Taking Stock in the New Year
As we close out 2023, we give thanks for our blessing, take note of unachieved goals, and begin to set new expectations for the upcoming year. We begin to pull together documents in preparation for tax season, and we update our family budget. We may look at our savings, and maybe even our investments. Each day, about 169 million Americans look to Wall Street, considered the center of the financial market, to take stock of the performance of their investments. These investments fluctuate daily based on how well these publicly traded companies perform. It makes me think about a bumper sticker that I saw that asked this question:
“Do you follow Jesus this closely?”
What about our relationship with Jesus? I know that my relationship with Him is better than it was but not as good as He would like for it to be. Luke 9:23-25 (VOICE) gives us the blueprint and caution, for building a stronger relationship with Jesus:
“If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself. You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me. If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything—if the whole world is in your pocket—but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?”
How do we assess our relationship with Jesus? This question made me think about a book titled The First 90 Days in Government (2006). Author Michael Watkins outlines four types of organizations that drive business strategies. I believe they also apply to our relationship with Jesus:
- Start-up – This is a new relationship. We are unsure about what to do or how to do it. In this stage, we begin establishing our relationship by reading and studying the Bible; we begin to model Jesus’ servant leadership principles and find others or a church to strengthen our relationship.
- This relationship is often categorized by a sense of hopelessness; perhaps an emergency or life circumstance overwhelms us, and we can’t seem to fix it on our own. We turn to God and say, “Please help. I need to get out of this, and I can’t do it alone.”
- Realignment – In this relationship, we need to overcome deeply ingrained norms and convince ourselves that change is necessary; the realization of what Jesus meant in Luke 9:23-25 (above) hits us. At this stage, we often take things for granted. There is a need for us to refocus and reprioritize our relationship. We must change; it won’t be easy, but as Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.”
- Sustained Success – At this stage of our relationship, the changes that we have made are becoming natural to us. We are at a good place but know that we can further strengthen our relationship; but we must find new ways of maintaining and challenging our personal and spiritual growth, as well as struggle with the complacency that may set in.
Perhaps the most important aspect of improving our relationship with Jesus is to take the time to \ clarify the expectations that we hold. Our expectations should align with His. How well we do at any given stage should align with the maturity we exhibit. If we are in a start-up stage, we do not have the experience or maturity needed to create a nurturing relationship on our own; which is why it is important to create an environment that will support our goals. The music we listen to, the television and movies we watch, what we read, and the people that surround us should understand and support the changes we are seeking to make; if these don’t, you may need to make some changes here. The good news is that while we seek to make these changes, we are not alone, Jesus is our partner. Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLV) tells us about the possibilities ahead of us, and, more importantly, His promise to us:
Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
During the upcoming year, we will track our weight, our finances, our credit score, and our investments in hopes of improving our status. Many of these will change throughout the year, but we will do our diligence, tracking and adjusting as needed to meet our goals. If we can invest to improve our current conditions; shouldn’t we commit to the one “true” investment that is guaranteed to improve our lives, now and in the future? 1 Timothy 6:19 (TPT) tells us:
“This will provide a beautiful foundation for their lives and secure for them
a great future, as they lay their hands upon the meaning of true life.”
Challenge: Take some time this New Year to evaluate your relationship with Jesus. Identify what you can do to strengthen your relationship and further your spiritual and personal growth. Talk to your pastor or others who can provide you with advice and counsel on growing your relationship with Jesus. Above all else, remember that regardless of what difficulties and challenges you may encounter, Jesus is there.
“Give all your worries to Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7, NLV).