I am a big fan of using the time between Christmas and New Years to evaluate what happened in the previous 365 days. I use this time to consider:
- Was I able to achieve my goals?
- Where do I need to improve?
- What were my failures?
While this period of self-evaluation is critical to growth and development in 2016, no evaluation of 2015 is complete without first evaluating whether I did what the Lord wanted me in the twelve previous months that He gave me.
The prophet Haggai was called by God to encourage the people of Jerusalem, along with you and me to put God first even before our own considerations.
Look how God evaluated the efforts of the people of Jerusalem.
“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:5-6
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. Haggai 1:9
I invite you to take these verses and apply them to your efforts in 2015.
If in 2015 you expected much but achieved little, I suggest you give careful thought to your ways and consider putting God first in your life.
Whitney Hopler, writing in a Crosswalk.com, blog How to Make Your Relationship with God First in Your Life, provides these practical tips for putting God at the forefront of our lives:
1.Take an honest look at your current priorities.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
Where do you currently place God on your list of priorities? If your relationship with God isn’t your top priority right now, please review the other items on this list for specific changes you can make.
2.Recognize stress of chaos versus the blessings of order.
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
As Haggai warned the people of Jerusalem, the more we try to make our lives better by pursuing your own desires; the more our desires will spin out of control, creating stressful and frustrating chaos in our lives.
3.Trust God’s promises
“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” Kings 8:56
Because God will always keep his promises, we can have confidence in making Him first in our lives.
4.Make a sacred commitment to placing God first in your life.
“Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.” Proverbs 16:3 (The Message)
Choose to make an irrevocable decision to make your relationship with God your highest priority; over everyone and everything else in your life. No matter what happens from this point on, remind yourself of your decision and then you’ll avoid wasting time and energy on what doesn’t really matter, while experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings for you.
5.Participate in a local church
“This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” Matthew16:18 (The Message)
Ask God to lead you to a healthy church in your area, where you can mature in the context of relationships with caring and trustworthy people who are also seeking closer relationships with God. Look for a place where truth and love meet to create a safe place for you to change and reach your fullest potential.
6.Grow to become more like Jesus through fellowship.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
As you connect with other believers in your church community, God will teach you how to love in deeper ways. By doing that, you will be transformed into a holier person with a character that keeps growing more like that modeled by Jesus. Invest in your relationships with others in your church beyond just the weekend worship services. Get together regularly to build close friendships through small group meetings, service projects, fun outings, or simply to chat. Listen to each other’s stories, encourage each other to grow spiritually, pray for each other, hold each other accountable, and give each other practical support when needed.
7.Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your soul; to empower you to live God’s way.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
Make a daily practice of asking the Holy Spirit to align your priorities with God’s priorities, so you will value what God values and want what God wants for you. Invite the Spirit to renew your mind and give you fresh doses of the faith and power you need to live a holy life. Every time you face a significant decision, ask the Spirit to help you see it from God’s perspective, and then decide according to how God leads you.
8.Celebrate God by worshiping him often.
“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23–24
While it’s important to worship God in church, it’s also vital to worship God throughout your everyday life. Engage God by choosing to focus on His presence with you in the midst of your circumstances. Encounter God by communicating with Him, thanking him for who he is and what he does for you. Experience God in your soul by abandoning yourself fully to him and enjoying the transcendent joy and peace that come to you as a result.
9.Get to know God better through his Word and prayer.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Cultivate your relationship with God through personal devotions. Every day, schedule some time to focus on reading and meditating on God’s Word, the Bible. Then pray about how God wants you to apply the passages you’ve read to your life, listen for the Spirit’s responses in your mind, and pray about anything else you’d like, too. Keep a journal in which you can record the biblical insights God gives you, as well as how he answers your prayers.
10.Serve and give as God leads you.
“You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (Good News Translation)
Use your time, talents, and treasure to the fullest to join God’s redemptive work in the world thereby maximizing your impact in God’s kingdom. Be prepared to say “yes” to God whenever he calls you into action by: meeting people’s physical needs, sharing the Gospel message, or building up your local church. Don’t withhold your time, energy, money, skills, or any other resource that God asks you to give in specific ways – be generous, as God is generous with you.
Enjoy the freedom that comes from trusting God. As the Holy Spirit progressively transforms you, you’ll experience deeper layers of freedom from sinful attitudes and behaviors that had previously controlled you. Keep choosing to trust God and surrender your fears to Him – the more you do, the more you’ll notice His work in your life. It will strengthen your faith and inspire you to keep making your relationship with God first in your life.
At midnight on New Year’s Eve we started working on the 525,600 minutes allotted to us for the year. My prayer and hope for you is from the very first minute of this new year you will be guided by Haggai’s call to put God first in our lives.
For as we are told in Proverbs 3:6 “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”
God Bless and Happy New Year!