Our world experienced a lot of upheaval over the last year. A global pandemic followed by race riots followed by a contested election did not leave much space for peace. Some of my friends are speculating that the end times have come and Jesus is coming back soon. I honestly have no idea when He is returning. Matthew 25:13 says, ““Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (NKJV). However, I do know is that Jesus is coming one day sooner today than He was yesterday. And I need to be ready.
Sharing Christ is one way I can prepare for the Lord’s return. With the new year, I realize the urgency in sharing the good news of Jesus with my family, friends, and everyone I meet. My life is to serve as an arrow to point people to Christ. Without Him there’s no purpose and no hope. I pray for the spread the gospel, not COVID.
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (NKJV). Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations. This goes beyond trying to save souls from hell to ensuring that they know what they believe and why. Discipleship teaches people how to study the God’s Word and apply it so they can know and grow in Christ.
Personally, I started to study the Bible with a few friends last year who were interested in knowing more about Jesus. I pray I remain open to whoever God puts in my path to share the gospel with this year, because we can’t share enough. We must always be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) since the world will know we are Christians by our love.
Unfortunately, some Christians can come across as overzealous, and have tried to beat the truth into people’s heads by banging their Bibles. I've been guilty of this myself, but realize I can’t argue someone into salvation. Instead, Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (NKJV). I like the idea of combining grace with salt. It’s the sweet and salty combo of a salted caramel hot chocolate. We need the love from grace, but the salt adds truth to enhance the flavor.
Where will you begin? Who has God put on your heart to share the gospel with in 2021? May the Lord make us ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us and share the best news ever with those around us. May His Spirit guide us each day so that as many people as possible can enter God’s kingdom when the Lord returns.
The year 2020 will never be forgotten. From COVID-19 to race riots to the election, 2020 held many painful and unexpected moments. Personally, I had a pretty tough 2019 and had asked God for a break in 2020. That didn’t happen. Instead, I had a breakup of my relationship and a near breakdown from stress at work.
Thankfully, God is bigger than all of my struggles. 1 John 4:4 says, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Nothing this world can throw at me can stand up to the greatness of God. Nothing. God has shown Himself faithful despite all my difficulties. He gave me peace about the breakup and a fantastic new job.
I’m sure that many of you had your own hardships last year. They certainly weren’t easy to miss. Yet, God has seen us all through to 2021. I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict all that this year will hold. Fortunately, I know who holds my future. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The good things God started in my life long before 2020, He will see through until He calls me home to heaven. He will do the same for you.
Instead of focusing on the bad from last year, I wanted to list some good things that happened despite the storms. My church family encouraged my heart when I was depressed about work. I joined three separate prayer groups, thereby working my faith muscles as we watched God move through corporate prayer. I was lonely during the quarantine, and the Lord sent my sister to live with me and provided her with a great job. I also have many solid evangelism opportunities I wouldn’t have had without COVID-19. God is always working in our lives. It is just His timing and ways that befuddle us sometimes (Isaiah 55:8-9).
My challenge to us as we reflect on 2020, instead of listing what went wrong, let’s find the blessings in disguise. Find ways to see how God has used your brokenness to build your trust in His provision. If you can’t see any immediate blessings, ask God to show you what they are. You probably have more than you know. May the Lord’s graciousness continue to flow on the days before us as 2021 unfolds.
Building on the last blog of making holistic New Year’s resolutions, another method I’ve learned to set effective New Year’s resolutions is having SMART goals. This helps create realistic goals that I can tell at the end of the year if I’ve accomplished them or not. Too many times I’ve had broad aims in January I failed to revisit during the year. Then I’m startled at the end of the year when I didn’t meet them. Someone then told me about a SMART method to better make and keep my goals.
The SMART acronym is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound. I will walk you through the logic of these categories and give examples so you understand how best to set your goals.
S – Specific
This area has plagued me in the past when making goals. Sometimes I made ambiguous resolutions so I could say I met them, when really I had no idea if I did any better than the year before or not. For example, some of my previous nonspecific goals included things like:
“Drink more water.”
“Eat more vegetables.”
You can see the inherent difficulties with meeting these goals with the questions they raise. More than what? More than last year? More than someone who is a carnivore and doesn’t eat vegetables? It gets really murky. In some ways, I could feel good if I felt I drank more water, but there was nothing specific I could do to prove I had completed the goal for the year.
