By Olakunle Yusuf
COVID -19. EndSARS protests. Kidnapping. Banditry. Insurgency. Recession.
And with that brief introduction, a New Year begins. I don’t know about you, but this new year definitely snuck up on me. I wasn’t really prepared for it. I probably say that every year, but in so many ways this year I didn’t feel prepared to end one thing and start something new.
Maybe it’s because the past year has brought so much change in my life. Changes in my job, my ministry, my house, my location, my friends, my church and even something as basic as changes in my schedule. Change can be hard. Change can be uncomfortable. Change can even be painful.
But everything healthy undergoes change. The same goes for us as human beings, too.
As you look ahead at this coming year, my challenge to you is to be open to change. But more than simply being open to change, it’s important to actually do our part to create change. Changes that will benefit our life and impact our health – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
One thing I can guarantee you is that this year is going to go by, and you’re either going to come out the other side better, worse, or the same. Because life happens, but what we do with life is completely up to us.
If you’re looking for some changes to better yourself this coming year, consider taking on one, some or even all of these challenges:
1. Dig Into God’s Word
This one is for me this year. I really want to dig into God’s word in a new way. I asked for “The Message” version of the bible for Christmas, because I’m desiring to see God’s words with new eyes and an open heart. Sometimes, in our familiarity of God’s word, it can seem to grow stale. But the problem isn’t with his word, it’s with our heart. Commit to feasting on God’s words this year, asking for transformation in your life. Because there’s nothing more satisfying than blocking out the noise of this world, and instead being filled with his Truth.
Whether you take on just one or even all of these challenges, may we all strive to make this new year the best one we’ve ever lived.
Because life happens, but it’s completely up to us how we choose to live it.
2. Start a Prayer Journal I love keeping a prayer journal. In fact, it blows me away because I get to look back at my life and see all the things that God has done. It reminds me how he came through, and challenges me to believe that he knows best. It builds my faith and teaches me to trust, especially when trust doesn’t always come easy. Start a prayer journal this year, and write down your prayers, your praises, and your petitions. Be diligent in bringing your request to God – because he’s faithful. And it’s in the asking that you receive.
3. Plug into Ministry
What are the talents and passions God has gifted you with, and how are you using those talents for him? That’s an important question to answer in your pursuit of becoming the person God made you to be. Whether or not you realize it, you have so much to offer the world around you. And as you give you will quickly learn that service is actually sort of “hedonistic” – because it truly feels better to give than to receive.
4. Get a Mentor
No one has been more influential in my life than my mentors. They’re people who have invested in me, taught me, loved me, and poured into my life. They shaped me into the person I am today. But they didn’t stumble into my life by mistake, I had to seek them out. Find someone who you look up to, someone whose life reflects who you want to be in 10 years, and ask them to meet with you for lunch, for coffee, or for dinner. Invite a mentor into your life this year, and watch what happens.
5. Be Actively Generous
We can all afford to be more generous. And generosity is such an important thing to foster, because it really shapes the condition of our heart. The more we can give to God, the world around us, and those in need, the more we realize that the most valuable things are not our possessions, but the sharing of our possessions. Open your heart and learn to give this year. Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be as well.
6. Read One Book a Month
My father-in-the -lord is one of the smartest people I know for simply one reason: he reads everything and anything in sight! Needless to say, with all the scrolling, pinning, posting and skimming our society indulges in, we’ve sort of lost the value and importance of reading. Whether fiction, philosophy, theology, or psychology, pick up some new books this year and expand your knowledge about life!
7. Carry Less Baggage
I’m not talking about traveling baggage, but rather emotional baggage. As a professional counselor (and the fact that I’m human!) I know that we all carry wounds, pain, and hurts from our past. One of the biggest favours we can do for ourselves is look back just long enough to allow God to shed light and bring healing into the pain of our past. Find a therapist you connect with and take the time to dig deep and see how your past is impacting your present. Take the time to invest in yourself. You won’t regret it.
8. Start a Bucket List
So often in life we wait around for the milestones of life, not realizing that every step of the journey holds value and significance. So stop waiting around for the next big thing, and start living lifby creating a bucket list for yourself this year. As you’re planning it out, don’t just think extravagant (though that’s always fun), but think meaningful as well: schedule an interview with a grandparent to glean their wisdom, share Jesus with an unbelieving friend (or 10!), sponsor a Compassion child, invite someone to church, or get creative with random acts of kindness. Whatever it is, stop waiting and start living. Create a meaningful life by doing meaningful things.
9. Master the Art of Listening They say the average person listens with about 25% efficiency. That means that 75% of what’s being said to us goes in one ear and right out the other. It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that with numbers like that, we’re missing a whole lot! So much of being a good communicator comes down to how well we master the art of listening. Work on being a better listener this year by blocking out distractions, looking people in the eye, engaging with empathy, and letting your guard down as you seek to understand before being understood.
10. Learn to Budget (Money and Time!)
Like John Maxwell says, “Tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went!” I would venture to say that this applies to money, as well as time – the most important commodities we have in life. So much of our time and money is frivolously wasted because we didn’t have a plan for it. Instead of spending another 500 hours mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed, or spending another N5000 bucks on the next fad, commit to using your time and money for something meaningful this coming year. When we’re faithful with it, God has the ability to multiply even the little that you have. Be deliberate about planning your budget this year for both your money – and your time.
Here is to the Happiest New Year yet!
• Pastor Olakunle Yusuf is the General Overseer, Grace Assembly Christian Ministries. He can be reached via 08023423396 or email: [email protected]