Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Looking Back / Looking Forward, Day 1

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Download "Questions for the New Year."

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth explains what you can expect in a new year.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: There will be heartaches. There will be hard times. But you can still smile at the future if you have planned for, thought intentionally about how you can walk into this year—walking in God’s grace and growing in your relationship with Him.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A Place of Quiet Rest, for December 31, 2018.

Women are making all kinds of resolutions about diet, exercise, and finances—and these can be very helpful. When they’re in their proper place, all these things flow out of our relationship with God. Nancy’s encouraging us to be more intentional about that relationship as we look ahead into the new year.

Nancy: Matt Emmons is a name that probably is not familiar to you, as it was not to me until I found this on Google. But he is an American sport shooter who competed in the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens.

He was one shot away from claiming the gold medal in the 50-meter three-position rifle event. Now, I’m not even sure what all that means. But I know what a gold medal means.

The first nine shots had scored so high that he did not even need a bull’s-eye to win. All he needed for his final shot was to hit the target, and he would be the gold-medal winner.

So he took aim, he fired, and bulls-eye! But no score came up on the board. He looked puzzled. He said, “I shot.” He knew he’d hit a bull’s-eye.

Moments later, the judges informed him that he had made a very rare mistake called “crossfire.” It means he had fired at the wrong target. He was standing in lane two. And in the pressure of the moment, he forgot to look at the number of the target through his viewfinder, which he normally did. He fired at the target in lane three.

So his shot was accurate—it was a bull’s-eye—but because he had aimed at the wrong goal, he got a score of zero for that shot.

His American teammate who received the silver medal said, “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe it happened to Matt Emmons.” Instead of the expected gold medal, Emmons ended up in eighth place.

Today and tomorrow I want us to think about the importance of aiming at the right goal as we look forward to the year ahead.

As we come to a new year, and really, a new year is the turning of a page on the calendar. There's not anything mystical or magical about the calendar page turning over. But I find this is a good chance, whether it's a birthday, the turning of a year, or my spiritual birthday—those are the three times a year that I stop and consider and recallibrate and get my bearings to seek the Lord and resolve to be the woman He wants me to be, by His grace and the power of His Spirit, as I go into that next chapter or season of life.

There’s biblical basis for celebrating these markers and looking forward. I think of that passage in Exodus chapter 40 where “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting'” (vv. 1–2).

So the launching of the place of worship was to take place on the first day of the first month of the year. What was God saying? As you start into a new season, put first things first. Do the important things first. Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, your relationship with the community of faith. Deal with that. Be intentional about it.

I want to encourage you, in this session and in the next, to take time to look in the viewfinder and make sure you’re aiming for the right target, to make some resolutions for 2019. The Scripture talks about the value of planning and thinking ahead.

Proverbs 21: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (v. 5). If you don’t stop and think about what you’re doing and how to do it right, you’re going to end up in spiritual poverty. But if you’ll take time diligently to plan and seek the Lord, it will lead to abundance.

We have that graphic passage in Proverbs chapter 6, where it says, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler”—she doesn’t have somebody looking over her shoulder, telling her to do this—“she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (vv. 6–8).

She doesn’t wait until the last minute to decide what she’s aiming at. She thinks ahead to what her needs will be and how to be prepared for that. That’s part of the idea of planning, setting goals, setting resolutions, and thinking:

  • What kind of person do I want to be a year from now?
  • What does God want me to be a year from now?
  • What is He wanting to do in my life, and how can I set my sails to head in that direction?

Proverbs 22:3 tells us, “A prudent man [wise person] foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (NKJV).

Look ahead. See what are some of the traps that lie ahead. What are some of the potential areas of vulnerability? The wise person looks ahead and foresees, “This could be a situation where I could be vulnerable.” And he takes precautions to protect himself from that. But the simple just pass on without thinking. They’re thoughtless; they’re mindless; they’re unintentional. As a result, they reap consequences.

Proverbs 4:26: “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Ponder. Think about it. Consider it. Consider your ways.