A better way to make these goals more specific is to define quantities.
“Drink at least five glasses of water daily.”
“Eat at least two vegetables daily.”
M – Measurable
As you can see from my examples above, not only were they not specific, they were also not measurable. Even the updated versions have some element of measurability incorporated into them, but they do not include specifics. Better examples would be:
“Drink at least five 8 ounce glasses of water daily.”
“Eat at least two full servings of vegetables daily.”
This differentiates between five shot glasses of water daily verses five 20 ounce bottles of water daily. The same with the vegetables. It is not just two carrots a day, but two full servings of vegetables.
A – Achievable
I have learned to make goals I can complete given my individual talents and abilities. When I aim to do things I am interested in, I am much more likely to achieve them. My goals will be different than yours because we have different interests. Also, I don’t want to overreach and continually frustrate myself when things don’t work out, but need to stretch myself so I don’t stagnate. I need balance. It would be unrealistic for me to try to switch to becoming a vegetarian. That is why eating two full servings a day of vegetables should usually be achievable.
That said, be aware life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes I do everything in my power to complete a goal and it doesn’t happen. Once I was on a work trip where all we had was meat and potatoes in Germany. It seemed impossible to get two full servings of vegetables daily. That is ok, life happens. As soon as possible, I ate two full servings of vegetables daily.
Other times when my plans haven’t worked, I needed to reexamine and see if that is something I needed to keep striving towards. A personal example is when I made a goal to go on a hot air balloon ride. I called several hot air balloon sites until I made a reservation. Then due to weather and other unforeseen impediments, either the company cancelled my reservation or I did—five times. So I gave up. It wasn’t the right time. Fortunately, several years later, the weather was great, the timing was right, and I finally went on a hot air balloon ride. And it was even better because I went with my sister. My original plans didn’t include her, and I probably wouldn’t have gone again had I already gone. I still completed my goal, but in a different time and place. And it was more than OK, it was Great!
R – Results-focused
I know typically, experts say to focus on the results. This may entail breaking down goals into intermediary steps to help reach the desired results. Sometimes big goals may seem intimidating, but when I break them down into smaller elements, it makes the entire process less daunting. Also, it lets me gauge my progress towards fulfilling my goals as I go. I don’t have to wait until the end to feel like I are getting somewhere.
Here is an example:
“Eat at least two full servings of vegetables daily. Research types of vegetables that are best for my health. Find tasty recipes so I want to eat more vegetables.”
I want to go beyond being results focused and give some additional insight. Yes, I want the final result where everything goes as planned. But sometimes I can’t achieve everything, even when I try my hardest. So I’m learning to focus on the process. I ask myself - What am I learning while I move towards the goal? I have always been a “get her done” kind of person. However, God is showing me it is better to focus on more than just the end result. The process is where I learn and grow the most. When I rush through everything to cross items off my checklist, I miss the joy of living. I don’t want my life simply to be a crossed off to do list. What I do while I work to cross off those items is my actual life. I want to enjoy the only life I get. Also, for when I know it is partially my fault things didn’t go as I wanted– those times are covered by grace. No one is perfect. That is why Christ lived a perfect life to take the punishment for my sins and reconcile me to a right relationship with God. So, focus on the results, but don’t miss the lessons in the process.
T - Time-Bound
I have learned I must set specific time frames in which to achieve my goals. In 2008, I set a goal to write a Bible study, but didn’t have any timeline. It is now nearly ready for self-publication in 2018, ten years later. Give me a deadline, and I will strive to meet it. Without a deadline, I flounder. I need the accountability a deadline implies.
Because I’m writing these goals in January, a year may be a logical time frame. However I need to review my goals at least on a quarterly basis or even monthly. Many times I’ve made goals then forgotten to review them until October and rushed to complete them. When I routinely checked my lists, I accomplished much more. Some ideas to help remember goals putting reminders on the calendar or in a phone.
Now that I’ve reviewed how to have SMART resolutions, I’ve updated my holistic goals from last week to make them SMARTer. I added some specifics, time frames, and intermediary steps I need to make to accomplish larger goals. I also put notifications on my calendar to do quarterly reviews of my resolutions so I don’t forget what I am working towards.
Physical – Workout at the gym or exercise at least twice a week. Bring my Bible or spiritual books to read at the gym to think about deeper spiritual things and know God better.
