Unlike New Year’s resolutions, making a fresh start allows God to lead you in the journey ahead.
How are you going with those New Year’s Resolutions? Apparently only eight percent of us ever successfully achieve them. I’ve certainly felt a reluctance to set myself up to fail. But making a fresh start—now, that’s a resolution I understand.
I suggest ‘fresh starts’ tend to be more meaningful and enduring than annual New Year’s resolutions. Let’s explore one particular example, by unpacking the story of Abraham who was invited by God to make a fresh start. Abraham’s experience offers us six dos and don’ts to guide us, as we choose to embrace our own invitation to make a fresh start in 2019.
One day, out of the blue, God interrupted Abraham’s everyday life in Mesopotamia and invited him to make a fresh start by embarking on a journey towards the land of Canaan (modern day Israel). The invitation came with a promise that Abraham would become the patriarch of a great nation, and that his reputation and character would become great (Genesis 12:2).
Surprisingly, Abraham accepted God’s invitation and he and his whānau set out for Canaan. Without Google maps, this was a journey into the unknown which required gutsy faith. By accepting God’s invitation, Abraham took the first step towards making a life-changing fresh start.
The journey ground to a halt when Terah, Abraham’s dad, decided they would settle in Haran. After his dad died Abraham resumed his commitment to embrace God’s invitation to journey towards a fresh start in Canaan. Although Terah was the true family patriarch, he did not become the patriarch of fresh starts! He gave up. Abraham didn’t! This pause in the journey is not the only time Abraham got off track. However, just as in this case, he always resumed his journey. He didn’t give up. And so it is Abraham we honour thousands of years later as a role model for embracing a fresh start with God.
Abraham didn’t know much about God—actually he probably worshiped idols like his father (Joshua 24:2). So, when Abraham responded to God’s invitation, he knew very little about this Deity. Yet, Abraham’s lack of relationship with God did not become a barrier to him accepting the invitation. The journey itself developed his connection with God, until God himself became the reward of the journey for Abraham (Genesis 15:1). As Jesus once said, faith as small as a mustard seed is enough.
Abraham messed up quite a few times along the way, yet not even this stopped God issuing an invitation to him. Although Abraham actually successfully arrived in Canaan (Genesis 12:5) his personal and spiritual journeys were not yet complete. When things got tough, he failed to rely on God and made the decision to go further than God had told him to—he headed beyond Canaan to Egypt. And there he created a mess for himself and his wife, Sarah. Fear led him to deceive the Egyptians about the true nature of his relationship with Sarah.
Consequently, Pharaoh ‘borrowed her’ until he found out! A similar thing happened with another king some time later—and each time the deception could have ended incredibly badly for both Abraham and Sarah.
Remarkably, despite his human flaws, Abraham became one of God’s favourite people. Not because he was perfect! I suspect each of his personal failures forced Abraham to embrace an inner journey—one which truly transformed his character. And so Abraham’s physical journey became a way into a parallel inner journey. By facing up to his personal failings Abraham developed the humility, courage and faith he needed to overcome later challenges. It’s very reassuring to see that God’s invitation is never conditional on us having ourselves sorted before we begin.
As the journey continued Abraham and the nephew who had travelled with him started to quarrel, as did their staff. The same space could no longer support both of their families and livestock. So Abraham set new boundaries.
First, he faced the fact it was time to create some distance between himself and his nephew. Abraham also set a boundary around how he and his nephew would treat each other—quarrelling would not be part of their on-going journey. What an example Abraham sets! I usually resort to setting boundaries only after resentments have built up, which tends to result in angry and defensive interactions as I put boundaries in place. Abraham, on the other hand, set his boundaries graciously, generously offering his nephew first dibs on the land so they could live separately from each other.
Throughout the journey Abraham often boldly professed his trust in God. For example, when he first arrived in Canaan he built a monument to God and took time out to pray (Genesis 12:8); after a big battle he refused to take the plunder declaring he was trusting God for all he needed (Genesis 14:22, 23); and having finally settled in Canaan he participated in a special ceremony with God to celebrate completing his journey (Genesis 15). Audacious professions of faith helped cement his intent and kept him focussed on the journey until the end.
God’s invitation to Abraham was about more than just a geographical fresh start. God was also inviting Abraham to develop a new depth of character and a rock solid relationship with God. It was an invitation to greatness.
As we enter 2019, what is true for Abraham is also true for us: God invites us to embrace our own fresh start journey. It may or may not involve a geographical shift. It will include an invitation to develop a greater depth of character and a more intimate relationship with God. This becomes our journey to greatness.
As we contemplate our particular invitation, let’s be guided by Abraham’s six dos and don’ts. First, do accept the invitation. Even if we get off track, let’s be sure to get back to the journey—don’t give up. Don’t think we need a well-defined theology before we can step out with God. And don’t allow a sense of personal inadequacy or brokenness to become a barrier to a fresh start. Do set boundaries to support the journey; and finally, do boldly profess a growing faith in God. This will help cement an intention to continue the journey.
As 2019 unfolds, let’s embrace our own fresh start—because as with Abraham, God is beckoning us to greatness!
Want to read more from Sue? Check out her Blog at www.shamelessandfree.wordpress.com
By Sue Hay (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 12 January 2019 p20-21. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.