culture is unlikely to appreciate the sacrifices necessary to make those changes in life to keep intimacy with God, with our family, and especially our friends. But make them anyway. Identify friends who know how to have fun but who will console you when you are grieving, challenge you when you are in sin (particularly if you are throwing a pity party or a temper tantrum) and encourage you when you are discouraged.
The Apostle Paul knew the value of gospel friendships. As he sees his ministry career slowly ending, he wants friendships he has cultivated over the years close to him. He calls on Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon” (2 Timothy 4:9). Further, he asks Timothy to bring other friends to be with him and serve with him: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus” (2 Timothy 4:11–12). Like Paul, start investing in gospel friendships now.
5. Value Your Job Rightly
Keep your vocation in its place: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28). Stay away from laziness (a circumstance ripe for the sin of theft) and stay away from workaholism. How can you do that? If you are a student, find ways to manage your time in such a way that you keep studies away on Sundays to make time for worship and fellowship, as well as to give time to your Bible study meetings, fellowship with the church during the week, and other volunteer positions at church. If you are a business owner, see how you can grow your employees and help ensure that they are well-rested. If you are an employee, can you make time for other important areas of your life that demand time?
6. Keep Money As Your Servant
Answering the previous question might mean a change of job so you can utilise your unique strengths well for the benefit of others while you make more money so you can be more generous with it or clear off your debts. For others, it may mean that because you are so overworked, you will need to take a reduced workload or a change of job that is less demanding, which will likely affect your standard of living and disposable income, so you are functioning optimally by also being able to give time to other areas of your life—intimacy with God, time for family, friends, rest, etc.
7. Attend to Your Health
Os Guinness famously wrote Fit Bodies, Fat Minds, decrying the lack of thinking within the church. Twenty years have passed since the book’s writing, and I am afraid that the evangelical church might be guilty of ‘Fat Bodies, Fat Minds’ in some quarters and ‘Fat Bodies, Malnourished Minds’ in others. This is not an admonishment for those with medical conditions or an encouragement to have a billboard model’s physique. It is, instead, a simple encouragement for us to pay attention to our health because God dwells in our bodies, believe it or not (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Many Indians eat with the Corinthian dietary principle, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Corinthians 6:13). A rural lifestyle that more naturally compels people to an active lifestyle must be differentiated from urban living where our lifestyles are generally sedentary. Eating and exercising that fits our lifestyle are key to glorifying God with our bodies. As we focus on growing in grace that “is of value in every way”, let us also remember the “bodily training [that] is of some value” (1 Timothy 4:18).
These seven areas are not places to find our meaning and purpose. Our meaning and purpose are found in God our Creator and Redeemer. But, they are opportunities for us to grow in deeper satisfaction in God and areas to reveal God’s glory.