Proverbs 4:25-27 says: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil.”
These verses make for one of the Bible’s best texts on the subject of a new year. In them Solomon offers a three-point checklist that will help us make this new year a godly, blessed, spiritually productive year. Let’s take a look at that checklist.
Item #1 is: Rivet your attention upon this new year. Solomon says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids right before you.” Think of yourself as standing on the precipice of this new year. What should you do as you stand here? You should focus your attention straight ahead and fix your gaze on what lies ahead.
In order to do that, you’ll have to step out of your past. You might as well step out of it, because you can’t change one second of it anyway. Rearview mirrors make poor windshields!
You say, “But Russell, you don’t know my past. You don’t know the things I’ve done. You don’t know the things I’ve gone through.” Well, you’re right, I don’t know your past. But I do know two things. One, I know that Jesus wants to meet you right where you are and do wonderful things for you, in you, and through you. Two, I know that in order for Him to do that you’re going to have to join Him in the here and now. The fact is, this new year can be your fresh start with Christ.
One day a man stormed into the office of his local newspaper and said to the secretary, “I want to see the guy who is in charge of the obituaries.” When the secretary pointed him to a rookie reporter, the man marched over to that reporter and said, “Young man, I want you to know that my name appeared in your obituary column today. And, as you can see, I am very much alive. I want you to print a retraction in tomorrow’s paper.” To that, the young man said, “Sir, I’m afraid that we don’t print retractions in our obituary column, but I’ll put you in tomorrow’s birth announcements and give you a fresh start!”
This new year can be your fresh start with Jesus. You can have a fresh start in the areas of prayer, Bible study, church attendance, personal holiness, giving, and evangelism. Whatever sins you’ve committed in the past, whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever you’ve gone through, rivet your attention on this new year.
Item #2 on the checklist is: Reassess the path you are traveling. Solomon says, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” The Hebrew word translated as “ponder” means to mentally weigh. The point is, think about the path you are currently traveling. Is it a path that will take you into more intimate fellowship with Jesus? Is it a path that will take you into a deeper level of service to Him? Is it a path that will make you a better Christian and a better person?
It’s sad that most people never take the time to stop and really think about where their path is taking them. Oftentimes this is why they repeat the same mistakes over and over again, year after year. I read about a man who went to the doctor to get some help for his two burned ears. The doctor said, “Before I treat you, I’ve just got to know how you burned your ears.” The fellow said, “Well, doc, here’s what happened. The phone rang while I was ironing my shirt, and I picked up the iron instead of the phone.” The doctor said, “That’s terrible! But what happened to your other ear?” The man said, “The guy called back.”
We laugh at that story, but this world is filled with people who never learn from their mistakes. I’m saying that the beginning of a new year is a great time to get by yourself, turn off the television, lay the phone off the hook, and take a good, hard look at your life.
And don’t be afraid to hurt your own feelings. Be honest about where you are. If the path you are on is a bad one, admit it. You will never get where Jesus wants to take you in life until you get on the right path.
So, here at the start of this new year, I encourage you to reassess the path you are traveling. If you don’t like the harvest you are getting, change your seed! It is a form of insanity to keep doing what you are doing and expect different results. If you want to change your life, change your path.
And then item #3 on the checklist is: Resist the temptation to veer off your God-approved path. Let’s say that you get on the path the Lord wants you to be walking. Is that the end of the story? No, it isn’t. Solomon gives the warning: “Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil.”
As you walk your God-approved path, certain things will appear to your right, things that will look appealing to you. Don’t leave your path and go after them. Certain things will appear to your left, things that will look appealing to you. Don’t leave your path and go after them.
I’ve noticed that some people are very good at making fresh starts with the Lord. Such a person goes his or her own way for a while and then says, “I’ve got to get right with the Lord.” Then they make a renewed effort at living a Christ-honoring life. They walk that God-approved path for a while but then stray from it. Some sinful pleasure to the right looks good, and they leave the path. Some worldly amusement to the left looks good, and they leave the path. As Solomon describes it, they step off the path and out into some form of evil.
Then, after the person has filled up on the evil, he or she again says, “I’ve got to get right with the Lord.” At that point the cycle starts all over again. Such a roller coaster walk with Christ isn’t what He has in mind for you. You just can’t get anywhere like that. How much better it is to get on God’s path for your life and then resist the temptation to veer off your God-approved path. I’m all for fresh starts with Christ. Ideally, though, you only need one of those. And that’s all you will need if you resist the temptation to stray off your God-approved path.
In closing, let me tell you about two boys who once tried to outwit a wise old man. These boys had grown tired of hearing other people talk about the great wisdom the man possessed. So, they decided to show him up. First, they caught a very small bird, which one of the boys concealed in his hand. Next, they went to the old man, where the boy with the bird asked the man, “What do you think I have in my hand?” The old man answered, “You have a bird in your hand. I can see some of its feathers.” The boy said, “Yes, but is the bird dead or alive?”
It was here that the boys planned to trick the old man. If he said “dead,” the boy would open his hand and let the bird fly away. But if the man said “alive,” the boy would crush the bird before opening his hand. And so how did the wise old man answer? He looked at the boy with the bird and said, “As you will it, son. As you will it.”
Will this new year be one in which you serve Christ better than you ever have? The answer is, as you will it. Herschel Hobbs, that notable Southern Baptist preacher of days gone by, said, “Years become new only if we make them so.” You can make this new year “new” by following Solomon’s spiritual checklist. Rivet your attention on this new year. Reassess the path you are traveling. Resist the temptation to veer off your God-approved path. By doing these things, you’ll be able to make this year the best one you’ve ever had in serving Jesus.