2017 “Jumpstart” Plan
Happy New Year friends! A new year brings with it the hope of a fresh start and a desire to grow and mature. We all know what it is like to get stuck in a rut so deep we can’t get out of it. Too many of us make the same resolutions year after year after year.
Our first 2017 message series is titled “Jumpstart.” We are going to be asking God to give us a “Jumpstart” in the areas of our lives where we need a break-through, adventure, faith, relationships, careers, life purpose, physical health, healing and prayer just to name a few.
Some of you are already getting a jumpstart on the New Year by making resolutions.
Personally, I am not a big fan of the term “resolution” because few of us have a strong enough “resolve” to see a resolution through until it becomes reality. I am a fan of “goal-setting” or “life-action steps.”
Still without a plan, goal-setting or life-action steps can go the way of our annual resolutions. We start off like a bottle rocket lit on New Year’s Eve and like a bottle rocket our resolution quickly falls to the ground among the weeds never to be seen or thought of again.
Dallas and I are still praying for a miracle breakthrough in each of your lives, but you also have a role to play in the new thing God wants to do. So whether you are “Jumpstarting” 2017 by setting resolutions, goals or establishing life action steps, consider this plan to help you get some traction.
Two or Three, not Four or More
It’s much better to focus on a couple new habits, even better just one. If you’re going to narrow it down to just one, identify something important that will over time shape and impact your whole life. For example, soul strengthening life habits like going deeper in God’s word, prayer, joining a small group, joining a gym, procuring counseling or a life coach.
Whatever you call them, establish for the first three months of 2017 and then revaluate. A year is a long period of time and usually sets us up for failure. Set yourself up for success by establishing no more than three new life goals for no more than a three month period.
Specific and Measurable
A better marriage, get healthy, read my Bible, pray more or get more connected to my church are too broad. Be more specific like the following examples.
I will set up a date with my spouse every other Friday. I will read the whole bible in 2017. I will memorize a verse or short passage every month and meditate on its meaning. I will pray privately every morning. I will pray with my family at meal time and bedtime. I will infuse my day with prayer for things I hear about on the news, social media, for my family and friends. I will exercise three times a week during my lunch break. I will write down my eating plan every Sunday afternoon for the coming week. I will not let last minute excuses keep me from being in worship at least 3 weekends a month.
Make your life action steps specific and measurable.
Most of us make the same resolutions year after year because we are not realistic. Let’s be honest, you don’t really want to enrich your prayer life if you’re not willing to give a few minutes of creative thought about where, when, and how you will pray in 2017. You don’t really want to improve your marriage if you are not willing to make a phone call to make a reservation for dinner or set up an appointment with a counselor. At least map out clearly and concretely what it would take for one full month to cultivate the habit. Then think long term, 3 months, and make sure it’s realistic.
Part of being realistic is setting modest but life stretching goals. Don’t try going from not having a regular devotion time, to an hour every morning. Start with a focused fifteen minutes a day, maybe even ten at a specific time. Set a time on your phone, make it a nonnegotiable, and see what God does. Do the same whether your goal is relational or physical health, financial or career focused. Create a realistic plan.
Identify Short and Long Term Rewards
Most exercise enthusiasts, me excluded (LOL), will tell you being heart-healthy in their old age is not their primary motivation. It’s a nice added benefit, but for most people, a reward that long way off won’t get them out of bed, into their running shoes or into the gym. What motivates most is feeling great today, whether it’s the endorphins, the sense of accomplishment, stress relief, clear-headedness, or all the above.
Long-range motivation to get out of bed early each morning and hear God’s voice in the Scriptures will soon give way to the snooze button. Important as they are, God doesn’t mean for us to be solely motivated by distant, future rewards. God supplies motivation for today. His mercies are new every morning. This is the day the Lord has made. He means for us to taste and see his goodness right now. He can meaningfully satisfy our restless souls in real, life-transforming measures right now.
I have discovered the most transformative reward in cultivating spiritual disciplines, goals, new habits, is not just a better quality of life in the distant future, but in the immediate. It is not experiencing the abundant life in heaven later, but today and every day. It is not seeing God face to face in the afterlife, but knowing and enjoying Jesus life better in my today life!
Whatever the life action goal, identify both the short and long term reward.
One of the flaws with resolutions is they stay private. If we are serious about life change, we will invite real and regular accountability. We are sinners. Our heads are not always screwed on straight. When we let the flesh lead failure is sure to come. We need others to speak into our lives, and hold us accountable for who we’ve said we want to be, and what we’ve said we want to do. You pick who, but set up regular accountability.
Saturate with Prayer
At the end of the day and the end of the year, as important and necessary is goal-setting, only God can produce life changing spiritual fruit. In prayer, we re-consecrate ourselves again and again to pursue our resolves by the strength that God supplies. We would be foolish to pour our energy and efforts into new goals and life action steps without asking God to make them fruitful. Saturate your 2017 goals in prayer, asking God to bring to completion the good work He started at our birth.
See you in worship this weekend as together we “Jumpstart” all our resolutions, goals and life action steps. I am praying for you. Please pray for me.
“Connecting people to people and people to God.”