Scripture tells us that Jesus developed in four ways. Luke 2:52 tells us, "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and favor with man."
We get to wipe the slate each year and start a brand-new year. My question is, how will 2024 be better than 2023?
The key is this: you have to have a plan. You do not enter 2024 and say, "I hope it will be better." You have to have a plan to make it better.
Luke 2:52 tells us, "Jesus grew in wisdom," which means He grew in intellect. This year, why not ask yourself? "What do I want to learn this year?"
Years ago, an ad said, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." God gave you a mind. It is a gift. It is like a muscle. If you use a muscle, it gets stronger. If you ignore a muscle, it atrophies--the same thing with your brain. You do not want to have an atrophied brain.
Proverbs 19:8 (The Good News Translation) says, "Do yourself a favor and learn all you can; then remember what you learn, and you will prosper."
This year, why not set some intellectual goal that will challenge and stimulate you so that a year from today, you are smarter than you are today, and you know more? God can use that in your life. It is good stewardship of the brain God gave you.
Matthew 22:37 (NKJV) says to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
The mind is the seat of reasoning and understanding. You have God-given intellectual power. You think, you reason, and you understand. And so, God says, your intellectual powers are to be centered upon him. God wants you to grow intellectually as we grow spiritually.
Jesus kept increasing in wisdom. Think about this: Jesus did not need to learn anything as God, but as man, He identified with our need to grow intellectually. He studied and learned things, just like you and I do.
A Christian, no matter how religious he or she might be, will never grow intellectually if they feed their minds junk... If they had never read some of the hard books or sought to understand today's critical issues. This year, why not take time to develop your mind?
Jesus grew in stature. Why not ask yourself, "What will improve my health this year?"
Lose weight? Go to bed earlier? Get on an exercise plan? Change my eating habits? Start walking every day. The bible is full of health tips. For example, Proverbs 17:22 (Good News Translation) says, "Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is a slow death to be gloomy all the time."
For some of you, God's health tip is for you to lighten up. Do not sweat the small stuff. Being cheerful keeps you healthy.
Jesus grew in favor with God. Why not ask yourself, "What will deepen my relationship with God this year? What would make the most significant difference in my relationship with God?"
Not 10 things -- one thing. It might be something you have known to do, but you kept putting it off last year and never did it.
Maybe you are a Christian, and you have never been baptized. What are you waiting for? That ought to be your first goal. Perhaps your goal is to start having a daily quiet time. Set something specific so you will not ask, "Did I grow any at the end of this year?"
Jesus grew in favor with man. Why not set a social goal? Why not ask, "What will be my ministry to others?" God does not want you to think just of yourself. God does not bless selfishness.
I Peter 4:10 (NLT) says "God has given you some special abilities. Be sure to use them to help each other." And anytime you help somebody else, that is called ministry. It is called service. You serve God by serving others.
Maybe this will be the year for many of you to get off the bench spiritually. You have been sitting along the sideline, watching other people do the plays. You have gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given you, and He wants you to put them into action.
Maybe this past year, you committed your heart and treasure to God, and now he says, "I want your life, your time, and the gifts I gave you."
He wants you to have a ministry. Set a goal to discover and get involved in a ministry this year. Maybe write down the name of a person who needs Christ. Pray for them and invite them to church. Be concerned about other people and not just yourself.
Rev. Chestine Sims Jr. of White Hall is the pastor of St. John AME Church at Pine Bluff. The community is invited to join the church for worship in person and on Facebook live at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Editor's note: Pastors, ministers or other writers interested in writing for this section may submit articles for consideration to [email protected]. Please include your phone number and the name and location of your church or ministry. Writers should have a connection to Southeast Arkansas.