Saturday, January 7, 2017

Look Back- Look Forward

It's the beginning of the year and it's my habit to take time to look back (reflect and evaluate) and then look forward (setting goals for the coming year).  I do this related to both my personal life and my life in ministry.  I just got back from a few days away with my family at the beach where I got some time to do this once again.  This important yearly ritual has made a big difference for me both personally and in fulfilling God's call on my life.

Why is it important to look back? Isn't the past the past?  Shouldn't we just put it behind us and live for the new things and the future ahead of us? Its easy to feel that way sometimes.

Looking back gives us a chance to do two important things. We both celebrate and evaluate. When looking back, I ask myself these questions.  Maybe you'd like to use them too.
  • What went well last year? Better than I expected?
  • What was achieved?
  • What was difficult or didn't go well?
  • What principles or life lessons did I gain from those difficulties?
I tend to be one of those people who sees the glass half empty instead of half full.  When I look back, my natural inclination is to see all the things that didn't happen, the problems I faced, or areas I failed. Going through this yearly process helps me to see a fuller picture.  Wow, there were actually also a lot of things that went well last year!  Hmmm...and the problems I faced, yes, they were hard, but along with them came some important lessons I learned.  I can apply those principles I learned last year as I think about this coming year.

Ok, so why is it important to look forward then? Why set goals and make concrete plans? Why not just let things happen naturally and "organically"? Let the Holy Spirit be in control, rather than trying to "make things happen"? Yeah, sometimes I feel this way too. Or sometimes I feel tired of setting goals and then being disappointed when I don't achieve them. 

This morning I was meditating on the verse from Proverbs 3:6.  In the amplified version it says, "In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]." I think we could easily substitute the word in all your ways and say instead "in all your goals...know, acknowledge and recognize Him..." or "in all your plans...know, acknowledge and recognize Him..."

As I look forward I ask myself these questions:
  • What did God start to do last year that he wants to continue to build on this year?
  • Is there anything new God has on his heart for me this year?
  • Is there anything God wants to say to me as I start this year? Any theme or focus for the year he wants to give me?
  • What would it really please God to accomplish through me or bless me with this year? 
I think that is part of knowing, acknowledging and recognizing him in all our ways.

For me, goal setting for the new year is about engaging with God, listening to His voice, His desires, and His dreams, with a heart of faith.  It's letting God have a chance to direct my paths for the coming year. 

If you haven't taken time yet as 2016 turns into 2017 to both look back and look forward..its not too late!  Schedule a few hours or a day to set aside and ask yourself and God some key questions.  I think God is just waiting to show you his pleasure and perspective on last year, and his thoughts and desires for the new one.

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