New beginnings, the start of a new relationship, decorating, building a new set of Legos (admit it, you still love them), the first day of school, getting a new smartphone, the start of another year…
All these things take work, some level of investment, and require your energy, but they also are exhilarating, energizing, and exciting! The start of a new relationship is unlike any experience in this world, but soon the “new” relationship is no longer new. Decorating a new apartment, decorating your Christmas tree, or setting up for a party is exciting, but before long you get tired of it, want to change or need to clean up. After the Lego set is built, then what? The first day of school is amazing, new friends, old friends, not much homework (yet), but soon enough you realize that there are 179 more school days until summer. Your new smartphone is amazing! It’s the only thing you’ll ever need, it’ll solve all your problems and always satisfy you—until a newer, better version comes out.
Building some momentum in your life is almost always more fun than sustaining that same momentum in your life. You may find that, as a new year begins, your ambitions will be high and your resolve to do better than last year will be off the charts. But what happens when the excitement fades? How will you respond when a few late nights or stressful days of work are strung together? What happens when you get weary and start to think there’s no end in sight? What should you do when you feel alone because those people or events that once energized you are suddenly gone?
There’s no other place to turn than to Scripture. Look at what Luke 9:18–25 has to say:
Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
That’s an easy question that we can all answer because it’s not personal; it’s stating what you’ve heard from other people. There’s no commitment involved in this question or answer.
“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
But then, Jesus immediately makes it personal. It’s important because what we believe about God and who we claim that Jesus is becomes the foundation to our relationship with Him. Your response is a declaration of belief and commitment. Peter answered well.
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And He said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
“Wait a minute,” the disciples have to be thinking, “that’s not supposed to be the plan. You’re Jesus, the Son of God! You’re supposed to take charge and be our King!”
Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
Then Jesus lays out a huge challenge to His disciples (and to us). This is the kind of challenge that says you’re either in or you’re out, because while these first three years together may have been fun, exciting, and full of miracles, continuing to follow Me will cost you your life as you know it. You must make a choice to suffer, a choice to sacrifice, and a choice each and every day to sustain what was started in this life of following Me.
There’s no magic formula to follow to make sure you can sustain the excitement and energy of a new or renewed relationship with Jesus. A simple New Year’s resolution won’t do the trick. However, there are some things that will certainly cause you to stumble and fall if they’re not present:
- Realize that following Jesus requires sacrifice, hardship, and suffering (2 Timothy 3:12).
- Pray, and pray often. Develop a dependency on Jesus rather than on yourself (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
- Spend time reading the Word of God. Study it, meditate on it, and hide it in your heart (Psalm 119:9–11).
- Confess your sins freely to God (1 John 1:8–10).
- Balance your relationships. Surround yourself with others who will point you to Jesus and surround yourself with those whom you can point to Jesus (John 17:15–19).
Don’t give up. And if you do fall, then get up and start again. It’s a new year—make it a great one!
Hebrews 12:1–3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Dave Nicodemus is the Communications & Creative Arts Pastor and has served at Grace Polaris for over nine years, seven and a half of those as the High School Pastor. Dave joined the Grace staff after serving at a church in eastern Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he studied youth and family ministry, minoring in art at Grace College (2001) and completing a masters degree from Grace Theological Seminary (2003). He’s the husband of Carly and father to Jack, Henry, Emilia, and Charlie.