Throughout 2022 I have been preaching and teaching about the new life that Jesus came to bring – what it looks like, how we can find it and receive it from God through our faith in Jesus, and how we can live out that new life in our day-to-day lives. For many people, hearing about new life and comparing their current life to what God offers and expects in that new life leads to deep introspection and hope for change. More than that, many consider what needs to change in their life and what they need to do to make those changes or to make those changes possible – most often submitting to God who makes the changes in them.
In anticipation of a new year, many prepare themselves for those changes by making resolutions, such as: “I resolve that I will read two chapters of the Bible every day. I will pray for thirty minutes each day. I will participate in at least one small-group Bible study. I will increase my offering by five percent. I will volunteer to serve in ministry at least once each month.” Specific resolutions such as these are important first steps to establish new habits that certainly can help individuals grow in their faith.
However, for many people, resolutions for the new year are far too often short lived. Many start out strong, but as time progresses, their consistency begins to waver. Two chapters of Scripture each day turns into one each day, Monday through Friday, with hopes of catching up over the weekend, but then ten chapters becomes overwhelming at the end of the week. A half hour of prayer is difficult to find in a day when hectic schedules hardly leave more than a couple of minutes at a time between appointments and tasks. Guilt begins to grow when one considers the difference between finding time and making time, and even the occasional successful week – or just a day – becomes a reminder of how often one misses. If that’s where you find yourself each year, you are not alone.
Perhaps this year you might consider restoration instead of a resolution. Lots of folks take on restoration projects throughout their lives: restoring an old house, an old car, rusty tools, or shabby furniture or clothes. A restoration project often takes something that has some value or use but is in questionable shape and makes it better, more useful, or more valuable instead of starting with something new. One person might have a house that’s a “fixer upper”; it’s livable but in need of some repairs and updates. Another person might have a car that gets them from here to there well enough but needs a tune up or some body work.
Such projects anticipate necessary changes but are accomplished only as quickly or as completely as time, skills, and resources will allow. The changes might be slow and incremental, perhaps even imperceptible, but eventually the changes become apparent. Sometimes the changes aren’t just in the project itself; sometimes the changes show up in a person’s knowledge and skills. While a house might be transformed one room at a time, each room might be finished with more skill and in less time, displaying important changes in both the home and homeowner.
Paul described such incremental growth within our spiritual lives, writing to the early church in Corinth, who struggled to grow up in their faith, “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Because of our faith in Jesus, each of us reflects God’s glory, but not always in the same ways or with the same degree of maturity.
Our new life in Christ is a lifetime of transformation; it’s a restoration project, so through 2023, that will be our focus. I will continue to preach and teach about the new life we have received through our faith in Christ, but we will keep working together on restoring our lives and our church with the tools, plans, and help God provides through his Word, by the Holy Spirit, and through our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s keep working together on what God is working in us, among us, and through us.