The new year ahead of us will be, in some ways, like every other year that has ever been. It will repeat cycles that are centuries old. There will be the ageless round of days and seasons. There will be births and deaths, joy and sorrow. There will be triumphs and defeats, honor and shame. Solomon, the wise, perceived this truth: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).

But in other ways the new year will be unique, a solitary set of events that have never before taken place and that can never happen again. As long as the world lasts, there will never again be exactly the same combination of circumstances. Never again will we be at precisely this point in our lives. Never again will we be able to see things from exactly the same viewpoint. Doors will open that have been shut, and may never be open again.

Because of the one-time opportunities the next twelve months will bring, the new year will be what we make of it. The Scriptures counsel us to make “the best use of the time” (Eph. 5:16). We may joke about “new year’s resolutions,” but without resolve the new year will be less than it should be. We ought to rise early and work late, crafting the year’s moments into worthwhile achievements. The unique value of the coming year will be damaged if we fail to act energetically. This year is ours to do with as we choose.

Sadly, many of life’s greatest deeds are often left undone. Rather than “seizing the day” and proactively doing the good that is within our reach, we presume that there will be plenty of opportunity later to take care of these things. Through simple neglect and the mere postponement of effort, we let months and years slip by unused. The result is that our lives are unimproved. Solomon said, “Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks” (Eccl. 10:18). If you’re like me, your life’s “house” is leakier than it should be, considering the amount of time you’ve had to work on it.

Looking at the opportunities we failed to make use of in past years, we often wish we had been more decisive and more consistently exercised our will in the direction of good. For most of us, regret is an all-too-real component of our emotional life. And of course, that is because we have failed to discipline ourselves. As someone has said, there is no alternative: either we live with the pain of discipline or we will live with the pain of regret. But the pain of regret can best be diminished by acting wisely in the present. During the new year, we will again be presented with daily opportunities to use ourselves actively for God’s purposes. What will we do with those opportunities? For myself, I have resolved to do each day things that tomorrow I will be glad I did yesterday! I hope you will join me in this resolve.

We ought to keep in mind, however, that the true value of the new year consists in what God will make of it, and not we ourselves. Ultimately, we are able to speak and act for good only because of the graciousness of God. Honor for the new year’s accomplishments should be His. To Christians, Peter wrote, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pt. 4:10,11).

A year is not much time, really. Before we are ready, it will be this time next year. When that time comes, what will be our memories of this year? This writer’s wish is that you may put first things first all through this year. When the next twelve months have come and gone, may you have grown, with God’s help, toward Him in many ways. May you walk with Him, and live for Him each and every day!

Gary Henry — +

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