Faithful Living: A year with a mission

By Joan Bay Klope

And now let us welcome the New Year

full of things that have never been.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

I opened my Internet homepage to typical New Year headlines this week:

• How to Get the Body You Want in 2008.

• New Year, Fresh Start: See What the Stars Have to Say about Your New Year Resolutions.

• Feeling Bloated? Google Healthy Detox Plans.

• A More Organized You in 2008.

And have you seen the emotional commercial featuring Valerie Bertinelli, the girl next door who is diet guru Jenny Craig’s best spokeswoman to come along in years? She is, for the first time in decades, not worrying about her weight as she enters a new year.

I’m so happy for her.

But where does this leave the rest of us? I’m particularly fond of writer Rainer Maria Rilke’s outlook on January; she urges us to welcome possibilities we’ve never considered, never before hoped for ourselves, never before dreamed about. This stands in stark contrast to our natural inclination to list our sins of the past year and simply hope things will improve in 2008 if we will aim to be more enlightened, motivated, and self-disciplined.

Rilke’s idea is not far from what I believe God would have for us this year. In fact, she encourages us to look upon the new year in a completely different way. She suggests that there is a world full of experiences that will fall outside of our past experiences. Outside of ourselves.

I’m absolutely drawn to the idea that we don’t have to author every new idea for ourselves this year. We have limits, but God has none. We may feel frustrated or overwhelmed when left only to our own devices, but God understands this. He invites us to open our eyes and hearts to His ongoing work.

Author Rick Warren lays claim to the idea that each of us is made for a mission and in the same way God created you, He also created a mission for you in this world. Quite simply, God is at work in the world and He invites us to join Him.

Great things come from looking for God’s movement in the world, considering how we can use our skills and interests to join His work, and then diving in. The first gift is realizing that when you join God, you are continuing the work first begun by Christ. Your work now becomes eternally valuable. It matters. It has significance and so do you in ways you may never have considered or experienced before.

The next gift is realizing what a privilege it is to join forces with God. The Apostle Paul calls us “co-laborers.” When you look for God and join Him, you are not only His representative but His friend. You’re empowered not only by your own experiences and natural giftings, but directly from God Himself.

A third gift is best described by the words of William James: “The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” I know, for example, that God wants good health for you and me and there is an expectation that we take tender care of ourselves, but new year hopes and dreams have got to go way beyond counting calories or reorganizing our closets. God is an active participant in our world and when we join Him we can move with an understanding that the results of our activities will last long after we are gone. In fact, we are promised in Scripture that worthy things set into motion will continue into eternity.

One last thought: somebody, somewhere in the world, at some point this year will predict the end of the world. Yet God makes it clear in the Bible that the date is not for us to know. We are encouraged, instead, to join God’s ongoing work and focus on living significant lives. Yet there is related information intended to encourage you. When you join forces with God and gather a clear understanding of your personal mission, you join God’s timetable for the history of this world. You’re simply not watching, you’re part of the story.

You will participate in things that have never been.

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