Once again we find ourselves in a brand new year. We start with high hopes, great expectations and often a number of resolutions that prove unrealistic. Mere days into the fresh, new calendar, and some of us are already giving up. Our willpower is not as strong as we thought, or significant, unforeseen events push us off track before we even really get started. Regardless of the specific circumstances, less than half of those who make New Year’s resolutions are still keeping them after six months.
So, let’s change the conversation from resolutions to renewal. How can this new year be a year of positive renewal across several areas of my life?
Where should we begin? What should we seek first?
Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 to those worried about tomorrow or what they’re going to wear or eat, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will fall into place.” (paraphrase)
What does this mean— when the rubber hits the road in the daily-ness of my real life? How can I pursue renewal in all areas of my life by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?
Let’s zoom out and look at the context starting in verse 25:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. hAre you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?7 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, kO you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
What we seek first is actually an issue of trust. Do we trust ourselves? Our bank accounts? Our ability to plan and produce? Or do I trust God to make good on His promises, to take care of me and all the rest if I rest in Him?
Jesus is describing two distinct kinds of hearts. A heart wrecked with anxiousness, fueled by the belief they are in control— and must keep up to keep things under control. Or, a heart that trusts God is the true provider of everything we need and can rest in His daily provision.
Most naturally, we imagine that we have to do it all. I’m guilty of this. I make so many lists! I am a very productive person and I get a lot done, but I also run over other people who are moving at a slower pace or in a different direction. I need to be renewed in my spirit for everyone’s benefit, including my own.
So, the question we must ask this January is not really: What are my priorities for the upcoming year? But rather: Do I trust God to renew everything else – my relationships, my finances, my health – if I focus intentionally on His priorities first?
In this new year, let’s allow God to renew everything by finding our rest in Him. Let’s intentionally seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness and trust God to lead us in caring for the calendar, the plans, the projects, and the piles. All those things need doing, but how might they be accomplished in a more positive way if we keep first things first?
A few firsts to consider:
First thought: God (prayer)
First Word: His (Bible)
First deed: Act of service
None of these have to take a long time. This is about creating a new rhythm, rooted in hearts daily renewed by God’s Word. How might leading off with a one sentence prayer or the Lord’s Prayer renew your whole day? How would your mind be renewed if the first words were from the Word of God instead of your social media or news feed? How might your relationships be renewed if your first deed of the day were on behalf of someone else?
God likes to make things new. He delights to bring refreshment to our parched lives, and beauty to our ashes. Isaiah 41 says, “I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” This is who He is. Let God be God this year as you yield to His renewing presence, power and grace. As you seek Him and His righteousness, everything else will fall into its rightful – renewed – place.