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What Matters Most

Some people scoff at making resolutions. Others simply give up on goal-setting before they begin; pessimistically acknowledging that it always peters out by March or at best, May. I’m not a pessimist, but I’m not—I hope—legalistic about making and meeting goals either. Rather, I appreciate a milestone moment such as the transition to a new year as an opportunity to evaluate the year that was, and re-focus on what matters most. This past Sunday, the first Sunday of 2019, our people were encouraged to take this step with regard to choosing a Bible reading plan. I’m continually grateful to be part of a local body of believers that places such high value on intentional discipleship.

So I’ve been thinking about what matters most. Last year I read over 52 books; a goal that I’ve reached the last few years and have benefitted greatly from. This has given rise to a number of unique opportunities and aided in my spiritual development in myriad ways (for which I’m grateful) but perhaps in doing this good activity, I’ve missed out on what is best. Taking three months away from the blog at the end of last year, I took some time to think about what I would love 2019 to look like. I thought and prayed about my world in the usual concentric circles; me, my wife and children, my extended family, my local church, and my community. Seven days into 2019, and I think I’ve finished wording my resolutions—the things I’d love to be able to look back on in December and say “we’ve come a long way.”

Before we get started, it needs to be said: these aren’t simply resolutions for the new year; they’re life goals. And if you’re reading them, then you have permission to keep me accountable.

1. Resolved to Love the Lord with all my Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength

Key verse: Mark 12:30

Perhaps this one sounds obvious, but there’s no area of life that this one doesn’t—read shouldn’t—affect. Loving God with my heart means that I need to identify and smash all the other idols that vie for my affection. Loving God with all my soul means that I see him as my supreme treasure and my greatest delight and that I choose to immerse myself in things that glorify him, aggressively saying no to whatever doesn’t. Loving him with my mind means that I don’t seek a purely feelings- or experience-based Christianity, but that I meditate on his Word, that I study the Scriptures and work out this great salvation with reasoned, intelligent, yes even (gasp) academic thought. Finally, loving God with my strength means that I work. The Christian life is a battle, and it takes strength to fight. It takes fist-clenching self-control sometimes to not argue with angry family members about things that don’t matter all that much. It takes courage to say no to sin, and all the determination I can muster to get out of bed and read my Bible rather than cling to those last few moments of sleep in order to be more conformed to the image of Christ. This year, I resolve to love God in all of these things more than the year before.

2. Resolved to Love and Lead my Family Well

Key verse: Ephesians 5:25, 6:4

John MacArthur writes:

The Bible says a man is responsible to lead in his home, care for his wife, and provide instruction for his children. Those responsibilities are clearly spelled out in Scripture. When they’re neglected, the family will fall apart.

Being a Dad Who Leads, p15

My wife is a God-given treasure which I thank God for daily. She is also my greatest responsibility when it comes to teaching, exhorting, encouraging, and discipling one another in Christ. If I am to love her, nurture her, protect her, and see her grow in virtue and Christlikeness, I must be continually investing in her. More prayer with her. More prayer for her. Finding and facilitating more opportunities for her to use her gifts to grow others and flourish as she serves. Sometimes that will mean laying down something of mine so she can pick something up. That’s what I’m called to do.

Our youngest boys’ (currently aged 2 and 4) vocabulary is exploding. Lately there’s been so many new words that I’m feeling left behind by their progress. This is a terrific stage because now we’re starting to really get into conversations about God, creation, Jesus, sin, and where we fit in God’s Big Story. My wife has the stay-at-home advantage; she’s doing a remarkable job at teaching them, talking with them, and exploring God with them. My role is to encourage that, be involved in it, and lead (when I’m home) into deeper waters that cover the full counsel of God. Then there’s family devotions.

Here’s something I’ve come to realise, albeit better late than never. More important than how you do family devotions is that you do family devotions. I’ve become convinced that one of the biggest contributors to why I’ve not been able to get family devotions off the ground (because ultimately I’m responsible) is because I’ve expected too much, I’ve set my expectations too high, and I’ve lost sight of the fact that reading the Bible and praying is enough. Sure we could sing songs. We could go through a catechism. Maybe one day we will. But this year, five minute family devotions have begun with me in a much better headspace to lead, and if we miss a day, we keep going.

3. Resolved to Faithfully Preach the Word of God

Key verse: 2 Timothy 4:2

Before seminary, I knew exactly why I was enrolling. After graduation, the desire to see hearts and lives transformed by the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ has continued to grow and grow. It is true that the more we know, the more we realise we don’t know. It’s also true that knowledge of God, his attributes, his Word, and his ways doesn’t puff up (although, it can) but on the contrary, it serves to pour fuel on the fire of our worship—the more we know of God, the more we worship him and give him thanks. I love the work required of the preacher. I love the hours of careful, prayer-soaked study; the survey of the theological giants that have come before us; the crafting of words in ways that people will best receive and remember the glorious truths of the gospel. This circles back to the point I raised in my introductory thoughts; I’ve read a lot of books annually in years gone by, but this year I’m opting for fewer books and much more Bible. Included in this is to carry out an in-depth study of one book of the Bible each month, for the whole month, with as much time and energy and resources as I can muster. I’m looking forward to digging deep into the Word in 2019, and I’m looking forward to sharing these life-transforming truths as the Lord allows.

Soli Deo Gloria

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