Mental – Go to the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference in May to learn more about writing. Publish a short story by the end of 2018. To write a story ready for publication, participate in monthly writer’s meetings for accountability. Pray diligently before, after, and between writing so it honors God and blesses the readers.
Spiritual – Have daily time in the Word, and at least once a week spend at least an hour in deep Bible study and meditation so I can understand God’s character better and deepen my relationship with Him. Jealously guard this time with the Lord so it is not lost in the busyness of life that can be all consuming.
Emotional – Journal at least weekly so I can gauge where I’m at emotionally and review it with God so I can draw closer to Him in the process.
What do you think about my updated, holistic, SMART resolutions? Are there any steps I am missing or things I could add to hone my resolutions?
As I hung my new calendar on the wall, I got excited about all the new things that would happen to fill those months. I really want this year to be better than the last, but know it won’t happen without planning and being intentional. So, as I make my own goals, I will pass on some of the things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me craft better New Year’s resolutions and actually accomplish them.
For starters, consider being holistic in creating your resolutions. Sometimes I made goals in one area of life and let other areas languish. Then I learned we as people have interconnected physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs. When one area is off, it impacts the others. When we are stressed at work and mentally frustrated, it can come out in physical pain. When we’re emotionally upset and distressed, it can impact our spiritual lives if we focus on our circumstances instead of God’s character.
God’s Word highlights we are to love the Lord with all four of these areas of our lives. Jesus said in Mark 12:30 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” Find ways to use your resolutions to help you love God more in all of these dimensions.
Once you’ve resolved to be holistic, PRAY before making any goals. Ask God what He wants you to do in the upcoming year. You may be surprised. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” We can make all the plans we want, but if they aren’t what God has for us, they won’t happen. Don’t spend the year striving to do something without seeing if it is what God wants. When you seek Him, even if you face obstacles, God will enable you to accomplish His desires. Philippians 1:6 reads, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
All that said, here’s some insight based on what I’ve learned, and ideas for goals in each arena.
These seem to be the easiest goals to make. And then break a month later.… If you are a believer in Christ, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We shouldn’t worship our bodies, but treat them well because of who we host. Personally, I only floss because it glorifies God. One thing that helped me keep my physical goals was by connecting them to other areas. I never went to the gym until I started reading spiritual books while doing cardio. This gave me the added incentive of having time to think without distractions at home and let me do something fun to override the mundane of a treadmill.
Examples of physical goals include:
Ours minds are muscles that need to be exercised to stay fit. Mental goals should challenge our minds. Last year, I took a writing class through my county, which really helped me better understand the nuances of fiction writing.
Examples of mental goals include:
Perhaps this sounds a bit fluffy. Emotional goals – what are those? When we don’t admit we have emotions – regardless of whether or not we show them – we miss out on key areas of our lives. I have learned when I try to repress how I feel in one area, it often comes out in frustration in another area. When I examine what I feel and why, I can work through it and grow as a person in the process.
Examples of emotional goals include:
We need spiritual goals to grow in our relationships with Christ and find ways to share His love with those around us. Recognizing that we will never be fully mature here on earth, we need to keep knowing and pursuing the knowledge of the Lord (Hosea 6:3). Remember, each person’s goals will look different because each person is unique. Find something to expand your view of God and know Him better.
Examples of spiritual goals include:
Based on what I shared, here are my holistic resolutions for 2018. I recommend having at least one goal in each of the four areas, but no more than two so it is not overwhelming. In each goal, I seek to tie it to how I can know and grow in Christ.
My Holistic Resolutions for 2018
Physical – Workout at the gym or exercise regularly. Bring spiritual books to read at the gym to think about deeper spiritual things and know God better.
Mental – Go to a writer’s conference to learn more about writing. Publish a short story by the end of 2018. Pray diligently before, after, and between writing so that it honors God and blesses the readers.
Spiritual – Have daily time in the Word and weekly time in deep Bible study and meditation so I can understand God’s character better and deepen my relationship with Him. Jealously guard this time with the Lord so it is not lost in the busyness of life that can be all consuming.
Emotional – Journal so I can gauge where I’m at emotionally and review it with God so I can draw closer to Him in the process.
Next week I will post about how to make SMART resolutions to help strengthen my goals.
Now it's your turn to set your holistic goals.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.