Wow, I can’t believe it’s nearly 2018. This year really did zoom by. I know there are probably a ton of these types of posts out there, but I feel like it’s important that I’m optimistic about how I approach the new year, and sometimes writing things down helps one be more intentional about their goals.
Honestly, this year was not a very good year for me. It kind of sucked in general. Not much growth happened, spiritually or in any other aspect of my life, and I felt pretty discouraged. There were a lot of things I hoped would change that unfortunately didn’t. I also wandered pretty far from God this year (especially this last semester), and I was pretty much at a spiritual low, which is why I haven’t been writing much lately.
I sure hope 2018 will have more in store for me than 2017 did. So I’m going to share some of my goals. I probably missed out some important things, but these are just some things that I think I should focus on going into 2018. I hope some of these will apply to you too or will inspire you to create some similar goals.
Put God before everything (including school)
This was definitely the biggest mistake I made this year. I put other things before God, especially school. This semester was the busiest and the most challenging in terms of schoolwork, and I pretty much caved and lost the plot. I was so stressed, and instead of going to God I went to other things.
If I would have put God first I know for sure I would have handled everything better and gotten better grades. Funnily enough, in my experience, the times I haven’t put school first are the times I’ve actually done better academically. There’s a reason Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom. He really will take care of everything else if we focus on what really matters.
Read the Bible on a regular basis
One of the biggest mistakes I made this semester was that I pretty much stopped reading my Bible (except for every now and then). Any mature Christian will know this is pretty much spiritual suicide. If you’re not filling your mind with truth every day, it’s all too easy to forget it. Obviously reading the Bible without letting the Holy Spirit teach you is pretty futile. But if we really let God’s word come alive by asking God to guide us and speak to us, it will transform our lives. I can say this by experience.
How can we obey Jesus’ commands if we’re not constantly reminding ourselves what they are? How can we think like Christ rather than like the world if we’re listening to what the world says more than what God has said in His word? We can’t afford to only hear scripture at church or only read isolated verses here and there.
Submit to the Holy Spirit every day
This is the hardest yet the most freeing thing a Christian can do. I’m going to be honest: lately I’ve almost been kind of put off of the idea of being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led because I wanted to be in control of my own life. I wanted to think about whatever I wanted and do whatever I wanted. That’s really sad to say, but I think it’s where a lot of us are at. But you know where that left me? In a really low, miserable, unfulfilled place.
The only way we can be truly joyful and have full communion with God is by being Spirit-filled. In Romans, Paul said that we would only be free from the law if we live by the Spirit. And we can’t expect to live by the Spirit and be led by Him if we’re not filled with Him. We can’t live in this in-between, limbo state of theoretically following Jesus but not being filled with the Spirit if we want to be completely free. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. Where He isn’t, there is sin and darkness. We can’t live without Him and expect to be free.
Love people like Jesus
If I’m honest, I’m better at complaining about the downfalls of other Christians than I am at becoming the change I want to see in the world. I complain about how heartless and religious most American Christians are, but in the process I miss the plank in my own eye. I become so distracted by other people’s faults that I lose hope in becoming more like Christ myself.
What if we simply read Jesus’ words and actually obeyed His commands? How different the world would look if we simply started living out the gospel. But instead we tend to approach the Bible theoretically, as if it’s enough to just read and memorize what Jesus said. But how often do we actually do it?
I want to read what Jesus said and actually live out His words. I want to abide in Him so that I can actually act like a true Christ-follower rather than just a religious person with lofty moral aspirations. If we don’t love people radically and unconditionally like Christ does, then are we really even Christians? Jesus said people would know we’re His disciples by our love.
Stop settling for religion
I was pretty fortunate when I became a Christian, because I had a friend who told me about some pretty awesome Christian leaders and the amazing work God is doing in the world today. I was introduced to the Last Reformation, and my eyes were opened to the radical lives we can live today as Christians. The things that happened in the book of Acts can totally happen today, and God doesn’t want us to be religious, lukewarm Christians who look no different than the world.
When I discovered this truth, I was so excited and wanted to live radically. But then I looked around and saw that pretty much all other Christians around me seem pretty content to live regular, religious, lukewarm lives. So many Christians are content to just go to church on Sundays and have Bible studies but not live extraordinary lives that are led by the Holy Spirit. Not only did this discourage me, but it pretty much made me lose hope in my dreams for my life. I felt like this vision of a Spirit-led life was so out of reach that I should just give up because it can never happen.
