December 31, 2018

A Value-Driven New Year

Written By Cary Schmidt

Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”

How about some “new year values” instead of some “new year plans?” 

Plans are fine, but over 30 years of ministry and life planning, my takeaway is plans are often overrated. Many years I over-planned. Some years I under-planned. Some years God obliterated my plan. Other years God upsized my plan. Honestly—every single plan was merely an educated, well-intentioned GUESS!

I love plans. I have plans for 2019—lots of them.  But, like I said, they are overrated. I’m holding them loosely. Come or go—I’m not tying my heart to them. Too often, for me at least, plans have been an overreach effort to control that over which I have no control. If they work out, I get heady. If they don’t, I get discouraged.

I like plans, but they tend to be pesky little distractions to the larger, organic work of God in and around me. My plans can make me miss His bigger plan.

My plans are “meh” in light of God’s plans. The best plan for me is to know that He has a plan! My primary plan is this—stay on God’s plan. Wake up tomorrow and walk His road, hear His voice, follow His lead—that’s my plan. Obey Jesus, love Jesus, love people, and do the work He’s called me to right now. That’s the plan.

Five years? Who knows. Maybe I’ll be in Heaven. Maybe big dreams will be unfolding. Either way—if it’s His plan, I’m good. I don’t need a five-year plan as much as I need the Lord to direct my steps today. I don’t need a checklist as much as I need gospel grace to shape my heart and forge my path today.

So, as you turn the page into a new year, let me challenge myself and you. My challenge is to live by a set of values rather than to anchor my heart to some rock-solid plan. Frankly, I don’t know what God has planned for my new year, but I know the values that should drive my new year as His plan unfolds.

In that spirit, here’s my quick checklist for a value-driven new year. I’m not as good at planning as I used to be, but I pray passionately that I can better at living than ever before.

Here are the values I’m asking God to shape into every day of my new year:

Love Jesus—Today, Jesus is mine and He is for me! He has already done the work and invites me into life with Him—to enjoy Him right now. Today is not about my work for Him—it is about His work for and in me. Jesus is enough! Today is not about my strength—it is about His strength in my weakness. The more I comprehend His love, the more I cannot help but love Him.

Love His Word—Today, I will preach the gospel to myself. I am a child of grace, not law. His word is good news to my soul. His hope flows from His heart to mine on every page. May my mind engage His truth, embrace His precepts, and appropriate His wisdom today as I follow Him.

Love My Family—Today, I get to love those closest to me. It may be my last chance. There is no time for unresolved conflict, offense, or harbored bitterness. God has given me this moment to express His love and grace; therefore, I choose to expend my life loving well.

Love God’s People—Today, I have a church family and friends that I am blessed to strengthen and encourage. They carry burdens. They fight deep battles. They walk faithfully down a hard road, engaged in gospel ministry with true devotion. Today, I will love them, pray for them, and serve them from my heart. Today, I will labor for their spiritual flourishing.

Love Seekers—Today, someone near me needs the gospel. I will go and tell the story. I will invite them to “come and see” my Saviour. I will cultivate environments and opportunities to declare and display the gospel of Jesus. I will be ready and responsive to God’s Spirit as He gives me open doors to share Jesus with those who are receptive to His good news.

Trust and Obey—Today, I will define success as “obedience.” Whether I accomplish my plans or not, I will follow Jesus and seek to obey His leading. I invite Him to direct my steps, use my life, fill me, and pour out His grace upon others through my existence. I want to live in sync with His heart.

Live Generously—Today, I will view my resources, time, energy, gifts, abilities, and opportunities as “not my own.” These temporary gifts are given to steward and invest. I will give them away and multiply them for my Saviour. I desire to pour out my life to bless, build, and benefit others in God’s grace. I will live to help others succeed.

Live Joyfully—Today, I will enjoy life in Jesus—because I know the Author of joy, and because His joy is the source of my strength! I will laugh, smile, encourage, and have fun on this perilous journey. I will not take myself, my ministry, or my burdens so seriously that I lose my joy and suffocate those around me. When I’m safe in His hands, I can celebrate even in the storms, and that will help others to celebrate as well.

Live Patiently—Today, I will rest in His pace and place for my life. Refusing to get caught up in keeping up or comparing or competing, I will run a sustainable race—balancing the tension between a contented heart and a visionary spirit. I will press toward the mark without being pressed down with anxiety. I will run my race—not another’s. I will rest in His easy yoke, knowing that He is doing the work I cannot do.

Live Healthily—Today, I will care for myself so I can better care for others. I will cultivate emotional, psychological, spiritual, and relational health in my soul. I will not overextend myself in ways that will make me less effective in serving Jesus and others.

I’m really not trying to be a downer on plans. As I said, I have them, but they won’t own me. Plans are “meh”—well-intentioned guesswork. Build them, map them, work them—but don’t anchor too much of yourself to them. Define your plan, but don’t let your plan define you. Why?

Jesus has a better plan.

The best thing you can do with your well-intentioned plan is be suspicious of it. Beware of it. Put it in Jesus’ hands and say, “Change it, fulfill it, destroy it, upsize it—do whatever you want to do with this, Jesus. I trust you more than the plan. And if this plan in any way preempts you or your intentions in my life, thy will not my will be done.”

Whether you have a great plan for the new year, or you are barely limping across the finish line of 2018, looking into a most uncertain, foggy future—you have a Saviour who is directing your steps, and you can anticipate His great plan for your future.

I wish you a most Jesus-centered, gospel-shaped, value-driven new year! Be blessed as you follow Him!