by Alvin Reid
That’s what this new year evokes in me. The year 2017 marks some important milestones. First, May will mark 40 years since I graduated high school (funny, I don’t feel that old). More importantly, on Father’s Day in 1977—40 years ago this next one—I publicly surrendered to vocational ministry. Numerous states, ministry roles, addresses, degrees, and a wife, kids, and a grandson later, this year and that milestone will be cause for reflection and gratitude.
Such an anniversary causes me to pause and reflect both on God’s goodness and what’s next.
As long as we have breath, we continue to learn, to be stretched, and to grow as followers of Christ. As this year dawns, we don’t know what lies ahead or what milestone we may cross. We do know we can keep learning until Jesus calls us home. What’s a good plan for growth this year?
Luke 2:52 tells us that as a young man, Jesus grew in four areas: wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Each day, I pray for these specific areas of growth both for me and for my immediate family.
I want to encourage you to grow in each of these areas in 2017 as well. I’m going to suggest a couple of resources to help along the way. You may find others more helpful; but consider these areas as key places for growth.
- Wisdom—growth intellectually and in wise judgment. I would suggest you read up on theology and culture this year. Knowing how to relate our timeless gospel to culture in a timely manner demonstrates evangelistic wisdom. I would suggest two books.First, my colleague and provost Bruce Ashford wrote a helpful little book called Every Square Inch. You may recognize the Kuyperian language in the title. Ashford helps the reader think about living out the gospel in a variety of spheres, from politics to education, from the arts to business. I would also commend Os Guinness’s book Fool’s Talk, a wonderful book to help us think about effective communication of the gospel in our changing world.
- Stature—yes, it’s that time of year when we think more of our physical health. At least for a week or two. Gyms fill up, all the way until. . . February. It’s a mistake to separate our devotion to Christ from either our physical or mental health. How are you doing here?A few years back I lost 40 pounds (I got sick and tired of being sick and tired). Although I have an artificial hip and other health issues, I’m in better shape than I’ve been in decades. Let me suggest a couple of helps.
First, get an app for your smartphone like My Fitness Pal. Track your calories, and more importantly, your macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) for a few weeks. Be aware of what you eat. Second, get moving. Think less of diet and exercise, which sounds defensive (do this to prevent bad health). Instead, think of eating and training, focusing more on getting stronger to serve the Lord with vigor.
It could mean a gym membership or a new elliptical. It might simply mean to start walking or jogging. Just now I am doing P90X3 (modified for my age and health issues), or “30 Minutes to a Puddle of Sweat” as I prefer to call it. Whatever you do, get moving. If you are younger, every day before you are 50 that you take care of yourself you will thank yourself after you hit the half-century mark.
- Favor with God—how is your daily time of worship? Is it time to refocus? Let me suggest you start with a disciplined routine of Bible reading. We talk most about that which we think about. More time in the word leads to more time witnessing. You can find a litany of reading plans online.If you don’t keep a journal, try that this year. I would suggest another thing: if a personal retreat is not a regular part of your life, try this in 2017. We are too busy, overloaded, and weary. I began a regular habit of Sabbath and personal retreating too late. You can read some of my thoughts on this here.
- Favor with man—Two thoughts here. First, how connected are you to real community in the local church? Church is not primarily an institution, it’s Is it time to renew your devotion to God’s church and fellow believers? Second, your witness to the lost. I require my students in evangelism class to write a short strategy paper describing how they plan to be active in sharing Christ throughout the coming semester. What if you wrote up a simple plan—what would it look like?
A new year is a good time to start new routines. The goal is not to do more, but to grow in wisdom, in health, and in our influence among others both within the church and outside. Let’s make 2017 a year of great growth.
Alvin L. Reid (@alvinreid) is senior professor of evangelism and student ministry and Bailey Smith chair of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is author of As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students. He loves encouraging the younger generation to live for Jesus. Learn more: www.alvinreid.com