Who besides the direst pessimists can resist the fresh scent of a new year? We plan and declare aspirations for these next twelve months and think maybe this – this is the year we get that perfect career, the love of our life, our dream home. We set our goals, repeat our positive mantras, and view our prospects with a new hope. (Don’t you even start, Star Wars geeks. I see you lurking in the corner, there.)
Working at a library, I’ve seen fads for “how to live your best life” come and go (and come back…and go again). So many books declaring they know the way to success, prosperity, and happiness. Name it, claim it, and if it doesn’t work out as planned – blame it! Don’t you deserve the best in life? This year is the start of something GREAT for you!
As Christians, is this what we should believe? Is there a difference between success and being blessed? Hard work and perseverance are commendable and even Biblical qualities, but what if they don’t yield what you expected? Did the books lie?
“I can do all this through [Christ] who gives me strength,” says the Apostle Paul. (Philippians 4:13) If you’ve been around the Christian scene for a while (or just observed it), you’ve likely seen this verse used in declaration of prosperity. Want to make all the money you ever wanted? Pursue your dreams? Experience absolutely no strife? Well hey, you can do all that through Christ!
But context gives a more humbling picture. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
We all have deep desires in our hearts. I would start years with mine in piles before God’s throne – “Okay, here they are Lord. Is it my turn to be happy?” They weren’t even wrong desires, and I knew from Scripture God delighted in giving His children good things. But my desires became wrong when they were all I wanted – even above God Himself.
Jesus did tell his followers he came to bring abundant life (John 10:10), but then they went on to give up everything for the sake of his gospel. Should we tell them they were doing it wrong? Meanwhile my yearly desires are my bargaining chips to decide whether I embraced my Savior completely….or not. While I want what God could do for me, he just wants…me. And that is the most precious prosperity.
I do believe God desires to richly bless us in this life – but not at the expense of our souls. This new year, whether it brings happiness or grief, peace or struggles – know and remember with Christ, we already have the best life out there.