I don’t know if you are into New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not. I learned a long time ago that New Year’s Resolutions are made to be broken. I do use this season, however, to reflect on the past year and set goals for the upcoming year. Unlike resolutions (which are normally empty promise to ourselves), goals (when appropriately set) are more reasonable action items. Most New Year’s Resolutions are not realistic, achievable, or given a specific time frame. Goals, on the other hand, are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
New Year’s Resolution: I want to lose weight this year.
New Year’s Goal: I want to lose 15 pounds before May 2013.
The condition of our health is one area where personal reflection is needed. Other areas I evaluate during this time include my relationship with the Lord, my immediate family, or other relationships. I may consider reevaluating ministry commitments. As I look ahead, I may plan my school course load, consider writing opportunities, blog themes, and think about ways I can move forward in what God has faithfully revealed this year.
This process of annual reflection led in my decision to consider the Radical Experiment this year. It did not take me long to figure out that taking on the whole Radical Experiment was indeed a New Year’s Resolution and not a goal. A couple months into the year, I realized the challenge simply was not realistic given all of my other priorities and commitments. I was not going to have David Platt and his book rule over me.
The experiment consists of the following one-year challenge:
1. Pray for the entire world;
2. Read through the entire Word;
3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
4. Spend your time in another context;
5. Commit your life to a multiplying community (Radical, David Platt, Multnomah, 2010, page 185).
Before abandoning the experiment out right, I considered my circumstances and completed an evaluation. Before reading Radical, my husband and I were already committed to challenge #3, though God has led us to make additional commitments this year. I am also committed to leading a Women’s Mentoring Ministry at my local church, which fulfills challenge #5.
I did not pray for the entire world this year. I completed a Prayer and Fasting independent study at the beginning of the year which taught me much about prayer as a weapon of spiritual warfare so I made it my goal to pray for the countries where we are sponsoring children. I want to intentionally continue with more focused prayers for those countries in the coming year.
I also didn’t feel like I fully embraced the challenge to spend time in another context. Basically, Platt is asking Christians to step outside of their normal routine of doing things and accept opportunities to share Christ with those who may not know him. I believe this is an important challenge, and I also caution against doing anything simply because we fell we are supposed to do it. I believe fully embracing this challenge goes beyond simply going on a short-term missions trip or offering charity a few times a year. I believe it means consistently stepping outside of your comfort zone to develop relationships with people who are not like us, sharing the gospel, and committing to journey through life with them. If we are to engage in that way, we must be prayerful about exactly what God wants us to do, with whom, and when. Please understand that being prayerful about this challenge is not an excuse for inaction. We should all do what we can when we can, until God clarifies his vision for us. I see him prompting me in some areas. I see possible doors of opportunity opening for me to move forward with this challenge next year. I’m excited about the possibilities.
The most rewarding part of this challenge for me was reading through the Bible this year. This morning I began reading my last book of the year, the book of Job. I think I might have read the entire Bible over the years, some parts a lot more than others of course, but there’s really no way to know for sure so I definitely wanted to follow through on this one. This was more of a goal than a resolution for me because I already had a consistent habit of week day Bible reading.
If you don’t have a habit of consistent Bible reading, this part of the challenge can easily become a burden to you, a source of guilt and shame, and God did not give us the Bible as a taskmaster. Don’t do it! Maybe you can consider other goals to faithfully engage the scriptures. Maybe consider reading only through the New Testament in the coming year, along with daily devotional reading of one Psalm and/or one Proverb. That would be a healthy reading plan, but there are all sorts of Bible reading plans out there. Pick one or portions of one that works best for you. Commit to making Bible reading and study a priority next year and be intentional about setting a goal in this area.
I encourage you to consider your spiritual health this season and how you want to grow in your love of God and love of neighbor. Consider how far God has brought you this year, and be intentional about setting goals for next year. As you think about the Radical experiment, I encourage you to bring a friend or two along. Life is so much more fun when we share it with others. Friends can keep us accountable and encourage us on the journey.
So what are some of your goals for the upcoming year?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012