One writer described the year 2016 as the year of disruption. I dare say he’s correct in many ways, speaking as he is from an American perspective. Disruption was true around the world as well, with Brexit, Fidel Castro’s death, China’s growth, Venezuela’s continued death spiral, and a host of other sad tendencies.
Brazil was no exception. President Dilma was impeached and removed from office. The economy slowed and joblessness grew. Corruption went beserk.
In our own life and work, I’ve tried at different times to describe our years. The year 2014, for example, was the Year of Urbanova, when we started our new work here in our home in São José dos Campos. I don’t recall if I tagged last year, but it would probably be the Year Dad Left Us. Then there was the Year of the Empty Nest. And the Year of the New Sponsoring Church.
It’s good to recall big events that mark a year. Things happen beyond our power to control that change our lives in significant ways, for better or worse. Deaths, job changes or losses, marriage, moves, retirement—all these and more leave their imprint on our lives and either enrich us or sap our energies.
But why just look back at a year and tag it with an event or characterize it based on what happened? Why not determine ahead of time what kind of year it’s going to be?
Obviously, we can’t determine the future or decree with certainty that some things will happen while others will not. Only one person can do that, and we are not Him. But we can determine what we will do, how we will react, where our energies will be spent. We can choose options, decide what to focus on or what emphases we want to devote our attention to.
As well, we must realize that no one is guaranteed to live another year. James reminded the year-long planners that life is like a puff of smoke—here today, gone tomorrow, James 4.13-17. Everything must be prefaced with, “If the Lord is willing, then …”
Having said that, however, and working with the reality of time’s uncertainty, we can look forward to a new year and make plans under the sovereign eye of the Lord. And if we cannot map out events and world developments, we can indeed focus our attitudes and concentrate our energies on areas of interest or geographical points. Even our prayers can be named the Year of ____ Prayers.
This is all about intention. InfoGalactic’s website says, “Intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought.”
The Lord is the God of intention. The Bible shows and Scripture speaks of his eternal plan and purpose. He blesses his people who demonstrate that same mental state.
So choose your attitude for next year. (Or next month. Or next week.) Map out your territory. Delineate the borders of your efforts. Make this the Year of the Pivot, the Year of Prayer, the Year of the Book, the Year of Humility. You get the idea.
¶ During 2016 I had three areas of concentration for writing, called the Front Burner: poetry, prayer, and praise. The first and last were posted to my personal website, the second to the Believing Prayer site. For the latter, I posted over 200 doxologies during the year, which I called “Give Glory.” It was a blessed experience. I have a few days to decide if I’ll continue it into the next year.
¶ The angel Gabriel told Mary not to fear. Besides not fearing the angel’s presence, there were other things she should not fear. From the context of Luke 1.26-38, mostly, we can draw some areas where we should not fear as well: becoming a child of God, assuming our role in his kingdom, embracing his possibilities, submitting to his will. Mary rejected fear as an excuse and was willing to do the last three in that list. Let us follow her example.
¶ Our city is highly industrialized and receives not a few foreign visitors. Recently, traffic signs included English to help them navigate the streets. The church here has received a number of brothers in Christ who come on business. Some of them even preach or teach. The saints are encouraged by their presence. We’re expecting yet another visitor early next year. We pray he may be blessed by the congregation, and we by him.
¶ That’s what Christians do, encourage each other. Even if you were an apostle, you needed the saints. The apostle Paul looked forward to meeting the disciples in Rome, “that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” Romans 1.12 ESV.
Whenever we look forward to the next year, the next month, or the next week, our time together and our shared faith encourage us to grow more, to serve better, and to fix our hope more strongly on the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.