As I write this after my quiet time with God this morning, it is the very end of my December; and we’re looking down the barrel of a new year, … that time when we human creatures are culturally and personally driven to review our past year and go into “New Year’s resolution” mode. Maybe you, as I am, are in this mode of thinking.
I think most of us, as we head into the New Year, would like to change something, do something better, or go into a restart mode of thinking; and so, if you feel that way (at least a little bit), stick with me here and let me share a few “starting over in the New Year” thoughts.
Each year, my computer is programmed to have me go back – on December 31 – and read/meditate on a poem which was written a number of years ago by the radio Bible teacher, Woodrow Kroll. It’s entitled, “START OVER.” Let me share it with you here.
Start Over --- Woodrow Kroll
When you've trusted Jesus and walked His way,
When you've felt His hand lead you day by day,
But your steps now take you another way …
When you’ve made your plans and they’ve gone awry,
When you’ve tried your best 'til there’s no more try,
When you've failed yourself and you don’t know why …
When you’ve told your friends what you plan to do,
When you’ve trusted them but they’ve not come through,
Now you’re all alone and it’s up to you …
When you’ve failed your kids and they’re grown and gone,
When you’ve done your best but it turned out wrong,
And now your grandchildren have come along …
When you've prayed to God so you’ll know His will,
When you’ve prayed and prayed but you don’t know still,
When you want to stop cause you’ve had your fill …
When you think you’re finished and want to quit,
When you’ve bottomed out in life’s deepest pit,
When you’ve tried and tried to get out of it …
When the year's been long and successes few,
When December comes and you’re feeling blue,
God gives a January just for you …
Starting over means victories won,
Starting over means a race we run,
Starting over means the Lord’s “Well done,"
… so don’t just sit there ..
And each year, as I am right now, I see at least a little bit of myself in Kroll’s poem; and I feel the need, from a deep-seated conviction, to move forward and “START OVER” with some aspect of my life. And having read the poem yourself, maybe you’re feeling a drive to lose some weight, to exercise more, or to manage the time or money God has given you more prudently or productively. Aw common, friend, admit it! You’d like to do a “start over” in some aspect of your life, wouldn’t you?
Well, as Woodrow Kroll so poetically writes, we can change, if we decide to … START OVER; and I’d like to give you some very powerful thoughts from no less than God’s word to help us be successful in doing our own, very personal, START OVER for this upcoming New Year. In each segment below, I will give you a passage from the Bible which I believe is going to help me do my START OVER for this next year. My prayer is that these words from this humble servant – but more importantly from God’s truth – will help you do your own START OVER into this next year. Actually there are many truths from Scripture which God can use to give us a START OVER boost into the New Year; but here are a few.
However, up front I need to make it clear that my writing and thoughts from here on are unashamedly for Christians who’re reading here. Since I will be invoking God’s word, if you’re reading this as a non-believer, or you don’t think that the Bible is absolute truth, you might as well just save your time and quit reading my thoughts. But, if, like me, you believe any scholarly translation of the Bible to be a vessel of God’s truth, then come along with me and let’s look at how God’s Spirit, the Author of His word, can give us some real help in our START OVER project.
And right here, one more important point, … my consciousness was pricked with the desire to be personally and spiritually successful in my START OVER for this upcoming year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had New Year’s resolutions which fell by the wayside, in failure, … usually quite early into the year when I had declared these resolutions. I’ve done all the classics, … made resolutions to lose weight, which I need to do again this year; or maybe it was the ever-faithful, “I’ll exercise more” goal, both of which usually were broken in about a month or so. Therefore, if I’m going to be doing any START OVER moves this year, I want it to be a success. How about you?
Well, in that regard, I could not help but think of the very pertinent START OVER story of Joshua, right at the outset of the book in the Old Testament by his name. I’m sure many of you remember the historical context of the first nine verses of the Book of Joshua. Let me print them out for you here in the NIV …
Joshua 1: 1 – 9 … 1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I’m sure you probably remember this passage in context. Old Joshua was very likely all upset about his mentor, Moses, having just died; and God was charging Joshua to take His people across the Jordan into the long-awaited “promised-land.” And you just know in this “START OVER” task, Joshua had to have been feeling a bit overwhelmed. Certainly he had never done anything like this because Moses had always been THE leader of God’s people; but here he was thrust into that role. Overwhelming? You bet!
But God was there for Joshua, and above we read the very words of God, encouraging old Josh to move forward; and the Lord even gave this leader, probably feeling inadequate to the task, a START OVER prescription. Read verse 8 in bold above; and you’ll see that God told Joshua that he would be successful in this God-led task if – and only IF – Joshua would stay in God’s word, following the Lord’s truth, day and night, and doing everything in that Book of Truth to insure that Joshua would stay on track as he led God’s people into God’s promised land.
I don’t know what you’re promised-land is. Maybe it’s being a more healthy you. Maybe it’s being a better steward of God’s finances. But somehow you know that you need to START OVER; and you desire to do it right this time. Well, one principle we can glean from Joshua 1: 8 above and God’s charge to Joshua, is that to be spiritually successful we need to be in God’s word and follow it obediently – day and night!
That’s also the message of such Old Testament passages as those I’m going to lay out for you right here … Psalm 119: 105 … Your word is a lamp for my feet, … a light on my path. Or … Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 … Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; … in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
These three verses, the one from Joshua 1: 8 and the latter two, were drummed into my consciousness years ago with the help of a mentor, who taught me the spiritual value of Scripture memory. And I hope that you have seriously undertaken this discipline in your life as well. You see, when something comes up in my life; … maybe a controversy; … maybe a serious decision I must make; … very often a Scripture I have memorized will bubble out of from my consciousness, by the Holy Spirit, I believe, to help give me God’s truth or to guide me, especially if I’m moving to START OVER in some aspect of my life.
Even right now, as I write this, the very words of Jesus, which I memorized years ago from the NKJV, are bubbling up to give me guidance. They are found in Luke 9: 23; and you may know this exhortation which Jesus made to many of His disciples, … “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” It’s almost like Jesus is saying to me, “Bill, if you really want to do a START OVER, just let Me lead you; and if you’ll just surrender your circumstances to me, I’ll help you get this thing done!” And in this I’m also bolstered by two other truths which I’ve memorized from God’s word, … Proverbs 3: 5-6 again [quoted above] and Paul’s writing to believers in 1st Corinthians 10: 13 (if you don’t know this one, please go look it up).
As I’m sitting here, all of these truths are saying to me, “Bill, if you’re looking for a START OVER, let ME guide you into My promised-land; and when I give you MY START OVER, just for you, … you’ll know that doing it is the best START OVER for you; and also, if you go for it, following Me, and staying in My word, I’m going to lead you to success.” How about you? Is that what God’s truth, as I’ve laid out here, is saying to you? If not, I’d sure like to know what God is saying to you – from His word – about the need for you to follow God’s will for you in a START OVER.
My friend, God has given me my START OVER for the New Year. It is to read, meditate on, and journal (i.e., blog) what God gives me daily in reading through the chronological Bible reading program our church will be using in this next year. After some seeking and prayer, that’s where God is leading me into my own START OVER. ... What’s yours? ... I’d sure like for you to share your own START OVER with me; and if you’d be so inclined, you can email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your START OVER for the year … and maybe what God has given you from His word to encourage you as well.
Bill Berry, … December 31, 2011