12/27/11

Five Ways to Anticipate the New Year

What are you anticipating for the new year?

In just a few days, 2012 will sweep into your life announcing warnings of dreadful things ahead (including doomsday reports). But you will also hear hope for the future and promises of God to claim for a positive, fruitful year.

What you embrace for this new year is really up to you. What you "receive" into your mind and heart will likely determine how you perceive your reality. Even more, what you anticipate will affect how you experience the days ahead.

No matter the circumstances around us, whenever we anticipate a bad day, sure enough, something will occur to create some gloom. The truth is, we'll be looking for it. In fact, when we anticipate a day of adventure or success, it shouldn't surprise us that we find opportunities for both.

May I suggest five ways to anticipate a year that will change your life and give your fewer regrets by the time 2013 rolls around?

(1) Anticipate challenges.

The word "problems" sounds so negative. I call them challenges. I'm not so much a problem-solver as a challenge-embracer. How we view life makes a difference in how we deal with life. For example, I no longer say I am overwhelmed in my busy schedule; I am simply time challenged. It's a vital, empowering difference. I can deal with a time challenge by making new decisions, delegating, or eliminating some things; but how do I deal with "overwhelmed?"

Challenges come in the form of difficulties, unexpected circumstances, even trials and "tribulations" ~ things that come to all of us (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12; Psalm 34:19). Adversity and affliction can hit us at any time. Also, God tests the righteous (Psalm 11:5; Job 23:10; Isaiah 48:10; 1 Peter 4:12, 16, 19; James 1:2). When we anticipate that these various challenges will come, we can also, to some extent, decide ahead of time how we will respond.

We can study the scriptures and learn to respond biblically in ways that will empower us, help others, and please our Father God. God will use challenges to develop character and strength in us. We will learn how much we need to depend on the the Holy Spirit's control. The last part of John 16:33 says, "Be of good cheer, I (Jesus) have overcome the world." We can be overcomers, too, because we identify with Christ and He enables us.

So anticipate challenges. Learn how to meet them through the power of the Word and the Spirit.

(2) Anticipate growth.

How do you want to grow in the new year? What do you want God to change or develop in your mind, emotions, body, or spirit?

A few Decembers ago, I began a tradition of choosing a "focus word" for my new year. Last year, my word was "courage." I've written in other posts about how God blessed me through that focus, bringing me "courage stories," a courage rock, and plentiful reminders throughout the past 12 months to help me become a more courageous woman.

I also made some choices that stretched me. I decided to read through the Bible in a short time, take on new ministry responsibilities, and make more time for "difficult" people in my life. God taught me many lessons through these new choices, because I asked Him to do so, praying Psalm 25:4-5. I told God I wanted to learn His ways and heart, and I anticipated growth.

Rather than making "New Year's Resolutions," what choices for growth will you make for the new year? Are they something you can adhere to for the long haul, following God step-by-step until you reach your goals? Are they strong enough to stretch you a little? To cause you to seek greater intimacy with God and lean harder on His wisdom and power?

Taking the first step is sometimes the hardest, but with a fresh commitment to growth, create a fresh to-do-list each month, and maybe a longer "bucket list" of things you'd like to accomplish this year. Maybe you can add an accountability partner or join a group to support your goals. Anticipate positive results.

(3) Anticipate opportunities.

Some people get stuck and believe that things will never change. But I've found that new opportunities come to those who expect them ~ those who are alert and prepared. Seeing new opportunities gives us hope for change; but sometimes opportunities come disguised as difficulties. Often, it's just our perspective.

Do you want to stay where you are and do nothing, or go forward into all the open doors God has for you?

When I said "yes" to God regarding a ministry He wants me to lead, it looked like anything but an opportunity. It looked like an impossibility! But I remembered that back in January of 2011, I prayed God would open doors that align with my heart. When He opened that door, I almost didn't recognize it!

It's said that when you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there. The opposite is also true. When you know where you're headed, God gives you road signs all along the way to point you in the right direction. Anticipate them.

The Apostle Paul spoke of open doors in scripture (2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:2). Open doors are new beginnings and new opportunities to follow God's leading in our lives.

Where does it seem that God is leading you? What seems to be His goal or purpose for you at this stage of life? Watch for opportunities He puts in your way to reach that goal or follow His direction.

(4) Anticipate work.

Although opportunities will present themselves, they're sometimes distasteful to us, because they're wearing work jeans. If we want to build something into our lives, we have to put on some work clothes and not expect that good things will just happen to us. God does not honor laziness; He expects us to work (Proverbs 6:6-11;12:11, 14; 14:23; 22:29; 24:30-34; 28:19).

Certainly, you want to pray about every opportunity ~ to be sure it comes from God and that it fits the priorities He has placed in your life at this season. But you can determine right now (ahead of time) that you will be diligent in not only pursuing your goals and dreams, but also every opportunity God opens to you.

Don't be afraid to work hard. Take responsibility. Be faithful in the little details. God blesses diligence and persistence.

(5) Anticipate blessings.
How do you want God to bless you this year? How do you want Him to bless your heart, your home, your family, your finances, etc.? Is your heart prepared to receive blessings from the hand of God?

God wants to bless us with heavenly blessings (Ephesians 1:3) ~ sanctifying us (making us holy through the Word of God, John 17:17), giving us His grace (2 Corinthians 12:), enriching us (1 Corinthians 1:5), calling us into a growing relationship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9), and so much more.

God often blesses us in spite of ourselves. His grace is amazing, and His faithfulness to His children is well-documented in the Word and in the many experiences of believers today. But God also will bless you as you put Him first and serve Him. As my friend Pam Farrel often says, "God honors those who honor Him."

I end as I began - What are you anticipating in this new year? Take some time to prepare your thoughts and heart. Anticipate challenges, but also growth. Anticipate opportunities, but also hard work. And don't forget to anticipate God's richest blessings!

And remember ~ no matter what comes, you can choose how you will respond.

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