Note from Randy: Today is the first day of 2024. What better time to stop and evaluate our choices and the direction we’re headed than at the start of a new year? I hope these reflections from Marshall Segal, staff writer for Desiring God, inspire you to pray for greater faith and love in the year ahead.
May your New Year be centered on Jesus and happy in Him!
A New Year Worthy of God
Before you make resolves for the new year — before you start a reading plan, or choose a diet, or buy a journal, or step on a treadmill — find a why worth changing for. As many more have observed before me, our resolutions often wilt because we didn’t have a why big enough to weather the inevitable temptations, distractions, and setbacks.
So what will your why be for the year to come? For me, I want my life to prove the worth of my calling from God. Not my calling to ministry, but my calling to God — the calling every genuine Christian shares. My why comes from 2 Thessalonians 1:11:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.
What evidence do we see in our lives that we have been called by God? What might someone else see in us this year that would suggest something supernatural has happened? What habits might hint that we have been claimed by heaven? Will we live worthy of our calling — or not?
Could We Ever Be Worthy?
Does a Christian resolution for worthiness rub you the wrong way? “We pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling.” But none of us is worthy of this calling. Surely the apostle Paul knew that more than anyone.
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10–12)
“Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. (Romans 11:35–36)
How could a sinner ever merit anything from God? We can’t. And yet God himself says, through his apostle, that we can be considered — by God — worthy of his calling. What would that mean? Not that we could ever earn or deserve this calling, but that we could increasingly honor the calling we have received by grace alone, based on the merits of Christ alone.
Godliness Honors God
Apart from Christ, we will never deserve to be called children of God, but we can still disgrace the calling we have been freely given — or we can adorn our precious calling with an ambitious godliness. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works . . . so that in everything [you] may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:7, 10). Our lives can become a wild, grace-filled bouquet laid upon the saving and sufficient work of Jesus — a worthy reflection of his love, his cross, his power, his worth.
Again, Paul says, “[We pray] that our God may make you worthy of his calling . . . so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12). This is the worthiness of another world. As it grows and spreads in a redeemed life, it doesn’t welcome praise to itself, but gladly bows to worship Christ. The worthiness God finds in us glorifies the greatness of Jesus.
Our worthiness proves his worth, not ours. Why? Because worthiness in us is an evidence and expression of his grace. God makes us worthy “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We strive for a worthiness that draws others’ curiosity and admiration not to ourselves, but to him. We want them to think, Someone who lives like that must know something about life, about reality, about God that I don’t yet know. I want to know what they know and love like they love.
Worthiness in Real Life
So what might this worthiness look like in another new year? A few verses earlier, Paul unfolds the worthiness he sees blossoming in the Thessalonian church:
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. (2 Thessalonians 1:3–5)
How specifically was their worthiness displayed? Their faith and love held fast through suffering. And not just held fast, but grew. And not just grew, but grew abundantly. The apostle could see that God was for them and in them, because they were seeking God with greater intensity, trusting him with greater peace, and loving one another with greater devotion. Greater — greater faith, greater love, greater patience, greater peace, greater discipline, greater joy — greater is a worthy resolve for a new year.
Where, specifically, could you grow abundantly in the next year? What area of your spiritual life and love for others needs to be revived or nurtured toward greater maturity? Find a greater resolve to focus on, and hold onto, as you step into another January.
Made Worthy in the Valley
Don’t miss that the church in Thessalonica was made more worthy through their suffering. “We ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Their hardships had become a dark and painful backdrop on which their faithfulness could shine.
Would anyone have seen their steadfastness in Christ if they hadn’t experienced adversity? Suffering, for them, offered an opportunity to experience more of God’s strength and mercy, and suffering also made it easier for others to see the God who was motivating and sustaining them.
How might that change how we think about the sufferings that will come over the next year? When our plans and resolves are inevitably disrupted and disappointed, will we assume suffering is only an enemy? Or, in the hands of our God, could suffering actually be a strange and precious friend of our worthiness?
The Who in Good Resolves
New resolves often fail without a well-defined, deeply-felt why, but they also fail because of a misplaced who.
Look carefully, again, at verse 11: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.” Who makes our lives worthy of such a calling? God does. Who fulfills our resolves for good and our works of faith? God does. Whose power will be the decisive agent for lasting change in our lives? His power.
Good resolves begin and end with God. Which means good resolves begin and persevere through prayer. And so Paul does not merely charge the Thessalonians to live worthy of their calling; he prays for them to be made worthy. “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling. . . .”
So how might we pray for greater faith and love in the new year?
Lord, I am not content to have last year’s love for you. I want a deeper, sweeter, more active faith in you. Nurture what you have planted in my soul. Prune away more of my remaining sin. Make the sufferings to come magnify your work in me. By whatever means necessary, cause me to grow and to grow abundantly. In Jesus’s name and for his greater glory in us, Amen.
This article originally appeared on Desiring God, and is used with permission of the author.