“I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”3 John 1:2
This is God’s desire for you for 2021. Is this what you expect?
You want to start 2021 on a clean slate, with fresh excitement for the year. This could be difficult, especially when the new year begins with the same challenges of the old year. In the previous posts, we said that we wrap up 2020 by making a memory and finding its meaning. We look back to review the year’s highs and lows, recognizing the blessings and progress. A fresh start requires a bold look inside to release those who hurt us and also own our share in the pain. After dealing with the past, we need to reconsider our destination and re-vision path.
[A brief video transcript of this post is available below].
Why a need to re-vision my future?
Bluntly stated, you are not the same person you were twelve months ago. Your experience has carved a profound and lasting impact on your life. We like to say experience makes us wiser, but it leaves you more than a data bank of case studies. Your circumstance changes you.
- Circumstance impacts your core convictions. My experiences continually test my core convictions to confirm or refine those bedrock assumptions I build my understanding of life upon. These core convictions make up my self-view (who I am, where I belong), my God-view (who He is and how he relates to me), and my world-view (how things work spiritually, socially, and physically). The convictions that hold up are strengthened, while the assumptions that fail are adjusted. These challenge my most profound sense of significance and security, and call for revising my beliefs about who I am, how I relate to God and how the world works.
- Circumstance impacts your cravings. My desires are shaped by my experience and by the desires of those around us. As I live, I learn that those things I desired do not satisfy, and it loses its appeal. Moreover, my desires are essentially mimetic, meaning “I desire according to the other” (Rene Girard). We see this in toddlers fighting over toys, in the fashion sense of teenagers and suburban families striving to keep up with the Jones’. The point is that my desires are not static – what I live through impacts not only my head but also my hearts. And as my heart sets the course of my life, it must be examined and recalibrated.
- Circumstance impacts your calling. What I describe as my life calling, my purpose, or the vision for my future is not static either. My sense of purpose grows and changes with my understanding of myself, God, and the world. It changes with my desires. And it is informed and inspired by my experiences. Often my calling is birthed from the pain in my circumstances.
Therefore, before you embark on writing your new life chapter this year, reconsider where you are now and recalibrate where you want to be headed. Seek for a clear and compelling vision that directs your affections and actions.
God has a vision for your life
You have been created by God, for God (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:15-16). God has purposed and prepared a path set with good works for you (Ephesians 2:10; compare Jeremiah 1:5) and although your understanding of it grows, God’s purpose for you life does not change (Romans 11:29). Moreover, you were redeemed by God at an incredible price; you belong to Him, and your life is for Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Christ’s act of redemption does not only save you from the punishment of your sins – he redeemed you from a destructive life of selfishness to a partnership with Him in the regeneration and renewal of all creation (Colossians 1:18-20; Revelation 21:5).
Your life has meaning, significance. You have been carefully crafted to fulfil a significant part of God’s redemptive purpose of the world, to display and disperse his goodness in this world. In and through you, God is renewing and reconciling all things to Himself, bringing it under His benevolent reign.
Can you picture the good works God prepared for you in this year?
Aristotle said, “a soul never thinks without a picture.” What do you envision for this new year? What is your mental image of “a blessed and prosperous 2021”? This is the essence of hope: a picture that paints the good things to come. Fear is the opposite of hope: an image that depicts the expectation of bad things. Our news feeds and conversations overflow with such pictures of doom, filling the world with fear to expect only depression and disaster in 2021. How do I cultivate hope in such an environment?
The Bible abounds with historical accounts that mirror our own dark days’ sense of dread and despair. Yet time and time again, we see God’s prophets sketch visions of hope that inspire faith-filled acts of courage to bring life to communities in crisis. Renewal always starts with a clear and compelling picture of what could be, fueled by a conviction that it should be. This is the definition of God-breathed vision. Such an image will stir your imagination and engage your will to walk in the good works God has prepared for you.
The power of a clear vision (from Andy Stanley)
Often good ideas and even necessary things go undone due to a lack of a good, clear vision. Andy Stanley states the benefits of a clearly articulated vision (Visioneering, 1999).
- Vision awakens our passions and unleashes our drive to pursue this promise. A picture of what could be, tugs at my heart and energizes me to make this dream a reality.
- Vision provides motivation and endurance for the hard work necessary to embody this preferred future. It moves me from dreaming to doing.
- Vision sets direction, prioritizes values and parameters for decision-making. A clear vision unclutters my life to discern what is important and immanent, and what is not.
- Vision translates into purpose. A clear and compelling vision gives meaning to everyday life’s mundane tasks. It gives context to the costly sacrifices required to live the life I want to live.
You’ve had dreams and desires which never materialezed. Yet vision is different from such wishes in that it feels like a moral imperative – I ought to pursue this! This type of vision for your begins with a concern – a deep stirring in your spirit that urges you to respond. It fills your mind, overflows in your conversations, and cries out in your prayers. Such a vision is an invitation to partner with God in His work of renewal of all things.
Crafting and pursuing your vision for 2021
In the troubling time leading up to Jerusalem’s fall in 586BC, the prophet Habakkuk set time aside to wait on God for a clear and compelling vision for his people. He resolved:
“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”
The Lord answered: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”Habakkuk 2:1-2
A compelling vision begins with a concern, a problem that needs fixing. Vision goes beyond what could happen but describes what should happen – with the conviction that God invites you to act with Him. These three practical points will help you crystalize such a mental picture of your future.
- Consider your vision for the year. Take time to dream about the year prayerfully. What does a prosperous 2021 look like for you? If God were to make all things new in your life this year, what would that look like? Briefly describe this transformed future for (a) your work life, (b) your family life, (c) your social life, (d) your spiritual life, (e) finances, and (f) any significant pursuit you have such as studies, sports, or some society. Don’t bother with HOW this will happen – describe WHAT your future should look like. Paint the picture with words.
- Clarify your vision. Prayerfully reduce these descriptions to a single, memorable statement of what you dream of embodying in each life facet this year. Can you write it as a solution to a problem?
- Chase your vision. Put these vision statements up somewhere you will see daily to pray daily for opportunities to realize this dream. Nehemiah, the cupbearer to Persian king Artaxerxes, prayed this way about his vision to see Jerusalem restored: “O Lord… give me success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11) When the opportunity came, he saw it and confidently seized it as an answer from the Lord.
Heads up: God’s plans for you are “that you may prosper in all things and be in health, [and that] your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2) After all, “God delights in the prosperity of His saints!” (Psalm 35:27). You can confidently dream about 2021, knowing that God has prepared good works for you. Carve these dreams into vision statements that evoke your passion, motivate your actions and direct your efforts. Then hold these daily before God in prayer for boldness and opportunities to renew every area of your life.