Personal Reflection Helps Me To Move Forward

Dear Friends,

At the beginning of a new year I find it helpful to reflect on the previous year, to remember what God has done in me, for me and through me over the past year. The Psalmist says in Psalms 143:5 "I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done." (NLT)  As I reflect, I consider the lessons I have learnt, begin to understand what changes need to be made, see the progress I've made, recognise achievements and learn from my mistakes, all with the aim of preparing me for the year ahead.

It's vital that I spend this time of reflection with God beside me, so that I don't focus too much on mistakes and where I may have gone wrong, which can lead me to become negative in my outlook and feel a complete failure who's let God and everyone else down, but neither do I want to look at any successes and strengths that are revealed and become convinced that it's all about me and what I can do, and ignore that anything I have done is all because of God in the first place.  Paul tells us in Romans 12:3 "Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." (NLT)   Reflecting over the year with God keeps my perspective, my attitude and outlook as they should be, and he helps me to see things more clearly.

Reflection helps to give direction to the year ahead. Without reflection we may just continue what we do and how we do it without giving much thought to why we are doing it or if there may be a more effective way of doing it.  It's good to take the time to stop and reflect, not so that we keep living in the past but so that we can then address what, if anything, needs changing, what needs to be left behind, what God is calling us to continue with so we can then move on with purpose.  Paul writes about his purpose and forward thinking in Philippians 3:12-14, and his is a great example for us.  The JB Phillips paraphrase puts it this way: "Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ."

Some lessons I have learned as a result of my reflections with God:

1. This past year has reaffirmed for me the value and importance of relationships, first and foremost my relationship with God, then with family and friends, and with others.

2. God has answered prayers.  Sometimes he's answered my prayers almost as soon as I've prayed them, but other times it's needed more persistence in my praying before I've seen an answer.  When we know we are praying something which is in line with his will, we can have confidence that he will answer what we are asking for, so we learn to persevere when it doesn't happen as soon as we might like, believing for it to happen in his time.  

3. God has shown me that rather than taking on something new just because I want to or think it's right, is not the best or wisest way to make a decision.  Rather, instead of rushing into a decision, I need to stop and seek God, and ask him for his guidance and direction before I respond.  I can then be confident that the response I give is the right one based on his will for my life, and not based on my own feelings, ideas or any other reason, other than because this is what God says to do. 

4. I am constantly learning to trust God, to rely on him, to live the life that pleases him, rather than doing things to please others, to find my self-worth and value in him rather than trying to get it from others.  I suspect this is something that will continue through this year too.  I find that I so quickly and so easily fall back into old thought and old behaviour patterns so I need to daily set my focus on God.

5. There were two goals I set for 2014, goals which I believed would be accomplished by the end of the year.  Although progress has been made in both these goals, neither are yet fulfilled, so I knew I needed to reflect on and evaluate these. I still believe that both these goals were ones that God had given me, therefore they are goals which need to be taken on into the coming year.  It can be too easy to think that we should give up, to think we may have got it wrong if we have not fulfilled what we had expected to.  But if we really believe that we are doing what God wants us to do then we are called to persevere in them.  I think I was probably unrealistic in my time scale for them and that they are actually long term goals.  There are times when I can be impatient for something to happen, I can visualise the outcome but tend to not consider the steps needed to bring about that outcome.  I have seen that my time management could be improved, so that I make the most of the time I have while living a balanced life between my various responsibilities as a wife, mother, member of a church, my goals, times allotted to rest and times for relaxation.  If I'm trying to do too much, more than what God has assigned to me, that can be another reason why I may not be as far along with these goals as I'd hoped, which takes me back to my 4th lesson learned.

Having had time to reflect over the year, I feel ready and eager to move into the new year, focused on God and his leading.  

I like to have a particular verse which means something to me for each year.  Last year was Proverbs 16:3.  This year God has drawn my attention to Judges 6:14 “Go with the strength you have,... I am sending you!”  And in verse 16 God tells him "I will be with you." (NLT) This was God's call to Gideon, to take on the role of Israel's Judge.  You can read his story in Judges 6-8.  These verses remind me that it is God who gives purpose to my life, I am to be obedient to his call, even though I may not have much strength, I am to go with what I have, stepping out with the faith God has given me, knowing that he is the one who goes with me, empowering and enabling me to do his will.

As beneficial as this time of yearly reflection has been, I wonder that I don't do it more often. Perhaps again it comes down to my time management and making the time to review and assess not just once a year, but also monthly, maybe getting to the point where I spend a few minutes of reflection on a weekly basis too. 

Regular, personal review and reflection will help keep us focused on the things God has planned for us, it helps us to keep on track, helps us to make adjustments as we move forward and gives encouragement by helping us to recognise the progress we make.

May God bless you as you move forward through 2015 under his guidance and direction.

To Think About:
Why not make the time to reflect over your past year.  Can you see how God has been with you, working in you, for you and through you?  What has he taught you?  How can a time of reflection help give you direction for the coming year?  What  do you believe is/are the specific goal/goals God has given you for this year?

Is there a particular verse or bible passage that God is drawing your attention to for this year? (Ask him to reveal it to you over this week or month of January.)



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