I heard a talk about the New Year by Andy Stanley that made a big impact on me. His talk was about the importance of focusing on one thing this coming year, and having the resolve to stick with it no matter what opposition comes our way.
Excited to Start the New Year
I start the New Year excited. As a professor, I have about a month off from my normal schedule around Christmas. When I have unstructured time like this, my mind often wanders. I start to think about how I’m doing. I come up with several goals for each area of my life. How do I want to improve at my job in 2019? What about my relationships? What about my spiritual life? What could I do to improve my physical health? What issues do I need to work through in 2019 to improve my emotional well-being?
The Reality of Normal Life
If you are anything like me, around the middle of January things start to get busy. I have to grade papers, my travel schedule kicks into gear, and writing deadlines creep closer and closer. Most of my well-intentioned goals get lost in the shuffle. I think this is the reason New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. We start off the New Year with all these great intentions, but then life happens, we get busy, and lose focus.
Pick One Thing
In his talk, Andy Stanley encouraged us to pick one thing to focus on this year. What is the one thing that would drastically improve your life one year from now? Maybe it is an addiction you have never been able to kick. Maybe it is a relationship you need to work on. Maybe it is something in your career. What is that one thing for you?
When I thought about what Andy Stanley said, my one thing for this coming year is to focus on growing my social media presence and monetizing my writing. I want to figure out how to promote engagement with my writing and get paid for it. That’s my one thing.
The Story of Nehemiah
Andy Stanley shared the story of Nehemiah from the Bible. Nehemiah was a Jewish man who worked as a cup-bearer to Artaxerxes, the king of Persia. When he learned the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and his people were in trouble, he asked the king for permission to go and rebuild the walls. The king granted his request, and Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and began to work. The rebuilding project got off to a great start, but there was opposition. Specifically, there was an official named Sanballat (great name, I know) who didn’t want the Israelites to gain any of the power they had lost. The opposition gets so bad that Nehemiah has to split his workers into two groups. Half of his men work to rebuild the wall, and the other half guard the workers from possible attacks.
As Nehemiah continues to make progress rebuilding the wall, Sanballat changes his strategy. He sends a message to Nehemiah, asking Nehemiah to come meet together to talk. Nehemiah responds: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
Steadfast Amidst Distractions
Let that response sink in a bit. There were all sorts of things distracting Nehemiah from the work he knew God was calling him to do. But when the distractions came, Nehemiah was steadfast. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” My hope for you in 2019 is that you would identify your one thing. What is the one thing that you know in your heart you should focus on this year? Let’s not focus on a bunch of things and get distracted. Instead, focus on one thing. And when the opposition comes (and it will), be like Nehemiah and say with resolve, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
What is your one thing for 2019? What is one step you can take today toward that goal?