The Proverbs 31 woman is a woman who plans ahead. Verse 21 tells us that she plans ahead for winter. She makes sure that her family is not caught off-guard, that their clothing needs have been met. She’s planning ahead. As a result, it says, she can smile at the future (see v. 25). She’s not afraid of the future.

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be problems in the future. There will be hard times. But you can still smile at the future if you have planned for and thought intentionally about how you can go into this year walking in God’s grace and growing in your relationship with Him.

It’s so easy to just drift. That’s our natural tendency—not to be careful, but to be careless. As we move into a new year, it’s a good time to think about how to not drift. So many people, I find, just let life happen. They’re not intentional. Life is happening to them.

Minutes that are unevaluated become hours. Hours become days. Days become weeks. Weeks become months. Months become years. Years becomes decades. And decades become a lifetime.

I think a lot of people who weren’t intentional about their moments are going to end up in eternity with a lifetime of very little to show for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. We need to live an intentional, focused life.

We need to live an intentional, focused life.

The apostle Paul did not just let life happen to him, as so many of us do. He says in 2 Corinthians 5, “We make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (v. 9 NIV). Whether we live or die, our goal is to be pleasing to the Lord.

And then he tells why. He says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (v. 10 NIV).

I won’t unpack now the whole subject of the judgment seat of Christ and what Christians will be judged for except to say we know Scripture says that for believers there will be a judgment seat. What we have done with these lives will in some way be scrutinized by the eyes of Him who sees and knows all.

Paul was gripped by a vision of that final award ceremony. He says, “Because I know what’s coming, because I know that there will be this judgment . . .” Most of us don’t even think about that. We’ll go weeks or months without ever thinking of the judgment seat of Christ.

When was the last time you thought about it? When was the last time I thought about it? But Paul lived with this in his vision.

He says, “Because I see that coming, it causes me to live an intentional, measured, evaluated, thought-through life.” It helped him to keep his eye on the goal for which God had saved him.

He says in 1 Corinthians 9, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (v. 24). Go for the prize! Don’t just lollygag around the track of life. Go for the prize.

He continues, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” And Paul says,

They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (v. 25–27).

That word disqualified means "to be put on a shelf, to be pulled out of commission." The apostle Paul lived with the sense that if he did not run intentionally in the race God had set before him, he could actually end up being put on a shelf. It didn’t mean he would lose his salvation. But he would lose the rewards and the privilege of fulfilling that for which God saved him.

Now, if the apostle Paul had that concern, don’t you think we should have this concern? It’s this kind of thinking that informs how we think about goals and resolutions and walking into a new year.

So I want to challenge you again, as we come to the close of this year, to pause. Don’t just let New Year’s Eve and all its celebrations, partying and fun, and New Year’s Day with its football games hijack your life for these next days.

What will happen is that it will be the second and then the third and the fourth day of the month, and you’ll already be into the flow of things, and you’ll be living next year just like you lived this past year.

By God’s grace, we want to do some things differently this next year than we did this past year. I want to be more intentional, more focused, more fixing my eye on the goal, on the target of God’s plan for my life. So take some time to be purposeful, to be intentional, to think through where God wants you to head in the year to come.

Do you even know? If not, you may hit a target, as Matt Emmons did, but it will likely be the wrong one. You may end up forfeiting the prize that God has in store for you.

Some of you have heard the late pastor Ray Ortlund on Revive Our Hearts and his widow Anne Ortlund, who’s also been on our program a number of times. Ray went home to be with the Lord back in 2007. But his widow, Anne, shared a list that he wrote when he was sixty-six years old, a number of years before he went to be with the Lord.

She discovered this list after his home-going. I won’t read the whole thing. But it just illustrates, in an older man, this idea of being intentional.

I don’t know what occasioned this list. I don’t know if it was a new year or a birthday. But he said, “These are steps I am taking, in courage and obedience, to help me establish an inner life of rest and trust in God.” And then he said, “These things don’t get me to heaven, but they help heaven get to me.”