But lately I’ve felt a renewed sense of hope that I shouldn’t give up just because nothing has changed yet. My life isn’t over and God can still use me and bring other radical Christians into my life. We should never lose hope for something more just because other people are content to settle for religion. Maybe right now God is preparing me for what He has planned for my life, but in this season I shouldn’t lose hope and stop longing for more.
Stop looking for happiness and fulfillment in things other than God
This year I believed a bunch of lies. I started comparing myself to other people and believing that I was missing out or that God was somehow depriving me of something. I looked at people on Instagram who had loads of friends and did fun things all the time and I started envying those people. I’m not someone who easily gets jealous of people, so this isn’t a typical thing for me. I also began to hate the current season of my life and started to long for things I’m not yet supposed to have (like a guy).
I know from experience that the things we think we want so badly usually disappoint us significantly when we actually get them. It’s foolish to think that anything can fulfill us more than God, or that anything outside His will is worth having. I want to stop being tricked into thinking that I’m somehow missing out by following Jesus. We’re really sacrificing nothing by surrendering our lives to Christ, because I know that life without Him is pretty dark and miserable.
Seek community (but be patient)
This year was probably one of my loneliest years. I had friends at school who I got along with and had good conversations with, but I hardly hung out with anyone outside of school. And what really discouraged me was that I could not seem to find Christian community. My school is super secular, and I’ve found hardly any other Christians there (and the ones I have found have very different beliefs). I’ve tried different groups and Bible studies, but nothing seemed to click.
I let this discourage me and make me think that I’ll never find a group of amazing Christians my age who also want to live radically for Christ. But when I look back, I remember complaining about my social void much more than I remember praying about it. In reality, I didn’t really trust God to bring me strong Christian community.
Although I still feel discouraged about finding Christian community, I don’t feel hopeless. Many of us go through lonely seasons, and we shouldn’t let those discourage us. It’s important to remember that although community is important, our relationship with God is the most important thing. We can’t put our trust in other Christians because they will fail us, but God won’t. We have to trust Him to bring the right people into our lives at the right time.
Pursue purity (in every way)
I know from experience that the only way one can be joyful and have a close relationship with God is by pursuing purity in every way. This doesn’t just mean not having sex before marriage, but it means being intentional about what we’re filling our minds with and what we’re dwelling on. This pursuit of purity isn’t boring or legalistic; it’s actually way freer than what this world calls freedom.
I’m going to be extremely honest right now: these last couple months I’ve been watching a lot of trash on Netflix and Hulu that pretty much just fed bad thoughts that were already festering in my mind. I felt the Holy Spirit convict me, but I carried on doing what I wanted anyway because I felt so low and basically just gave up spiritually.
As Christians we can’t expect to fill our minds with the things of this world and not be affected by them. Now I don’t mean you should shelter yourself and never watch or listen to anything secular, but I do mean you should be careful. If you’re someone who is more easily affected by media, be intentional about what you’re letting into your mind. If you already struggle with lust, watching movies and TV shows with graphic sex scenes in them probably isn’t going to help you battle those thoughts. There’s a reason Jesus talked about lust so seriously. Sin always starts in your heart. You can think your thoughts are no big deal, but those thoughts often eventually turn into actions. There’s a reason the Bible tells us to guard our hearts.
It’s important to remember that purity isn’t just about what you avoid, but also what you pursue. Not watching or listening to certain things probably isn’t enough; you also need to be filling your mind with positive things that will fuel your relationship with God and make you want to run away from anything that is impure. Sheltering yourself won’t stop you from sinning; you have to constantly remind yourself of the more fulfilling alternative of purity.
Listen to good music on a regular basis
I wholeheartedly believe music affects people on a profound level. When I listen to good music, it changes my whole mood. I can be encouraged on such a deep level when I listen to the right music. This is why I believe it’s so important to listen to music that has an uplifting vibe to it and contains the gospel message, even if it isn’t in the Christian genre.
I also think that worship music is really important and can totally change the atmosphere of a room. Last night I blasted Christian music in my room for the first time in a while, and it really did make my room feel different. It felt so dark and depressing before, but just inviting God into a space brings light into your home. I’ve genuinely seen such a difference every time I’ve made a conscious effort to listen to positive music. Music is one of the things God has frequently used to speak to me, and it encourages me in a way few other things can.
