All Things New
Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” -Revelation 21:5
Each new year there is a lot of pressure to change. Besides dropping large sequined balls from the sky, watching football, drinking champagne and staying up way later than usual, the New Years holiday celebrates one tradition more than any other. Making resolutions. In some ways, this challenge is valuable for people to reflect on behaviors or habits that hold them back in life. For most people however, they become half-hearted attempts to make a new habit, add a new exercise routine or diet, or refrain from things we really don't want to stop doing, and none of those changes really last. The truth is, that most resolutions never stick, because changing habits at the drop of a hat is like trying to turn a cruise ship around in a few short seconds. It just doesn't happen easily.
Change is hard. Becoming something new, something different, is not something that many people have the will power or desire to do. For many, its hard to even see if there is anything we can or should improve upon. These roadblocks to change often lead us to simply not succeed in making changes, not take change seriously, or not even consider trying. Yet there is a surprising and hard truth to accept about change. Not doing anything intentional or active to change, still causes us to change. Apathy does not mean staying the same. A lack of exercise, a lack of good dietary habits, or keeping bad habits, doesn't keep us in a stable state. In fact, those things are a constant change downward against who we used to be. By continuing on as we always have been, we never stay the same, we only get worse. There is no such thing as staying the same, we only change in one direction or the other.
In the final chapter of the final book of the book of the Bible, Revelation, we hear a word of prophecy and hope. God is making all things new. God is enacting change in our life, whether we believe it or not. God is using others around us, and using us, to lure us towards a better, more profound life. God has given us and seeks to nurture in us the gifts we are called to use. God has placed purpose in our lives that we are called to live out actively. God has also provided wisdom that allows us to understand the consequences of our decisions, habits and practices, for better or worse. And God has surrounded us with people who we are called to love and feel loved by.
So our choice this new year, whether we believe it or not, is to choose to follow in the direction God leads, or head in our own direction. And sometimes doing nothing is the very way we head in that wrong direction. The good news is, moving along the path God calls us to is much easier to get started on than quitting smoking, losing 40 pounds, and posting fewer political attacks on Facebook.
I had a mentor once who pastored some of the largest, most successful churches in our conference. We were at a training session where he was the guest speaker, and someone asked him how he had accomplished everything he had. What he said was simple, yet profound. He said that each and every day, he tries to figure out how to be 1% better than he was yesterday. Just 1%. And it didn't have to be in everything he did. He picked one thing that he tried to be a little bit better at every day. 1% more faithful. A 1% better diet. 1% more active. 1% more loving or attentive towards someone. And each day, the goal was to build on that 1%. Eventually, those little changes, those little steps in the right direction added up to major success. And it was success that was sustainable, because it happened over time. Rather than trying to change all at once, it was much easier to maintain, much easier to accomplish.
This new year, I want to challenge our church to be 1% better each day. Add one little thing to the practice of your faith. Maybe add a short prayer during a time of the day you've never prayed before. Maybe open up and read a Psalm in the morning when you wake up. Maybe take one step towards reconciling a relationship with someone you've fallen away from. Just find one little way to be more faithful each day, until you find yourself overflowing with faith; Made new by seeking the word of God in your life. Then you can find other 1%'s to work on. Eat a little better, adding a vegetable or fruit, or skipping dessert or two. Get out of your chair or off your phone a few more times a day more than you did yesterday. Find that friend to reach out to, rather than just sitting on the couch like normal. Whatever that 1% is for you, seek to grow a little bit in it every day. What you'll find, is the new you. The changed you. A version that you never thought was possible. Imagine if everyone in every church made just that much change every day. How drastically different would our world be next year, when we began to think about resolutions again? Amen.