I LOVE the freshness of a new year, with the weeks and months spread before us like a blank slate, brimming with possibility. Curiosity bubbles within me and I try to imagine what amazing things God has in store for me in the coming year.
Now, I am also realistic enough to know that it won't all be lollipops and roses. The path of life always ascends mountaintops and descends into valleys, with surprising hairpin turns along the way.
Whatever may come in 2023 for you and I, we can know that our good God sits on the throne of the universe and nothing escapes His notice. He is also always so near we can reach out and touch Him. He is with us, no matter what comes.
So in order to prepare our hearts for the coming year let's be courageous enough to ask and answer these 10 questions for the start of a new year. As you sit with the Lord with these questions, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in your responses.
Let's start 2023 in the best way possible – seeking God.
1. What did the Lord teach you this past year that you want to take with you into the coming year?
It’s always good to reflect on where we’ve been. What did 2022 hold for you? What were the major events/changes in your life? What did you accomplish? What did you celebrate? What relationships formed and which ones faded a little? As you think through what happened during the last 365 days, the most important question you want to ask is this: What did God teach you that you want to take with you into the coming year?
Maybe you had a long-lasting illness and God taught you rest and trust. Maybe you had a big decision to make and God taught you to persevere in prayer and listen for His guidance. If you are a new mom, maybe God taught you the importance of relying on others and the beauty of the community of faith to help you manage the sleep deprivation. If you are a mom of teenagers, maybe God taught you how to surrender control of their lives to Him. Instead of nagging and pushing, you are learning your power of influence, and then you are praying like crazy. Maybe God has taught you to steward your financial resources in a more God-honouring way and to practice contentment. Maybe God is teaching you to work hard in your workplace and bring glory to Him. Maybe God taught you to wait on Him instead of running ahead with your own plans. Maybe you took a big leap of faith this year and are following God into the unknown where you have no choice but to trust Him. Take some time and reflect on what God has taught you this past year that you want to take with you into 2023.
2. What areas of your life do you want God to transform, reshape, or change this year?
We are all a work in progress aren’t we? nWe will never attain perfection this side of eternity, but we are called to walk in holiness. Sanctification is the process by which we become more and more like Jesus. As we cooperate with the Spirit we are changed bit by bit, from glory to glory, into His likeness.
We all recognize areas within ourselves that are not yet as God intended them to be – places that are not yet fully surrendered or are not yet in line with God’s Word. What are the areas of your life that you want God to change this year? What areas do you want Him to transform or reshape?
Maybe there is a relationship in your life that is not healthy, and either you need to distance yourself from that person (not a spouse) or you need to address some issues head on and have a difficult conversation. Maybe you want God to radically transform your marriage. Perhaps you have a tendency to look at your circumstances through a lens of unbelief instead of faith, so you want God to transform you into a women of faith, one who believes God despite the circumstances. Maybe you have a prodigal that you are begging God to bring home. Maybe you have a problem with anger and you are asking God for a gentle tongue. Maybe you are a task focused person, but you want to walk in step with the Spirit instead of living by your to-do list. Again, take some time to sit with the Lord in this question. What area of your life to you want transformed?
3. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
Christians should enjoy God. We should experience the fullness of joy that comes with His presence. We long to hear His voice, sense His presence and grow deeper in intimacy with Him.
But there are so many distractions in our world, and our minds and hearts are often distracted and divided. Let's establish some habits in the new year that will increase our enjoyment of God.
Perhaps this means picking up your Bible before your phone each morning. Maybe it means approaching your Bible reading time at a more leisurely pace than you have in the past and focusing on your relationship with Him each morning instead of checking off a box on your Bible reading plan. Perhaps God is calling you to rest more in order to enjoy Him more fully. Maybe you need to carve out time daily to sit in the quiet with your Bible open. Maybe gathering friends and studying the Word together would open your eyes to who God is and how He wants to work in your life. Maybe you want to ask an older woman to meet with you for coffee and listen to her share about her relationship with God. Maybe you need to play more worship music around your home. We were created to know and enjoy God. Let's settle for nothing less.
