I’ve always loved the feeling of newness and second chances that comes with the new year. After closing out the year with various holiday festivities, we all look forward to the opportunity to begin afresh, to set new goals and bolster our willpower and diligence to stick to them.
I’ve been vaguely aware of the idea of choosing a “theme word” for the upcoming year, but I hadn’t really understood the concept until a friend mentioned the idea several weeks ago. My planning-self jumps at the opportunity to set new goals, so a new way to do that fascinated me: all of your goals and aspirations for the next 12 months can be contained in a word or phrase that embodies all you want to do and be. I started to think about the areas in my life that I need to strengthen and ways that I can better glorify God in the way I live. I thought about words like “surrender”, “trust”, and “selfless”, but they didn’t seem to capture the entire essence of what I wanted my 2017 to look like.
Then the idea came to me slowly and hit me all at once: JOY. I’ve always been intrigued with the word and idea behind it. For such a small word, it holds such boundless meaning. For myself personally, I know that I need to possess and demonstrate the true joy that can only be found in Christ on a deeper level more each day. This kind of joy gives us a new perspective on life, helps us overcome trials, and radiates in our entire being (Nehemiah 8:10). It is a quiet, trustful hope that looks beyond the temporary and into the eternal.
“For the JOY of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
But the main reason I love this word is that it’s more than a profound idea. True joy really means putting J esus first, O thers second, and Y ourself last. JOY is my word for 2017 because all of my goals for this year fit perfectly within these categories!
- Full surrender. It is so easy to let my problems and my desires become so much bigger than my God, when it really is the exact opposite. He is the Creator, I am His treasured creation (Psalm 139; 1 Peter 2:9-10). He is my Master, I am His servant (1 Corinthians 4:1). Surrendering to Him means letting go of what I want to make way for His will. It means seeing the bigger picture of what eternally matters rather than letting my plans take control.
- Unreserved trust. I want to place my confidence in the One who holds my times in His hand (Psalm 31:14-15), and makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Even when I can’t see what He is doing, I can trust that He is there, working to provide what I need so that I can better serve Him.
- Intentional prayer. Going before the Throne every day, just me and the Lord, changes my whole outlook on life and will strengthen my relationship with Him. Giving all of my cares to Him will enable me to watch for His hand working in my life (1 Peter 5:7). Most of all, Jesus not only needs to be first, but also in the center of everything I do (Colossians 3:1-4).
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
- Investing in people. I want to be more present in the moment, to listen more, and to reach out to those who need encouragement.
- Less of me, more of others (Philippians 2:3-5). I want to make the best use of the time I have with others (Colossians 4:5). I’m going to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone, to put the phone down and start that spiritual conversation, to initiate that Bible study, to make that coffee date with an old friend, to love others intentionally.
- Giving. Putting others first means looking out for their interests, and what makes them happy. I want to be more generous with the time I give others, putting on a compassionate spirit as Christ would (Colossians 3:12).
- Sharing the gospel. As I reach out to others, I want to make the most difference I can for Christ, and share the gospel with as many souls as possible (Matthew 5:16; Mark 16:15). Thinking about eternity gives me a better perspective as I encounter people on a daily basis.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5
Yourself. This year, I want to make time for things that have taken a back burner lately.
- More reading. I love to read, but as life has gotten busier and that thing called college becomes more demanding, I’m not able to delve into as many books as I’d like to. But even if it’s slow going, I’m going to enjoy that novel that’s been on my to-read list, and finish that writing book I’ve been picking up every now and then.
- More writing. I want to be more deliberate about refining the craft of writing. More consistent and freestyle blog posts are the goal, and utilizing every opportunity to write for the Lord and His kingdom (including other Christian website, blog, and magazine ministries).
- My education. The online college program I am involved in is wonderful about being flexible around my schedule, but I’m ever seeking that balance between work, school, and life, being more realistic and deliberate in educational goal-setting.
- Finding contentment. There is a quote that says, “Plan to be a dreamer. Be content in the moment.” In the midst of all the goal-setting and drive to climb higher on the ladder of success, we must remember to enjoy life in the season we are in. Albert Einstein once said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
My favorite thing about the word and acronym “JOY” is that it is so encompassing. Those words that just didn’t seem to quite fit (surrender, trust, selflessness) are all included in with joy!
This year will be a year of not just dreaming, but also doing. A year of not just goal-setting, but also go-getting. A year of not just faith, but also action. But most of all, this year will be a year filled with Jesus’ joy, spreading that joy to others, and nurturing that joy in my own life.
“These things I have spoken to you, that My JOY may be in you, and that your JOY may be full.” John 15:11