Tonight is Old Year’s Night and many people are expected to follow the traditions of attending church and/or parties. They may also consider their choice of New Year’s resolutions, the more popular ones being health and relationship related.
The Methodist Church has a tradition that is practised on the first Sunday of the New Year, which I have modified and adopted. It essentially consists of renewing one’s commitment to be faithful to God. Jesus said that every person has an appointment with Him at the end of the age to account for how they spent their life. The scriptures also encourage followers of Jesus to periodically and critically examine themselves in order to reject bad habits and adopt good ones.
Commencing on my Birthday, which occurs approximately one week before Old Year’s Night, I willingly present myself before the Lord to give Him an account of how I spent my last year. I find such annual examinations very helpful, as they tend to keep me focused on my priorities. I shall describe the procedure here since others may find it useful and may wish to adopt their own variant of it. They are invited to read the liturgy in the Methodist hymn book.
The first step consists of a review my behaviour towards others over the past year, in order to determine whether persons whom I feel some responsibility for have been sufficiently encouraged and supported. I also consider whether any new commitments that I have accepted have caused an undesirable rearrangement of my priorities. My current priority order being: God, my family, my employer, my church, and then all other people.
I acknowledge where my behaviour was inconsistent with Jesus’ pattern, and endeavour to improve during the upcoming year. Endeavouring to improve is not a burden typically associated with perfectionism, but is simply one component of the process of maturing.
Jesus encourages those who wish to follow Him to count the cost of doing so, since it can result in intense persecution, as those who live in countries hostile to Christianity have found. There are countless examples of persons who either relax their commitment to or reject their Christian heritage after being challenged with different ideas. It is therefore prudent to periodically recount the cost of commitment since the current cost may be far higher than the cost counted at the time of the initial commitment.
A catalogue is therefore made of assets gained over the past year, and the following question is pondered. Given my additional experiences, knowledge, material possessions, achievements, and responsibilities, am I still willing to accept Jesus as my Lord. If I am, then I submit all of my previous and new achievements and responsibilities to God. I ask Him to provide leadership in these areas and give me the necessary wisdom to allow me to carry out my responsibilities to a high standard of quality.
I renew my commitment to love and serve God and to demonstrably love all people regardless of any temporary joy or pain that I may experience. I also renew my commitment to trust God in all circumstances, including those that I may find familiar, and those that may be outside of the boundaries of my experience or knowledge.
The final step involves a renewed commitment to follow the ideals demonstrated by my father: helping the less fortunate, befriending the stranger, encouraging the despondent, guiding the wanderer, knowing God, never compromising personal integrity regardless of the price offered, and pursuing excellence even when there is no reward.
Grenville Phillips II