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
Discipline is defined as "training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behaviour." The word discipline gets a bad rap in our day – it’s fallen out of favour. We don’t like discipline. We mistakenly think any discipline attached to our relationship with God will turn into legalism. But actually the opposite is true. What begins as discipline often turns into delight.
First Timothy 4:7 says to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” nGod calls us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is the process of sanctification, growing in holiness. If we don’t have discipline in our Christian lives, we will easily fall into apathy or become consumed with the things of this world.
The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers. They are habits of devotion, habits of experiential Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people throughout the generations.
There are many spiritual disciplines that help us grow in our relationship with God: prayer, Bible reading, fasting, solitude, simplicity, confession, worship, fellowship, rest, celebration, service, generosity, and scripture memorization.
Which spiritual discipline do you sense the Holy Spirit is nudging you to focus on this year? Maybe you want to try fasting, particularly if you are seeking the Lord's guidance for a big decision you need to make. Maybe you want to begin serving in your local church. Perhaps scripture memorization is something you want to add to your life. Maybe you want to try to get away a couple of times this year, even for just a few hours, and spent time with God in solitude. Remember, whatever you chose to focus on, these spiritual disciplines are a means to an end – they are meant to point us to Jesus and grow in intimacy with Him.
5. What time-waster would you like to eliminate, and what habit would you like to establish this year?
We often view time as something to be managed. We rush here and there and try to fit more into the time we’ve been given. We race against the clock, develop strategies to manage our time better, and we only end up exhausted.
But what if we viewed time as a gift from God? What if we thought of time as a resource to be used to build the kingdom? We might begin to look at our time differently. And I imagine we would realize we waste a a lot of time.
What time-waster do you want to eliminate so you can better steward the time God has given you? Maybe it’s social media or Netflix or YouTube or online games. Perhaps you want to eliminate the time wasted searching for things because you don’t have an organizational system. Whatever it is that the Holy Spirit is putting His finger on, make a plan to reduce or eliminate that thing.
And then, what habit would you like to establish this year?/ You could link these two items together and think about the time you have gained by eliminating the time-waster and put the new habit in that space. Maybe you want to establish the habit of meal planning to make cooking and meal prep easier in your home. Perhaps you want to get up half an hour earlier each day to open your Bible. Maybe you want to get in the habit of texting encouragement to one friend a day. Maybe you want to pick out your clothes for work the night before to avoid indecision in the morning. Maybe you want to put more fruits and vegetables in your grocery cart this year. Going for a walk each evening might be a new habit for you. Maybe you want to handwrite a book of the Bible. Maybe you want to incorporate learning into your life – an educational podcast or an online course. Whatever it is you want to eliminate and then add, think about how these things will increase the quality of your life and enable you to walk more closely with Jesus.
6. In what area of your life do you need to be more surrendered to Christ?
Surrender is hard thing. The moment we surrender something to Christ, we often find we’ve taken it back again. The reality is, if you are a follower of Jesus, then He is Lord of your life and He wants access to every area of your life. But so often we give Him certain parts of our lives, while trying to control other areas.
What is God asking you to surrender? Maybe it's your kids. Maybe it’s your finances. For those of you who are in a marriage with an unsaved husband, maybe God is calling you to surrender your man to Him and pray continually for him. Maybe God wants you to surrender your plans to Him. Maybe the Holy Spirit is asking you to stop manipulating that circumstance and leave the outcome to Him. Whatever it is, we all have areas in our lives that need to be more fully surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. Name one of them for 2023.
7. What's the most important thing you can do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
There is no perfect family. We all bring our brokenness into family relationships. Our homes are a mixture of love and joy, and arguments and strife – sometimes all on one day. What’s one thing you could do this year to improve the quality of your family life?