Let me read you some of the things he wrote down:

  • Regular time set aside every day for reading the Word and for prayer

Now, here is a man who was a very godly and faithful servant of the Lord. You may have heard him on the “Haven of Rest” radio program for a number of years. He was my pastor when I was in college. He was a long-time pastor and servant of the Lord. But here at sixty-six years of age, he was recalibrating.

He had spent years and years in the Word of God. But he was reaffirming, “I want to set aside time every day for reading of the Word and prayer.” If you don’t make any other commitment for this year to come, I would hope that would be the one, the first one.

And then he wrote:

  • Be in constant contact with God
  • Abiding in Him
  • Humbling myself under God’s hand
  • Letting go of ego

These are steps he wanted to take in the coming year.

  • Saying only that which will build others up
  • Watching the mouth

He said,

  • I want to remember that everything I have is His.
  • I want to see what God sees, love what He loves, and hate what He hates.
  • To make life more serene and God-oriented, I want to eliminate from my home clutter, arguing, complaining, and constant TV and other noise.

Sometimes you just need to turn off the radio, turn off the television, turn off the computer. I don’t know how God will lead you to do it. But what are some things you may want to do, as Ray Ortlund said, to make your life more serene and God-oriented?

And then he said:

  • Ordering my mental life so as to be constantly in prayer at a deeper level

Those are goals of a sixty-six-year-old man who was still being intentional and purposeful about pressing on toward the mark, pressing on to seek the Lord.

Now, let me go to another age range. A friend of mine named Jenny, who, a couple of years ago when she was nineteen, sent to me her New Year’s resolutions. Again, I won’t read all of them. She sought the Lord, and these are some of the things God had put on her heart.

I say this because I know we have some young listeners, and a lot of moms who have teenagers and children. They’re not too young to be thinking about being intentional as they go into a new year.

My friend Jenny said:

  • Resolved to be truthful with my words, with no exaggeration or deceit.
  • Resolved to practice femininity, modesty, and biblical womanhood so that I may be an example of virtue in a world of confusion.

I love that—nineteen years old.

  • Resolved to act on things that are eternal and furthering to God’s kingdom, and when fallen into temporal living, to cry out for grace that He may once again show me His big picture.
  • Resolved to love His people with a genuine servant’s heart and be available to those who are in need.
  • Resolved to dedicate my life for the cause of revival and pray for the desperate needs of our nation and world.
  • Resolved to take a step further in my pilgrimage of conquering fear of man.

And then she said:

  • Resolved to know God, to love God, to walk with God, to believe God, to live and die for the glory of God.

I want to tell you where she got the words for that last one. This is a girl who, when she was three years old, her dad died of a brain tumor. Her dad was the founder of our ministry, Del Fehsenfeld, Jr. On his grave marker are written these words: “He knew God; he loved God; he walked with God; he believed God; he lived and died for the glory of God.”

Here’s a nineteen-year-old girl who has never really known her dad since she was three years of age, but who has been marked by the way he lived—purposefully, intentionally. She’s been to that grave marker. She’s internalized those words. And she’s saying, “That’s my heart’s desire.”

See, you’re living not just for you. You’re living not just for your era, not just for your generation, but for those who come behind—that they may find us faithful. That’s another reason to live intentionally and purposefully.

You’re living not just for you or for your generation, but for also those who come behind.

I’m so glad that Del Fehsenfeld, Jr. lived an intentional and purposeful life. He impacted my life in a huge way. He’s impacted his daughter Jenny’s life. Here she comes, as a nineteen-year-old girl, saying, “That’s my resolution too.”

Last year at this time I came across a series of questions that Don Whitney had written. He’s an author and a seminary professor, a man with a real heart for the Lord. He came up with a list of questions to ask at the start of a new year.

Now, you don’t have to just use these at a new year. You can do it at a birthday or at other times. We’re going to put those questions up in a PDF format, available to you at ReviveOurHearts.com.

I want to encourage you to go through these questions, as I did a year ago. I didn’t answer all of them, but I picked out particular ones that spoke to me and that I wanted to reflect on, and I jotted down some responses. I want to encourage you to take some time to consider questions like these as you think about the year to come.

