The start of a new year is a time of reflection. 2020 will be remembered as a challenging year and we all hope for a better year to come. Whether it will be a better year will depend not so much on external circumstances but on the perspective with which we approach it. Here are six perspectives to consider as we start 2021.
1. Choosing to live joyfully with an attitude of thanksgiving changes everything. Everyone has things to complain about but those who focus on their blessings and God's goodness enjoy far greater peace and joy than those who don't. A focus on our complaints creates a negative outlook on all of life. A focus on our blessings and God's goodness creates joy and peace. Why settle for the first when you can have the second?
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
2. Put Covid into perspective. All of us are ready for this to be behind us: the virus itself and the controversy that surrounds it as well as social distancing and masks. Covid has been a major interruption in our lives and many lives have been lost. Here is what we forget. Covid is a hassle but much of our world lives every day with polluted drinking water, hungry stomachs, inadequate medical care (if at all), daily income that can be measured in a few dollars and in many places, ongoing persecution because of one's race or religion. Put in that perspective, our momentary irritations pale in comparison to a lifetime of struggle, pain and poverty. We of all people should embrace the many blessings we have rather than focus on the temporary irritations of Covid.
3. God has given you a mission in life: Focus on that mission! In Ephesians 2:10 Paul writes that "we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." You have a purpose given by God and work to do in light of the purpose He designed you for. It may be helping others, sharing one's faith, leading Bible studies, generosity, ministering in the church or in the community. Whatever it is, focus on that mission. At the end of the day, God wants us to embrace His gifting and calling on our lives.
4. Keep your relationship with God fresh. Our relationship with God is only as fresh as the last time we spent with Him. Given that, endeavor to meet with Him daily in a combination of listening to His Word, conversation with Him in prayer, listening for His voice in our lives and living in obedience to Him. This is the most important relationship you will ever have so don't neglect it. Make it a priority and it will change everything about your perspective on life.
Jesus said this: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
Five. Remember that people matter. Those who we interact with every day are men and women made in God's Image. They matter to God and they matter to us. Treating everyone with dignity and respect, seeking the best for them, encouraging and lifting them up, forgiving those who hurt us and living at peace with everyone are all part of living out the relational wholeness that God calls us to.
Paul writes in Colossians 3:12-14, "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Six. Focus on making the Fruit of the Spirit evident in your life and relationships in a new way. Becoming like Jesus changes everything else in our life. In a divided society, those who practice and develop the Fruit of God's Spirit will not only develop His perspective but they will stand out.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." (Galatians 5:22-26). Practice these character traits and your perspective will change!
These six perspectives can dramatically affect your life and relationships in 2021. Focus on the right things and God will grant His blessing, peace and joy.