It could be something simple and small like playing more worship music to create a peaceful atmosphere or lighting a candle in the evening to create an inviting space. It could be polling your family for what foods they most enjoy and then working those into the menu on a regular basis. It be playing a game more often. Or maybe it's a bigger shift that your family needs. Maybe you need to adjust your schedule to be more available for your kids, establishing a pizza and movie night with your littles, or carve out a regular date night with your husband. Maybe God wants you to put a monthly lunch date on the calendar with your parents and siblings. Perhaps God is calling you to spend more time in prayer for your family. What are some things you can do to improve your family life in 2023?
8. How can you be a blessing to your friends this year?
Sometimes our lives get so busy that we stop investing in our friendships, and this is not good because we were made for community. We need people around us to encourage us in the faith and to challenge us towards greater Christlikeness. We need friends to laugh with, pray with, walk with and talk with. I think we all long for deeper friendships.
The thing is, they don’t happen by accident. Friendship grows over time and with shared experiences. So how can you invest in your friendships this year? What are some ways you can be a blessing to your friends?
Maybe it’s scheduling a monthly lunch date. Maybe it’s being more intentional about sending encouragement over text or picking up the phone and calling them (do we even know how do this anymore?!). Maybe you want to keep a list of all your friends birthdays and be intentional about buying a meaningful gift. Perhaps God is leading you to pray more for your friends and then follow up with them when they have something going on in their lives. Maybe you want to open your home more to your friends. There are lots of ways to be a blessing to your friends.
9. What’s the most helpful way you can use your gifts to strengthen your church this year?
You have been given a spiritual gift – we all have. It's a supernatural gift given to you by God to be used to serve the body of Christ. Do you know what it is? Do you know how God is uniquely calling you to be a part of the body?
Often we discover these gifts simply by trying different things, and so if there is a need in the church that you can meet, do it. Over time you will see how God is working through you. There will be fruit produced in you and in the lives of others for the glory of God.
How is God calling you to use your gifts to strengthen your local church? Maybe it’s leading a Bible study, or joining a worship team, or serving in the nursery. Maybe it’s being a part of a care team that visits people in the hospital or in their homes. Maybe you can strengthen your church by committing to greater prayer for your leadership. Maybe you can make the coffee or decorate the tables or run the AV. Maybe you can organize an outreach event or hang out with the youth and speak into their lives. Maybe you can touch base with that young mom who seems so completely overwhelmed with life. Maybe you can have tea with a lonely widow. There are so many ways to serve in the church, and our churches need people who are willing to pour out their lives for the kingdom in the ways God is leading.
The church is God’s plan A to reach a lost and broken world and there is no plan B. The community we find in the local church is unlike any other community. It is a place of encouragement and support. Now I know churches can also be places of hurt and misunderstanding – that’s because we are all broken people. But the grace and forgiveness we find there helps us overcome those circumstances. If you’ve been hurt by the church and are distancing yourself from it, I encourage you to give it another chance. Christian community is worth fighting for.
10. How can you intentionally be a witness for Christ and make disciples this year?
The great commission is to go and make disciples. This instruction applies to every person in every season. Are you open to how the Spirit wants to lead you to share your faith with others? Do you go out into the world each day looking for opportunities to be a witness for Christ?
As we being 2023 maybe you want to be praying and asking God to bring someone into your life to disciple. If you already have someone that God has placed on your heart, plan to be intentional about discipleship. This can be inviting a younger woman along on your errands and talking through the things she’s facing. It could be inviting her along when you walk your dog each evening. Maybe you can open your home to your teen’s friends and be intentional about asking them how they are doing – how they are really doing. Maybe you need to linger longer over the backyard fence with a neighbour and ask if you can pray for her. Maybe you need to host a neighbourhood BBQ. Maybe you need to strike up a conversation with that mom watching the hockey game, or basketball game or soccer game.
God gives us so many opportunities to have kingdom conversations, but often we miss them. Ask God to give you eyes to see how you can be a witness for Him, and then be courageous enough to open your mouth.
Those are the 10 questions to ask for the start of a new year! I hope this has been helpful to you as you think about where you’ve been and where God might be taking you this year. It's impossible to know what this year holds for us, but we can know that God will be with us every step of the way.
Happy new year, friend.
To download a copy of the free 10 questions worksheet so you can journal your responses, click the button below.