Article by Don Whitney
Professor, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.
Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5). He urged them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. A great time for us to “Consider our ways.” To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.
1. What’s one thing you can do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
Our enjoyment of God comes primarily through the means of grace he has given us. He has
promised to bless us most directly and consistently through means such as his word, prayer, and the church. One specific suggestion I’d offer would be to include some meditation on Scripture along with your daily reading. It’s better to read less — if necessary — and yet as the result of meditation remember something, than to read more and remember nothing.
2. What’s an impossible prayer you can pray?
There are more than a dozen “but God” statements in Scripture, such as in Romans 5:8, which reads, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Situations that were humanly impossible were transformed by “but God” (Ephesians 2:1–7). What’s a “but God” prayer you can pray for the coming year?
3. What’s the most important thing you could do to improve your family life?
If your family doesn’t practice family worship, beginning there is the single best recommendation I could make. Just ten minutes a day, simply reading the Bible, praying, and singing together — an event that requires no preparation — is all it takes. My little book titled Family Worship can tell you more.
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year?
Would it be a personal spiritual discipline (that is, one you practice alone), or an interpersonal spiritual discipline (one you practice with other believers)? Once you decide, determine the next step to take and when you will take it.
5. What’s the single biggest time-waster in your life, and how can you redeem the time?
Social media? TV? Video games? Sports? Hobbies? It’s easy for any of these (or something else) to take too much of our hearts and time. Is repentance required? Trying to stop, by itself, is probably not the answer. Actively replacing it with something better helps us in “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
6. What’s the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
While we often stress the fact that individual believers are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15), the New Testament actually says seven times to one that the church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23). We mustn’t let our frequent emphasis on our personal relationship with Christ minimize the importance of our service to Jesus through his body. How can your church be stronger this year because of you? Serving? Giving? Praying?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
Praying frequently and fervently for someone’s salvation makes us more sensitive to opportunities to share the gospel with him or her. Will you commit to praying for at least one person’s salvation every day this new year?
8. What’s the most important way, by God’s grace, you will try to make this year different from last?
Obviously, God’s sovereignty rules over all things, and there is nothing we can do about much that he brings into our lives. On the other hand, under his sovereignty he gives us a measure of responsibility over many areas of life. In which of these would you most like to see a change from last year? You may find that your answer to this question is found in one of your answers above. To which of them do you sense the Holy Spirit calling your attention most urgently?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
For many, it might be as simple as designating a time exclusively for prayer instead of praying only “on the go” types of prayers. For others, it might be learning the simple, biblical practice of praying the Bible.
10. What single thing can you plan to do this year that will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
Short-term deadlines tend to dominate our attention. Busyness and fatigue often limit our vision to just getting through today. But don’t let the tyranny of the urgent distract you from something you’re neglecting that would have enormous long-term impact on your soul, your family, or your church.
Consider Your New Year
The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by making a goal to encourage one person in particular this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t set that goal.
If you’ve found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace — on your phone, computer, calendar, or wherever you put reminders — where you can review them frequently.
I hope this article will help you to “consider your ways,” to make plans and goals, and to live
this new year with biblical diligence, remembering the principle that “the plans of the diligent
lead surely to abundance” (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things, let’s also remember our
dependence on our King, who said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).