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. (Proverbs 4:25-27, N.K.J.V.)
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 one. 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 anyway, because you can’t change one second of it. Rearview mirrors really do 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 need 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, my name appeared in your obituary column today, but as you can see, I am very much alive. So, 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 what I can do is 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 went through last year, 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?
Most people never take the time to stop and really think about where their path is leading them. 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, I’ll tell you 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 and the phone, 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, and 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! As we often hear, 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.
Finally, 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. Be careful that you don’t leave your path and go after them. Likewise, certain things will appear to your left, things that will look appealing to you. Again, don’t leave your path and go after them.
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.” The person then makes a renewed effort at living a Christ-honoring life. He or she walks that God-approved path for a while but eventually strays from it as some sinful pleasure off to the right or the left proves too tempting to resist. Then, after the person has filled up on the sin, he or she again says, “I’ve got to get right with the Lord,” and at that point the cycle starts anew. I hope you understand that such a roller coaster walk with Christ isn’t what He has in mind for you. 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.
In closing, let me tell you about two boys who once tried to outwit a wise old man. Because these boys had grown tired of hearing other people talk about the great wisdom the man possessed, they decided to humble him. 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. So, how did the wise old man answer? He looked at the boy 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 preacher of days gone by, said, “Years become new only if we make them so.” Ah, but the good news is that you really can make this new year “new” if you will follow Solomon’s spiritual checklist. That means: rivet your attention on this new year, reassess the path you are traveling, and 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.