New Beginnings and Simple Obedience

Happy New Year!

I love new beginnings. Even though just a short couple hours ago, it was still 2020, there is just something in our hearts that recognizes and welcomes new beginnings. It’s now 2021, and we walk into this new year with hopes and dreams and plans. Of course, we also recognize that some things will not change easily or at all. Life marches on regardless of the date or day of the year. But I still feel the excitement and potential of welcoming in a new year. Don’t you?

As I was thinking about new beginnings, I kept thinking of the verse 2 Corinthians 5:17: This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! When we find Christ and start following Him, that is the ultimate of new beginnings. Life is really never the same. We are completely remade spiritually—from death into life, from blindness to sight. We are new creations in Christ.

New beginnings also mean renewal and fresh starts and growing to become more like Jesus.

Colossians 3:10: Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Romans 12:2: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

But the verse that really strikes me as we start this new year is found in Galatians 3:3: How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

This is where I fail each and every year. I plan goals, make resolutions, and muster determination to live a better life in the new year more than in the last. And even though most of it centers around what I feel God is calling me to do with my life, I step into the new year with all these hopes and dreams and determinations and start trying and striving in my own strength.

Galatians say it pretty plainly in the NLT: “How foolish can you be?” Apparently, I can be pretty foolish!

If we learned anything from 2020, and we understand anything about living this Christian life in a way that pleases God, we must learn to rely on Him, on His power and work in our lives, and not on our own human efforts.

I’m reminded of when I was a teen and told my pastor, “I don’t care anymore!” I think he thought I was having some sort of temper tantrum, but I wasn’t. I was so tired of being afraid and of worrying about what others thought. I finally came to the place of surrender where I could say, “I don’t care anymore”—about what people think, about the ‘what ifs,’ or even about my fears. It was very freeing.

Then, several years ago I read a book called Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my God and my Soul by Jennie Allen. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. This book brought me to a new place of surrender and freedom and to a place of being completely wrecked. I felt like Isaiah when he cried out, “I am undone.” I felt I encountered God and saw my own human failings. Again, it was a letting go of my fears and trusting God completely with whatever He wanted to bring into our lives and wherever He wanted to take us. It meant letting go of my own human goals and efforts and trusting Him day by day and step by step. It brought me to the place of what I call simple obedience. To me that is when we approach each day with an attitude of seeing what God has planned and simply obeying as He reveals it. Oh, I wish I lived every day of my life that way.

Today, as we start a new year and continue this crazy chapter in history of pandemics and division, I find myself again at a place of surrender. I’m tired. I’m tired of working so hard. I’m tired of being concerned about health and viruses. I’m tired of wondering if my kids will be okay and find their way. I’m tired of always wondering if I’m not doing enough or if the goals and dreams I’m working toward will ever become what I want them to be.

So, I’m letting go once again. I’m saying, “I don’t care anymore” to my fears and worries and hesitations. I’m saying, “Anything” to God and His will. And I’m praying for wisdom rather than continuing in my foolish ways of striving in my own strength.

How about you? What is your plan for 2021? Are you walking into this first day with hope? Fear? Hesitation? Exhaustion?

I hope we all will find a place of peace and hope and joy. I hope we will find a place of rest at Jesus’ feet where we can learn from Him. And I hope we find renewal in our lives as God works in and through us. But most of all I pray we walk through each day of 2021 in simple obedience to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Note: All scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation.

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