‘From the Beginning of the Year’


The holidays are over once again. And, for all that I did to try to hold on to it, the last week of the year has escaped me, as well.

I love the holidays, and I’ve written much about them in the past. I’ve especially shared my thoughts in previous columns about the importance of using the closing days of the year to plan for the months ahead. I have also described my intention to spend the first eight months of the year, in essence, preparing for the last four.

In this scenario, the goal would be to get as much work done ahead as possible, and to get all the trivial details out of the way by the end of August so that I could make the most of the last four months—often the busiest and most essential season in ministry.

So, my dream is to have everything organized and ready in order that, come September, I can implement my plans, promote my endeavors and enjoy the results of my efforts. I also want to savor more of that most meaningful time during the holidays.

Then, I want to take those closing days of the year and plan and prepare to hit the ground running in the new year.

That’s a great strategy, and I still aspire to fulfill it … next year.

Perhaps you feel like I do about this past year. While I was attempting to steer life along, carefully and ever-so-gently, I could feel it steamroll right past me. I’m sure you’re familiar with all the regular obstacles that show up to play their part: a sickness here, an emergency there, a problem with this, a breakdown in that. And, before you know it, your plans have not only changed, but pretty much unraveled.

This is not to say that I did not work hard in 2023, or was not very productive. I had an incredibly full year—and that can be part of the problem, too. As I look back on a year of happenings, I am forced to consciously evaluate them. Was each activity I was involved in important enough to require the amount of time and energy I allotted to it?

Of course, those are difficult questions to answer when you are engaged in ministry and everything you set out to do has some worthwhile purpose. And I am not necessarily thinking about making major changes, as much as minor improvements.

So, as I write this column, it’s mid-January. I’m sitting in the glow of Christmas lights, still enjoying some Christmas music. I’m trying to stretch out the holidays, and still do some planning for the new year. I take solace in the fact that we’re, technically, still in its first full week! I have regrets in that I really did not organize the past year in such a way that I could relax and enjoy the last few weeks and months, or get the most out of them.

But I still love the holidays. I still believe in planning the year out—and taking that valuable time at year’s end to do it. I still think the exercise is worthwhile. I still want to think strategically about how to do better, once again, this year.

The Lord assured the people of Israel of His watchful concern over them—“from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deut. 11:12). Evidently, the year is important to God, and it must be to me, as well.

Maybe there is wisdom to be found in discerning where we have failed to achieve our highest ideals, and understanding why. Maybe this, in itself, is a sign of maturity and of developing a seriousness that can be gained only through the experiences of life.

We recognize that, even with those high ideals, our plans will require revision and our best intentions may well go unfulfilled. Yet we draw solace from the fact that—all year long—God “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).

How do you look back at the year behind us? How do you look ahead at the year before us? How can we grow and do better this year? I would love to see your responses.

Happy New Year!

NKJV Copyright

Scripture identified as “NKJV” is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.