In North American, Boxing Week inspires shopping sprees as people seek post-Christmas discounts. For others, it’s a time to give to the poor. For many, it represents time to wrap up gifts that don’t quite fit or don’t serve them well to exchange for something more appropriate.
This may be an opportune time to perform a deeper, internal clean. Before we leap into a new year with hopeful resolutions and lofty goals, let’s take a look at the year that was.
Maintaining Christ as the focus, let’s bravely and boldly assess these past few months.
First, let’s consider what worked well. I know from previous farming experience that often crops do better when they have undergone stress. Was there unexpected pressure this past season that served to refine or teach you? What efforts and investments of time and devotion proved successful? Let’s take a few moments to thank God for our successes and celebrate each one.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Yes, celebrate the successes despite difficulties. Rejoice in the harvest of God’s grace and goodness which you have received, recognizing that everything good ultimately comes from God. He gives us the wisdom and ability to accomplish everything we do.
“For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
What Didn’t Work
As an artist of sorts, I prefer the medium of watercolor. The paint soaks deep into the fibres of the paper. Often, errors are irreversible. Oil and acrylic paints are far more easily repaired. Mistakes can be hidden under new colorful and glossy layers.
Life resembles painting. Sometimes the things that didn’t bring the outcome we expected can be easily remedied. Others are not as forgiving.
“It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”
– Peter Marshall
Failure is only final when we stop trying. Honestly, I invested a considerable amount into some areas that have reaped little or no benefit. I can relate to the old prophet’s assessment.
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away . . .”
This boxing week, let’s carefully consider these areas. What can we learn? What can we redeem from our effort? Are there some aspects we need to “box up,” refusing to expend further resources or energy? Let’s not let any past failure linger, marring the blank canvas of the approaching new year.
What Can be Improved
Most of our efforts land in the “long haul” category. Tangible results won’t be achieved in the short term. Perseverance (not my favorite word) and continuous effort will pay off if we don’t quit. Try again, test the results, and tweak where necessary!
Farmers don’t plant seed one day and then continually turn the soil checking for growth. They know the viability lies anchored within the seed.
Jesus told a simple parable in one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
“Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!”
Jesus makes it clear that success didn’t result from the man’s careful planting, faithful watering, and application of the right amount of weeding and fertilizer. He threw the seed out there and went to bed. Huh! I could take a lesson from this one on how to stress less and trust more!
This boxing week let’s examine which seeds of effort we need to leave to germinate a little longer, confident God will bring the growth in some future time. Which seeds should I water with a little more effort or investment? How can I improve or improvise to produce the greatest potential?
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
What Has to Go
Some things will never serve a truly useful purpose. Allowing shame to cloud our perspective, blaming others for things we need to be responsible for, unforgiveness toward those who have wronged us, and casting shadows of judgment all lead us to bitterness rather than to betterment.
Let’s be honest! We all face things the enemy desires to use to disrupt our progress and stall us into ineffectiveness. This past year held painful disappointments, misunderstandings, and points of rejection. But God made a way for us to overcome.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect . . .”
1 Corinthians 15:10
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.“
2 Corinthians 7:10
Be confident that God’s grace works powerfully in and through us. He works at changing and transforming us into all He intends for us. Let’s honor God’s process in our lives and in the lives of others. As we repent for whatever part we play in negative circumstances, no residue of shame or regret remains.
Obey the Call
Perhaps the most important aspect of looking back over the past year, considers the question, “Am I obeying God’s call?” God calls each one of us for His purpose and His glory.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Time remains our most precious commodity. Are we living it to full potential? Whatever the “good works” includes — as a husband or wife, father or mother, servant or leader — let’s do it well! Let’s continue to obey the call. Whether we feel like we are succeeding or utterly failing, stay the course! God will remain faithful.
“When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey! The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you.”
Obedience remains far more important to God than any measure of worldly success. Let’s not fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others but stay true to the call of God over our lives. To love God with every part of our being and love others sincerely and deeply stands as the greatest and perhaps most difficult call — although, one worthy of all our effort.
This boxing week, let’s “box up” every ill-fitting, purposeless thing to prepare for what awaits. Let’s not allow our perceived successes or failures to hinder us from stepping into what God has ahead.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Past successes may lead to inflated egos and pride. Failures easily lead to feelings of defeat. God instructs us for “forget the former things.” The word for “forget” doesn’t mean to not remember, but rather to no longer respond or react to them. After examining this past year, let’s box them both up and move forward.
“See, I am doing a new thing!” God promises.
Lord, grant us eyes to see and a heart to perceive the new thing awaiting us. Give us the strength and courage to walk into this new year with a confident assurance that You are with us. You know every twist and turn ahead, and You are making a way for us. There will be moments of refreshing awaiting, even in the “wasteland” — in those places we thought were hopeless. We box up what was. We put our hands in Your hands and our rest our feet upon Your feet as we move into what is ahead. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness as You teach us to love more and well.