Here are some of those questions:

  • In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?
  • In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about that this year?
  • What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
  • What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor or to another who ministers to you this year?
  • What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
  • What habit would you most like to establish this year?
  • Whom do you most want to encourage this year?
  • What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
  • What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  • What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  • What’s the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  • What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  • In which spiritual discipline do you want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  • What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

I’m not suggesting that you should take time necessarily to answer all of those questions, because you’d probably be going from now until the end of this year. But I would urge you to take time to answer some of those questions and to ask the Lord, “Which ones do You want me to focus on?”

Don’t come up with ninety-three resolutions for the new year, because you will definitely not remember those through the rest of this week. But do come up with a few that God puts on your heart for this year.

It may be just one word—one character quality of Christ that you want to concentrate on this year, one area or topic that you want to study and see embedded into your life. As I’ve said, this has been the year for me of focusing on meekness. I can’t say I’ve got it down, and I’ll still continuing growing in that area in the year ahead. But I’m asking the Lord for this coming year, “What do You want to focus on in my life, and how can I cooperate with You in that?”

Again, if you’ll go to ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll give you these and some other questions that you can use as a basis to write out some of your resolutions.

Matt Emmons forfeited the gold medal because he didn’t aim for the right target. Where you do want to be a year from now? By God’s grace, I don’t want to be the same person a year from now that I am today.

I’ve got to keep my eye on the target, keep my eye on the mark, and ask the Lord, “Where do You want me to head? By Your grace and the power of Your Spirit, show me how to get there, for Your glory and for the sake of Your kingdom.”

Leslie: I hope you’ll take some time to write out the type of resolutions Nancy’s been describing. She’s in the first of a two-day series called “Looking Back / Looking Forward.” She’s helping us reflect back on the past year and look ahead to what God might do next.

When you look back on a year, sometimes you realize how different life has become. Nancy's here to talk about that.

Nancy: Well, here we are on December 31, New Year's Eve. We’ve been anticipating throughout this month how the Lord was going to provide to meet our year-end needs. Typically, over 40% of the donations we need for the whole year arrive in December. In fact, a good number of those donations arrive the very last day! So today is significant in our ability to fund the outreaches of Revive Our Hearts in the year ahead. Would you pray that many listeners would get involved and help meet the year-end needs on this final day? And if you've wanted to be part of meeting this need, but just haven't done it yet, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation. Or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

Thank you so much for your encouragement, support, and prayers as we anticipate all that God has in store for us in the year ahead. Now as we come to the end of the final program of 2018, I'd love to pray a New Year's Eve blessing on you.

Father, how we thank You as we look over this past year—that You have been faithful. You've been so good, so kind. You blessed us even when our eyes were filled with tears. We've been able to look up and see Your face, Your hand, and trust that You are moving, You are working for our good and Your glory.

Lord, now that we are on the cusp of a new year, we want to stop and pause and acknowledge our need for You. We trust as You've been faithful in the past year, You will be faithful, come what may in the year ahead. You've surprised me with grace and love in an amazing way this year, something I never dreamed would be true. Lord, I'm asking that You would surprise my friends who are listening today. I don't know what it will be that You will have for them, but I ask for surprises of grace, times when they would know Your amazing love in a greater way than they've ever experienced it before. I ask that You would extend the helping, healing hand of Jesus into the hearts and homes that desperately need You to intervene.

Oh Lord, how quickly You can turn the desert into a fruitful, abundant place. I pray that You would do that. For those that are suffering, I pray the You would grant grace to persevere and stay the course and to know Your presence in the midst of the pain. Father, I pray for each listener. Would You strengthen them, support them, sustain them in this season. Would You continue to sanctify them by Your truth. Throughout this year ahead, would you satisfy them deeply with Your steadfast love. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. 2018 has seen headlines full of violence, heartache, and scandal. But Nancy says, deep down, you don’t have to enter 2019 in fear. Find out why tomorrow, on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to live an intentional, focused life. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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