I heard a talk about the New Year by Andy Stanley that made a huge impact on me. I’d like to share what he said, and my reaction to it. To summarize, his talk was about the importance of focusing on one thing this coming year… and having the resolve to stick at it no matter what opposition comes our way.
Often 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 and 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 2015? 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 2015 to improve my emotional well-being? Etc.
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. Somewhere along the way most of my well-intentioned goals get lost in the shuffle. I think this is part of the reason why New Year’s Resolutions don’t often work. We start off the New Year with all these great intentions, but then life happens, we get busy, and lose focus.
In his talk, Andy Stanley encouraged his listeners to pick one thing to focus on this year. What is the one thing that if you really were to make a change, it 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, like your spouse or children. Maybe it is something in your career. What is that one thing for you?
When I thought about what Andy Stanley said, I think my one thing for this coming year is to focus and put energy toward my writing–specifically my blog. I want to figure out how to write engaging, interesting posts that help people and touch their lives for the better. I want to communicate the things I am learning to help people grow emotionally and spiritually. I would love to expand my reach and be able to write for outlets like the Huffington Post. That’s my one thing.
Andy Stanley shared the story of Nehemiah from the Bible. Briefly, 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 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 work to rebuild the wall, and 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’s response is interesting, and I think his response is important as we think about this coming year and our one thing. 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?”
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 and prayer for you in the year 2015 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? This year, let’s not focus on ten things and get distracted. Let’s focus on our one thing. And when the opposition comes (and it will), let’s be like Nehemiah and say with resolve, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
Discussion: What is your one thing for 2015? What is one step you can take today toward that goal?