Maybe you’re not one for making New Year’s Resolutions. You don’t need me to tell you that’s okay. I’m not really making any myself either.
Maybe you’re hardcore, though, and you’ve been jotting down resolutions since you saw your high school archenemy’s Facebook status about running a marathon in 2017. (There’s probably some spiritual lesson to be learned about using jealousy as a motivator, but I’ll let that go for now and say, “Good for you!”)
Regardless, there’s something about the start of a brand new year, a clean slate of 365 days that makes many of us want to refocus, prioritize, and/or begin anew. An annual reflection can be both helpful and sobering, as John Piper testifies:
The Sobering Effect of Year-Ends from Desiring God on Vimeo.
We wanted to begin this year by sharing some tools to assist in your spiritual refocus for 2017. We’re thankful that no matter how 2016 ended, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:1]. Soaking in that Truth can help to fight the guilt that might accompany our clean slate for 2017. We also share these tools with the reminder that it is by grace we’ve been saved, through faith–and this not of ourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast [Ephesians 2:8-9]. No matter how much we try to “get back on track” in 2017, we are grateful our salvation depends on the grace offered through Christ and it is not based upon our ability to do good or right things.
So with that in mind, we hope these tools help you as you pursue Him with all of your heart, mind, and soul in 2017.
Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year :: Years ago, a friend shared this list with me. There are 10 questions at the beginning that are essential, but there are 31 total that will help you “consider your ways.” I try to set aside time each January to ruminate over them. You can download a PDF of the full list of questions at the end of the post.
Trading One Dramatic Resolution for 10,000 Little Ones :: An exceptional reminder that true change doesn’t happen because we resolved to make big resolutions. True change occurs in the little moments where we choose to follow the Spirit in obedience.
Bible Reading Plans :: There are 14 different plans for you to choose from if you are in need of an organized plan for reading the Bible. Some are for 1 year, others are for more than a year, and another is a flexible plan. If you’re looking for one that’s 5 days a week instead of 7, check out Melissa Kruger’s Favorite Bible Reading Plan. Also, if you’re committed to reading through the entire Bible this year, here’s some helpful Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading.
How Not to Read Your Bible :: If digging into the Word is something you want to do more this year, we’re cheering you on. But be realistic and remember that you are loved by the Father regardless of how well you perform.
Fighter Verses :: If Scripture memory is your focus for 2016, the Fighter Verses are a great system. There’s one for each week of the year with a 5-year total plan. The site offers tips for memorization, and there are mobile apps that will quiz you on the week’s verse.
How I Started Praying the Bible :: If you feel your prayer life is weak and you want to grow in that area in this year, one of the best ways to do so is to learn to pray the Bible. In this article, Don Whitney shares how he began practicing that habit. You can also sign up here for a free, 5-day video session where Whitney walks you through his prayer methods. At the end, you’re given a guide to praying through the Psalms for a month.
Seven Virtues to Pursue for Spiritual Growth :: In a new year, it’s good to stop and evaluate how we’re doing on all fronts, not just in our pursuit of prayer and Scripture reading. Taking some time in the near future to assess how you can better pursue these seven virtues could make your 2016 more fruitful spiritually.
Examen :: Everyone’s keeping everything in the Cloud these days, why not keep your prayer/quiet time journal there, too? (Unless the thought makes you a bit nervous. If so, move along…) Examen is a free online devotional and journal that includes different “examen” plans for you to study the word and keep your thoughts all in one place.
The One Easy Practice that Can Change Any Year :: Ann Voskamp throws out resolutions in the pursuit of “soul-utions.” It’s her effort to purpose in her heart the change that she wants to see happen. She says, “Purposing to change happens where prayer meets perseverance.” Voskamp offers free printables for each month of 2017 as you work through your own “soul-utions,” whatever they may be.
Have you used any of these tools? Do you have any tips to offer others who might be considering using them? Or do you have some tools that were not mentioned here? Share them in the comment section!