‘We’ll do better next year!’

This time of the year is rife with New Year’s resolutions and plans to improve in 2019. Along with beach, cricket and fireworks, people are in planning mode: whether it’s that new fitness regime or losing some extra kilos, January is the season for looking ahead.

But as I consider all that is ahead in 2019, I can’t help but be a little discouraged.

Let me explain.

My husband and I have the privilege of leading one of our community groups at our church. At the end of last year, we did a wrap up of our year, discussing what we did well and what we could do better in 2019. Overall, we had a fantastic year, as God had been glorified through our love for Him and for one another. And yet, it was obvious that we had missed the mark with evangelism. So, our group decided to do better in 2019.

But what would ‘doing better’ look like?

You see, as I reflect on 2018, I feel an anxious sweat rising. It was busy. 2018 was full of moments where I felt like I was at my ‘max’, had ‘hit my threshold’, and was in ‘survival mode’. And as I look forward to 2019, I can’t help but have that same anxious feeling. But I’m not the only one.

Evangelism won’t happen unless I make firm decisions now, that free me up for gospel ministry then.

Many Christian women are so busy doing everything they have little time for anything. They are so exhausted. And I feel for them. I can see that they want to love Jesus and so they try and fit him in around the edges. They squeeze him in around soccer practice and work functions. They are so busy making their children proficient and working on their homes and careers that there’s no time or energy to invite that non-Christian family over for dinner. There’s no time to ring that non-Christian friend who is really struggling, or to help organise this year’s church retreat.

So, I ask myself, how will I evangelise if my life is so busy? How will I reach my non-Christian friends if I feel so exhausted? As I ponder, I come to the inevitable: things won’t be different, evangelism won’t happen, unless I make firm decisions now, that free me up for gospel ministry then.

What Will You Look Back On?

As a Psychologist, I often help clarify the core values of my clients. One of the questions I use to establish this is ‘At the end of your life, as you look back, what will have been important?’ It’s a question I also ask myself.

Thus for me, having that little bit more money isn’t as important as meeting with my non-Christian friends. Indeed, when I stand before Jesus’ throne, will I think: ‘I wish I had more money’? No, instead I’ll be thinking: ‘I wish I told my friend Sandra about Jesus’.

And yet, as we make decisions, we need to remember that good intentions alone are not enough.

When I stand before Jesus’ throne, will I think: ‘I wish I had more money’?

Good Intentions Are Not Enough

When I did my degree, they taught us that past behaviour was the best predictor of future behaviour. Thus, a desire to change is not enough to make change happen. Merely ‘wanting’ to evangelise (while a noble desire!) doesn’t mean we will. Good intentions aren’t enough. Unless we make difficult decisions – and follow through on them – change will not come.

Our Decisions Now Have Consequences Later

In our busy world, we often make decisions that leave no time in our lives to love others well. We make decisions to buy big houses with big mortgages that mean we have to work more to finance the mortgage. We make decisions to further our career, so do that Masters and make plans for the study to fit around everything else. Of course, buying a house and progressing our career are not bad things in and of themselves.

But the question we need to ponder is, to what extent do we prioritise these things over and the most important thing? Do we ever make firm plans for Jesus?

If you’re like me, you don’t. You don’t plan, and so before 2019 even begins you have planned to fail, without even knowing it. We fail to decide now in order to have time later.

Do we ever make firm plans for Jesus?

Look, I understand the pressure first-hand. Finances are tight for my family this year. We have three children, and expenses are high. We would be less stressed financially if I worked another day. And so, the pull to work more is real.

But I want to make decisions now that will mean when I look back on 2019, I can say, that was better. If I worked an extra day, we would probably have a repeat of 2018 – maxed out, with no margin or energy to do that little extra ministry. No time to look after my single friend’s children to give her a break. No time to write an encouraging card to my sister in Christ, no time, no time, no time.

And so, I said no to that extra day of work so that I could say yes to making firm plans for Jesus. So that I had more energy in my days to work for the things of eternity. [1]

Of course, turning down that extra day of work won’t necessarily be a choice that all of us are challenged to consider. But the challenge itself remains – will we all be ready to make difficult decisions this year, decisions which put Christ and his kingdom first? Or will we (over) schedule our calendars, so that our careers, fitness, kids’ activities get a look in, with Jesus only getting left-overs?

Make Decisions Now That Give Time and Energy To The Gospel

Here are some questions to get you thinking about your decisions for 2019:

  • Do you have time in your calendar to evangelise? Outlining what you’ll do, who you’ll invite, who will pray for you? On which weeks, and which nights?
  • Do you start with your Church’s 2019 calendar and plan your lives around that?
  • Do you have spare time in your week to pastorally care for those in your church family?
  • Who (among your friends and non-Christian friends) are you allocating regular time for, to share your life and the gospel with?
  • If you’re a mother, how many after-school activities do you take your children to? How many opportunities for sharing the gospel do your children have, either in the home, or outside the home?
  • If you work, have you considered how you will work, and what work boundaries you’ll put in place, to really put the Kingdom of God first?

Make 2019 a Great Year for the Gospel

The good news is 2019 has only just begun. There is yet time to make decisions (or change decisions) for the year ahead. Why not decide now to keep God’s kingdom front and centre?

That’s a resolution you will never regret.

[1] That’s not to say that paid work is bad – for mothers, or anyone else. Paid work clearly has its God-given place.