it’s that time again – we are getting ready to begin a new year. now based on my past experience, the new year always seems pretty much like my old year, I am hard pressed to see any difference and I don’t feel any difference. My present seems pretty much the same as my past. Could that be because I bring my past, all of it, into my future? No wonder each year my load becomes heavier, my step slower as I labor to live under the weight of all I carry with me.
Have I not learned the secret of traveling light through this life? (my garage and basement would shout a resounding “NO”) I love new beginnings, fresh starts, clean slates, second chances . . . isn’t that what the new in New Years is all about? Is that why all those people stand in the cold in Time’s Square for hours, waiting for a ball to drop? Are they waiting for and wanting a new beginning? I wonder if they give to that glittering ball their hopes and dreams for the new year, all the while continuing to carry, even cling to, the bags from their past?
So what can I do to lighten my load on my life’s journey? What would make this truly a new year? First, I need to decide my purpose. Moses asked the people to make a choice in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 when he said, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life . . .”
Later, Joshua would issue the same challenge to the people saying in Joshua 24:14-15, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. . . . But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Jesus would say essentially the same thing centuries later when He said “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)
So clearly I need to make a choice. Trying to please too many people (masters) can be exhausting. But how to choose? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened; and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) I know I am often tired, but maybe it’s soul rest I’ve been seeking all along, soul rest that I need, not so much physical rest.
And a burden that is light? Now that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one. This I want to experience for myself. And I can – the choice is mine! I must first choose this day whom I will serve. I have found living for or serving myself to be deeply unsatisfying, empty and purposeless. Time to choose a new master! Time to loose some old baggage. Time to travel lighter in the new year.
How do I do this? How do I travel light through this life? Hebrews 12:1 has some good advice for me; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, . . . Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Throw off everything that hinders? Does that mean get rid of everything that holds me back? This requires me to discern the difference between what hinders me and what helps me in my race to serve the master I have chosen. I have chosen the Lord God, just as Joshua chose for his family so long ago. Now I need to repack my bags. what to throw out? what to keep? what to add new? I need some guidance!
Fortunately, I found some good advice in Ephesians 4:31, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” That will definitely lighten my load, those are heavy burdens to carry around. And there’s more, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1 Peter 2:1) My bags are getting lighter by the minute as I throw off these things that have been weighing me down, hindering me in my race. I am feeling so much lighter already!
Still, there is one bag that is especially heavy, one that I keep close and carry with me always. Will I continue to ignore God’s command? “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) If I am going to travel light, I am going to have to let go and “throw off everything that hinders”, including this.
What to pack in my now empty bags? ” . . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. . . . Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14) And there are even more things I can carry with me into the New Year as I run God’s race, namely the gifts God gives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) That’s a lot, but these things are a help not a hindrance to me in my race. They are not a burden.
And there is something else I need to carry with me that is not a burden but a blessing. “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:3-4) So obedience to God and faith I keep as I also, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)
What to keep? What to add? What do I bring into the New Year? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) A lot to carry, yet all of it is uplifting. These things will help, not hinder. His burden truly is light.
So maybe as I enter into this New Year I will not drag my old bags with me, but will exchange them for “the easy yoke and the light burden” of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I will obediently throw off anything and everything that hinders and run the race in the strength that God provides. I will ” . . . not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
This, then, is my calling for the New Year. ” . . . I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. . . . Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Lord help me to travel light
sincerely, Grace Day