The New Year is already upon us and I don’t know how you feel about it.
Perhaps it is with trepidation we are entering upon a new season.
Not only, of course, is it the start of a New year, but of a new decade.
I don’t know what is going to happen this year or this decade.
So much happens in every year and so much also stays the same.
One thing we can’t avoid is getting older.
For some of you here you may not see out the year and quite a number will not see out the decade.
Is this a cause for concern?
Well, it shouldn’t be.
Jesus makes it clear to His disciples that we should not be worried or anxious especially as the worst thing that can happen is death or should I really be saying: the best things that can happen to us is death?!
Throughout this passage of John 14 we see the promises that Jesus makes that He will take us to be where He is, and we will not be left alone, and that He has prepared a place for us to be with Him in His Father’s house.
It is like we have been invited into His family.
For all eternity there was the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit in unending union, communion and fellowship.
Then we have been welcomed into this new dynamic of being part of this union, communion and fellowship.
Jesus says He will send the Holy Spirit to live in us and at the same time says that I will come to you.
And He and the Father are One.
And follows this up with saying in verse 20: I am in the Father, and you are in Me and I in you.
This is our future relationship.
We will never be God, you understand, this is not what I am saying, but we have been invited into the Trinity and never again will that relationship just be the three in One.
Jesus is coming to get us one day; may be it will be that we will go the way of all the world and pass away or we will be here when Jesus returns to take us to be with Him.
Either way, we go to be with Him when this earthly life concludes.
It happens that on Thursday, at Gwilym’s funeral I will be speaking of these things again.
So, though we may be a few days in on this New Year, we should also think about not only the past but our future as we tentatively think about our spiritual health.
Because He first loved us we love Him, and what did Jesus say about those who love Him?
They obey Him.
And not only that, He will also answer our prayers.
I want us to do a proper check up in nine areas and I am grateful for the headings from Parklands Church here in Swansea.
Jesus is to be preeminent in our lives.
How clear is my vision?
What do we see for the year or decade ahead?
Clearly this is not a simple thing to do for who could have known that we have got to where we are today?
We need a fresh vision of God.
“Be thou my vision”, as the hymnist writes.
We cannot see ahead without certain prerequisites: Scripture shining a light on our path and Jesus being the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Ask God to renew your view of God.
Is your God too small?
Am I growing spiritually?
How are we to grow?
In the last year we saw from Peter that we are to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This is done in two ways according to the Scripture and that is experimentally and in adding to our knowledge.
The Christian life has to be walked.
It is as we step out in God that we experience God at work in our lives.
To step out simply means to trust God to sort out the things that are going on in our lives and also to be aware of the Spirit’s leading and trust Him when He prompts us.
We grow in knowledge by hearing preaching, teaching, reading books as well as the most obvious of ways: to read and study Scripture.
We are to desire the pure milk of the Word that we may grow thereby.
Are you growing in Christ?
And of course, the other spiritual discipline of prayer which includes praying to Him but also waiting and listening to Him.
How is my Emotional health?
This is about adding to our faith and knowledge.
It is to let go of fear and anxiety.
Instead our emotions that change with the wind or as we have seen in lots of versions of Scrooge lately it could be caused by our food and indeed we know that our medicine has an effect too.
We need to be aware of these things so that our emotions are under control.
The main way to do this is to realise that God is ultimately in control.
But we also need to allow ourselves to feel for our fellow human beings especially those who are in some kind of danger.
And we also need to evaluate whether we are reacting to situations or merely responding to them.
It is too easy for that most ugly of emotion of anger to take control of us.
But Jesus must increase and we decrease.
How is my physical health?
This is not the most important question in this list but our well being affects other aspects of these questions.
We have been given these bodies and they are a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore we have responsibility to treat them right and not use them for doing wrong.
Am I sharp in my thinking?
In that hymn ‘Take my life and let it be’ we sing: “Take my intellect and use every power as you choose”.
Our minds are also to be used for the Lord.
We are to be those who think as well as dream and we should be sharpening our thoughts.
We told in 1 Peter 3:15 to: ‘Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.’
This cannot be done without knowing about our faith and learning the arguments in defence of it.
Why not take up book reading but as well as choosing books you know you like pick up others of a different genre, maybe, and enlarging our minds in that way.
God gave us our brains and without the brain of God we could not have such an amazing universe coming out of His creativity.
He has also given our brains and creativity to use for Him.
Why not take up a new habit of reading 2 books a month without neglecting God’s Word, and by this I mean Christian and non-Christian books.
Am I financially healthy?
We are called to be a giving people and the mark of how much we value money is by what we spend it on.
There was the prodigal son who wasted his on wasteful living.
Then there were the Macedonians who even out of their want gave generously to Paul and his missionary journeys and when he was in jail.
Of course, we are not called to go into debt by giving and if we are in debt then we should work to get out of it.
God is a generous God and we are called to be like Him and generous in return.
How am I growing my skills?
Do we need training in the gifts that we have?
Do we need to read books to help?
Are we developing those things that we are good at to excel in them?
This could mean practice, practice, practice.
Whatever gift God has given to you and there are many, for instance we are told in 1 Peter 4:10-11: ‘As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.
If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies.’
Elsewhere there are the gifts of administration, helps, healing and so on.
Some are gifted with public gifts, others with private prayerful gifts.
Are we growing these accordingly?
How am I using my time?
This is about time management.
We have short lives and we are told by Paul that time is short, as if we need to be told.
I think when we are young we need to be told but time flies more quickly as we age.
There is a saying that seems to be true: If you don’t plan someone else will plan for you.
That is, if we do not plan how to use the time we have someone else will make those decisions.
We need to plan our day, our weeks and our years.
Of course we need to be flexible when urgent things come up and we are also aware that our plans are not God’s plans.
We are told to say, if God wills, when making plans, we are told to acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, that is we are to pray beforehand, and He will direct our paths.
So, you might plan and God will plan something else.
But we are not called to be lackadaisical or slothful just sitting in front of a TV watching movies we would not watch if we truly took into account God being present with us.
We are to redeem the time for the days are evil, says Paul.
So, just how are we using our time?