Stop spending so much time on social media
I am actually disappointed in myself because I’ve become one of those millennials. I am now one of the very people I used to criticize, those people who spend half of their time on their phone and can’t sit still for five minutes without checking Instagram. I didn’t get a smartphone until I was nearly eighteen, and when I was a teenager I used to be appalled by the addiction to technology that is so prevalent in our society. But now, regrettably, I’ve just gone along with the very thing I used to hate.
I spend so much time on Instagram, and I spend way too much time on Pinterest as well. I would say Instagram is the most damaging to me, as it causes the most comparison. Some things don’t influence me negatively, but there’s a lot on there that only makes me feel inadequate and even jealous. One of the main things that causes discontentment in my life is looking at people’s social lives on Instagram and feeling lonely.
Not only does social media make me feel like my life isn’t good enough, but it also prevents me from spending quality time with God. I’m always so distracted by my stupid phone that it’s practically impossible to hear God’s voice or grow spiritually. I know I have to change this, as social media has become an idol in my life.
Switch from a consumerist mindset to a giving mindset
Another problem with Instagram is the sheer amount of consumerism on it. I try to follow accounts that are more about simple living, but there are a lot of people whose lives seem to consist of going to fancy coffee shops every day. If I’m honest, I get really tired of the shallowness and frivolity I see on social media, especially from Christians. Yes, buying coffee isn’t wrong, and neither is liking fashion. But when we center our lives on these things and feel unfulfilled when we don’t have them, then something is wrong.
These last few months I’ve become way more concerned with my wants and desires than the needs of others. Instead of thinking about how I could help those who have nothing, I thought about what new clothing I wanted to buy so that I could look more like the girls on Pinterest. And that’s so not okay. I want to live my life with a servant’s heart rather than a shallow, greedy heart that is constantly wondering how I can make my life more fun and entertaining.
Be more intentional about prayer
Lately my prayer life has pretty much consisted of me rambling to God in my journal. That’s great, but I ended up venting more than listening or praying intentionally. At times I was writing like I wasn’t praying at all but rather just unburdening in a regular journal, as if I wasn’t even talking to God. And I don’t want my prayers to be like that anymore. I want to remember who I’m talking to. This year, instead of just complaining about things, I want to intentionally pray about them as if I actually believe God will answer my prayers.
I’m not talking silly prayers, like asking God to give me things I don’t need or bring me a boyfriend or anything like that. I mean good prayers that are about building His kingdom rather than making my life more interesting. I mean praying for change to happen, change that can only be His will. In the past, whenever I’ve prayed for something good and biblical (such as to love and act more like Christ), God has usually answered my prayers. Of course there are some things that don’t happen right away, and we don’t always know exactly why. But I think it’s important to really seek God in our prayer, and to be willing to listen as well as talk.
Get organized and stop procrastinating
I tend to get very lethargic and unmotivated, and I often lack the energy to be productive and get things done. I procrastinate and then make myself even more stressed because I feel like I’m running out of time to get things done. I would love for that to change this year. I want to do things even if I don’t feel like it, and I want to get into the habit of getting off my butt and getting stuff done even if it doesn’t sound fun. Procrastination often causes so much unnecessary stress.
I know that organization is really important when it comes to staying motivated and avoiding procrastination. If you don’t have any plan, it’s way too easy to lose track of time and waste hours doing nothing. I want to be more intentional with my time this year and stop wasting hours looking at my phone or doing other pointless things. I plan on using my bullet journal more actively or even using Google calendar to plan out my days so that I stop sucking so much when it comes to managing my time.
Write more blog posts
This is a really big thing for me. I believe that writing, whatever that may look like, is my calling. Right now, that looks like this blog. I know it’s not popular right now, but it would be great if I could encourage even just a few people and get them thinking differently. I want to stop believing that I’m not good enough to write about spiritual things or that I need to hide myself away because I’ll just embarrass myself.
If you have something that you love doing and are gifted at, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do it. God created us to be creative. It’s a shame to waste the gifts He gave you. I don’t want to tell people I love writing but then say that I don’t actually write anything except for essays. I want to continue to pursue blogging even though I’ll probably never go viral. Because it shouldn’t be about popularity anyway.
I know that was super long, but I hope those goals encouraged or inspired you in some way. I think it’s important to have goals for the future, because it’s way too easy to become complacent or lose hope otherwise. So I encourage you to make at least a few goals for the new year, or maybe steal some of mine and attempt them yourself.