I am not a big fan of New Years Resolutions. I haven’t made one in several years, that I can recall.
It’s not that I don’t like making commitments. It’s just that I prefer to let the Lord lead me into new seasons in his timing, and in my life, those new seasons don’t always correspond with the beginning of a new calendar year.
This year, however, many things are changing as the new year begins. I am re-entering the world of Information Technology contract consulting after a nine-month hiatus. Marion and I are also at the beginning of a new venture in our neighbourhood, as we take our first tentative steps towards the development of a community House of Prayer in the heart of Vanier. In addition, I have taken on a role as a worship leader on a once per month basis in a small church that is being planted here in Vanier.
Marion and I have always been good with money and we have never had problems limiting our expenses, but for the past few years we have had a fair bit of discretionary income. The new consulting contract, while a blessing, does not pay as well as the ones I have had for the past several years, with the result that our discretionary income will be somewhat reduced. And so, for the first time in several years, I have made a budget.
Along a similar vein, as I have considered the new ministry involvements that are starting up shortly, I have realized that they will require me to be more intentional about my use of time. So, for the first time in several years, I have found it necessary to create a weekly timetable, allocating specific chunks of my days and weeks to Bible study, prayer, worship, exercise, work, rest and recreation.
This may not seem particularly noteworthy or exciting. In fact, to some of you it may sound downright boring. But as I was considering all this, I realized that there is something else going on which is more profound. During the closing days of 2012, Marion and I followed several of the sessions of the year-end OneThing conference at International House of Prayer. For me, a key insight came as I listened to Misty Edwards speak about what it means to bear the easy yoke of Jesus. She made the simple observation that although it may be an easy yoke, it is a yoke nonetheless, and a yoke is a form of discipline. To bear a yoke means that I do not belong to myself. I am the bondservant of the One who gave his life for me.
As I listened to her words, I realized that the Lord was calling me to a more disciplined, more focussed life. For the past several years, although I have not stopped praying, giving, worshipping or serving, I have in a sense been waiting for a new assignment from the Lord. I had been thinking of this assignment largely in terms of an identifiable ministry role. During the OneThing conference, the Lord made it clear what my assignment is. Until He returns, my assignment is to love Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to live my life for his pleasure.
I already knew this, of course; the Spirit has been working this understanding into me for many years. Yet somehow, the pieces fell into place more clearly and decisively as I listened to Misty Edwards a couple of days ago. Maybe her words had such impact because for the past thirteen years, she has given her life as an intercessory missionary, serving in a place of relative obscurity.
Whatever the reason, I now know in a way I did not know before that I have only one assignment. It is to live for his pleasure, to live before His eyes. There will be other secondary assignments, of course, flowing from that primary one. But the secondary assignments should never become my identity, should never be allowed to take over the primary place in my heart. All that matters is loving Jesus and living for his smile. For me, the budgeting of time and money is an expression of what that assignment currently requires.
As I was finishing this post, I received a phone call with the news that a friend from our church had died suddenly while on vacation with his wife. He was in his middle years, and full of vitality.
Such news is always sobering. Whenever someone dies, it reminds me that my life is not my own, and I can’t put off serving the Lord until tomorrow. It seems like yesterday that I turned fifty, and yet my sixtieth birthday is only a few months off. I want to live the years that remain to me with my eyes locked in on Jesus. And by God’s grace, that is what I will do.