One thing to make your new year fruitful
by Deacon Christine Maddux
Although the holidays were subdued this year, turning the calendar to January still triggers our instinct to reflect on the past year and look ahead with hope and fresh intentions in this new one. Reflecting on the particularly grueling 2020 can move us beyond the usual New Year’s resolutions, which may be one of the ways God is redeeming the hard times (e.g., Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).
Instead of resolving to lose weight, exercise, or reorganize closets (all worthwhile but self-focused and often short-lived intentions), this can be the year we look a little deeper. What would a spiritually fruitful resolution look like? What one thing could we do that would help us grow closer to God and live out his purpose for us this year?
As always, the Bible offers us wisdom and reliable direction. There we find thought-provoking examples of using one thing as a spiritual focal point to deepen our relationship with God and increase our impact for his kingdom. While each biblical “one thing” has common value for all, it is tailored to each person as well.
The Old Testament’s King David, when fending off enemies, fear and loneliness, asked God for the one thing that would reliably moor him in the midst of all his difficulties (just a variation of our own troubles). He wrote, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). David was not asking to reside in the physical temple, but to live consciously in the presence of God, where true life and eternal security can be found. Asking God for that one thing will yield a more internally peaceful and externally fruitful 2021.
While David knew the one thing he needed, maybe we do not. In that case we can learn from the example of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life (beyond keeping the commandments). Because the young man had made wealth an idol, Jesus told him, “One thing you still lack…sell everything you have and give it to the poor…and follow me” (Luke 18:22). We might ask God, “Is there one thing still impeding my walk with You?”, and then pray for his help in recognizing and removing that stumbling block this year.
We can also learn to isolate one thing from the apostle Paul. Already a zealous evangelist but still wanting to know Christ better and honor his calling, Paul wrote, “One thingI do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” (Philippians 3:13-14). Perhaps our “one thing” this year is to determinedly press on toward our God-given goal, too.
A potent example of one thing that we can all practice in these worrisome times comes from Jesus himself, when talking with his dear friend Martha. She was fretting about practical matters, complaining that her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him instead of helping her. Jesus answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41). That one thing was to momentarily set aside daily demands and distractions to pay undivided attention to Jesus. That is one thing each of us can do to grow closer to God and to discern how He would have us serve Him in this new year, day by day.
What might your “one thing” be this year?
The Rev. Christine Maddux is a deacon at Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers, and lives in Sapphire. She welcomes your comments and questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Crossroads Chronicle, January 6, 2021.