New Year, Same Need

Posted by Naomi Vacaro on

The Worthiness of Christ in Every Season

By: Ann Swindell


By the time January rolls around, I’m looking forward to a new page in the calendar and a fresh start to the year. After a year of ups and downs, my soul is yearning for something hopeful and refreshing. 

It’s human nature to constantly look for the next thing and seek a fast way to feel happy and satisfied. And the world tells us that we will find what we need in New Year’s resolutions, fancy vacations, new diets, and even updated furniture.

But the truth is that there is only one guaranteed way to fill that aching desire of our souls: to know and love and obey Christ Jesus.

For those of us who have followed the Lord for years or decades, this might not feel like a shiny new idea that will make 2024 exciting. It might not seem as enticing as a trip scheduled on the calendar or as clear-cut as crushing a career goal.

But year after year, our hearts have the same need they’ve always had: to meet with Christ, experience his love, and walk in his ways. In 2024, we can continue to do that by engaging in several spiritual practices that will fill our souls.

Bible Reading: Transformed into Christlikeness

At the start of my junior year in college, I was lovingly challenged by a college professor who questioned why I had built my life on a book I hadn’t even read in its entirety. I was convicted to read the Bible all of the way through for the first time. That very week, I started the M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan. Spending daily time in the Word that year transformed the trajectory of my life. 

Hebrews 4:12 points to this truth: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (ESV). 

As we daily read the Word of God, it will become active in our lives, and we will be transformed to become more like Christ! 

So what might consistent Bible reading look like for you in your current season of life? Perhaps a reading plan on your own is the best option to keep you focused and disciplined daily. For me, in this season of life with young children, I have found that a Word-centered Bible study is helpful, and I spend the better part of the year going deep into one or two books of the Bible, reading cross-references, and answering discussion questions that keep me on track. 

No matter how you approach studying the Word, the key is that you are primarily reading the Word itself, and not what someone else has written about the Bible. For your spiritual daily bread, choose a translation that comes directly from Greek and Hebrew, not a paraphrased translation. 

The Bible will change us when we read it with a heart and mind that longs to know God—because God himself meets us in his Word by his Holy Spirit! This is why we need to be in the Word of God every day—not as a rule or to be legalistic, but because it is in the Word that we come to know Christ’s identity and character.

Prayer: Communion with Christ

In this new year, our souls not only need to read the Word—we need to talk with the Lord through prayer! As in any relationship, communication is necessary—it’s how we get to know those we love more deeply, and how we come to better understand their hearts and minds. 

Prayer does not have to be fancy or complex, but to be people who know Jesus personally, we must spend time talking with him—praising him for his goodness, confessing our sins and failures, receiving his forgiveness, and asking him for what we need. In short, through prayer, we share our hearts with the Lord. 

Practically, prayer can happen in many ways. We can write our prayers out in a journal, type them on a document on our computer, go on prayer walks, sing our prayers to the Lord, pray alone, or pray with others. Before I had children, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend extended time with the Lord, reading the Word and journaling my prayers out by hand.

In this season of homeschooling young children, my time with the Lord now looks different—especially my prayer time. My husband and I pray together every night, and the kids and I pray together during the day. When we get a text from a friend who is struggling, we often stop to pray for them in the moment, lifting them up to the Lord. I also have a prayer notebook where I make lists of who and what I’m praying for that I can return to and read through in my prayer time. I don’t have the margin in this season to handwrite (or type!) new prayers every day, but this prayer list keeps me focused and also helps me to record God’s answers to prayer over time. My husband has a whiteboard that he uses to write down his prayers and adapt them over time.

However you bring your requests to the Lord, I would encourage you to have a place to jot down his answered prayers in your life. It’s easy for us to forget the many ways that God has cared for us and carried us throughout the years, but these lists and journals offer us an opportunity to recount his faithfulness to us and praise Him for it, as the Word encourages us to do: 

“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” Psalm 117:1-2 

As we remember his faithfulness to us in past seasons, it also increases our faith to trust him in the current season!

Church: Fellowship with Other Believers 

To be a believer in Christ is to be part of the Body of Christ: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). And that means that we are not meant to live our Christian lives in isolation, separated from the rest of the Body. We are called to community—we are called to the church.

In this new year, we have the same need we’ve always had to be part of the church—not just the global Body of Christ, but as active participants in a local, Gospel-preaching, church community.

Yes, life is busy and full. Yes, the church is full of other people who are also messy sinners. But still, we are called to give our lives to the same thing that Christ Jesus gave his life for: the church. “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

If when we consistently miss church or refuse to engage in the community there, we’re indirectly teaching our own souls (and the souls of those that we’re raising or working with) that church isn’t that important and that other things come first.

That doesn’t mean we need to be legalistic about going to church; I’m a pastor’s wife and I’m not in the pew every single Sunday. But even prior to being a ministry family, we were committed to being at church as often as possible and to making the sacrifice of being part of communal worship on Sundays. It’s for the good of our own souls that we consistently gather with the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Hebrews 10:24-25), utilizing our God-given gifts to help others and spiritually grow at the same time (Ephesians 4:11-13).

When we show up to church regularly—which will require sacrifice and effort—we will be blessed. Our souls will be nourished and satisfied in Christ.

The Worthiness of Christ Jesus in Every Season
When it comes to making time to read the Word, pray, and invest in church community, we ultimately commit to these things because the truth is that more than time and money, more than romance and entertainment, more than fame and social media, Jesus is worth everything.  He, himself, is everything of value. He is the deepest love and the richest reward. He is the prize, the treasure, and the King.

As His followers, we have been given the gift of not only being saved from our sins but also of being healed from the inside out by his love, mercy, and grace. Reading his Word is a deep privilege. Knowing him is an opportunity greater than any offered on this earth. Giving our time, money, and effort to being part of His body is a treasure we can hardly imagine.

As we enter this new year, it is worth it to remember that at the end of all days, Jesus is all that we will have. No matter our age, season, or stage of life, we are always desperately in need of Christ’s truth, love, and sanctification. And while our external ways of meeting with the Lord may need to shift depending on our life season, the goal remains the same: meeting with Christ Jesus, communing with his people, and being transformed by reading his Word. 

May this year be the year we know and love him more than ever.

 

Ann Swindell is the owner of Writing with Grace, where she teaches Christ-centered writing courses for women. She lives in West Michigan with her family and has authored two books: The Path to Peace: Experiencing God’s Comfort When You’re Overwhelmed and Still Waiting. Ann writes for many ministries, including Wholehearted, Well-Watered Women, Risen Motherhood, and The Gospel Coalition. You can connect with her at AnnSwindell.com.

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