By Rhonda Maydwell
Rhonda Maydwell works at Veterans United and is part of the Home Buying Concierge team. She currently lives in Columbia, MO. Rhonda studied English and Religious Studies at Mizzou and is using her talents as a staff writer for GotQuestions.org. She’s also a wife, mother, and friend to many.
Like many people, over the years I have made many New Year’s Resolutions… and most of them have flopped. Before the last snow of winter has melted, my resolve to lose weight, read two books a week, and to keep my home perfectly tidied and organized have done likewise—vanished. I rarely even get to February in the brand new planner I buy every year. Every year! A few weeks into the new year, and I feel like a failure. Oh well! There’s always next year… Yeah, right!
A few years ago, I resolved not to resolve again. And then, I was onto something. Rather than make numerous resolutions that require radical, overnight changes that I haven’t felt like doing the many years I have walked this planet—I was going to try something else. Something different. Something meaningful.
Instead of searching myself, I would ask God to lead me in the coming year. Around Thanksgiving, when we all tend to reflect on the past eleven months, its ups and downs, and how we have traversed it; I have sought biblical direction for spiritual growth, Christian maturity, and amplified production of healthy fruit in the coming year. This generally comes to me by way of a Bible verse that represents God’s focus for me.
In 2014, the first year I tried this, my verse was Ephesians 4:29.
Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them (NLT).
That seemed easy enough—I am generally a kind person. What I found however, is that to live this “easy enough” verse out in real life impacted how I communicated with people who messed up my food order, what I posted on social media, how I spoke to my children when they misbehaved, and (gulp) how I interacted with other drivers on the road…
Pretty soon I realized that if a post wasn’t positive and helpful, encouraging or edifying—it was actually harmful and hurtful to others. When I became intentional about speaking kindly and with grace no matter the situation, I often learned that another image bearer was going through something far worse than me enduring a hamburger with too much mayo on it. And as crazy as it sounds, if I just made space for other cars trying to merge into my lane—I actually still made it to my destination. Instead of one-finger salutes, I began to receive waves of thanks! Thanks for making room for me when I am running late… Hmmm.
By the end of 2014, not only were my encounters with others greatly improved, I knew I had changed. That 2014 Bible verse has never left me…it follows me to this day. When I am tempted to tweet a political zinger, a still small voice will ask me who will be helped or uplifted by it… then I delete it.
In subsequent years God has challenged me to live my faith out in my work (2 Timothy 2:15), read and study the Bible (Romans 15:4), to give God my mornings (Psalm 143:8), or to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). And let me tell you, the more I grow in my faith walk, the more I see my need for a Savior and just how often I completely miss the mark. In this lifetime, it’s not about arriving, but moving forward. Sometimes limping, but by the grace of God, heading in the right direction.
I have found my focal passages in sermons, Bible studies, devotionals, Bible reading and vanity license plates! When I keep my eyes, ears, and heart open—each year’s verse finds me.
To help me in my intentional focus each year, I often strategically place my verse in conspicuous places—my bathroom mirror, my laptop background, my desk at work… all the places I could so easily forget my God-focus. This practice has made such a difference in my relationship with the Lord and others.
2020 has been a year like no other we have encountered in our collective lifetimes. Maybe, like me, you just can’t see making your 2021 about losing ten pounds, learning a new language, or reading five more books than you did last year—all good things! Maybe, you too, feel it needs to mean just a little bit more than only those goals. I can’t tell you where God will lead your 2021 focus—but I can tell you He will gladly go with you!
If you would like a focus, and haven’t yet found a verse for 2021, I highly recommend starting with Ephesians 4:29. Or join me in my focus this year to put others’ needs ahead of my own selfish ambition and pursuits (Philippians 2:3). Either way, with God’s help, we can influence our little corner of the world for good—and that seems a worthy pursuit for 2021! Praying each reader would experience a 2021 full of God’s amazing grace and love.