If I had it to do over again….
How many times have we thought that way? If you’re like me, probably more than you would like to count.
If we had it to do over again—with an assurance that we’d do at least as well as we did—what efficient and artful users of time we could become!
Unfortunately, we all know it doesn’t work that way. We are forced to use time … in real-time. Moses’ prayer, therefore, carries for us the utmost urgency:
“So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
The Apostle Paul exhorted, likewise, “Let a man examine himself” (1 Cor. 11:28). “Examine yourselves,” he reiterated in 2 Cor. 13:5. “Let each one examine his own work” (Gal. 6:4).
Most of us can probably look back on the year, which is now closing right before our eyes, and see some fantastic successes—deadlines met, goals accomplished, honors achieved. We celebrate these outward victories, but we may know inwardly that they came at a high price. Other priorities—perhaps even some vastly more important—were left untouched. We revel in our triumphs while our failures lie hidden away, out of view.
And all of that makes it so incredibly difficult for us to complete an honest assessment of the year we are leaving behind. It was in that spirit that even Paul stated:
“I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Cor. 4:4-5).
The final and ultimate evaluation of a year—this past year, or any other, for me and all believers—will be offered by Christ Himself when we stand at His “judgment seat” (2 Cor. 5:10).
Should we then not even attempt to assess the progress we are making in the meantime? Going back to Moses’ prayer and Paul’s instruction, I think that would be extremely unwise. Even though our own self-evaluation is bound to be flawed and skewed, we must still engage in the process to the best of our ability. We need to learn all we can about when, where, how, and why we have succeeded and failed so that we might magnify the former and eliminate the latter. After all, next year affords us that precious commodity that we highly desire—the opportunity to do a year over!
Ah, the superb possibilities offered by a New Year!
As we grow older, we realize that we have fewer and fewer of them left and that—in light of the experience behind us and the exigencies before us—each one should be counting more than ever. And, yet, if we strive to overfill it, we may miss some of the real priorities on which we must be focused. What a delicate balance life requires!
“One thing is needed,” Jesus said in Luke 10:42. “Without (Him we) can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Over the coming days, many of us will be filling out year-end reports and waiting for results. May this be a spiritual exercise and not mere number-crunching. May God’s shine light upon our hidden faults and convict us, where needed, regarding our shortcomings.
Perhaps you have some extra time this week—or even on into January. What a glorious opportunity these winter days present to us if we will only take advantage of them. This is a wonderful season in which to catch up (or get ahead) on reading our Bibles and other books—for spiritual edification, as well as for physical and spiritual renewal. It also provides an occasion to think, pray, prioritize, and plan. These actions, along with perhaps getting some needed additional rest and exercise, will serve to recharge our batteries for the year ahead.
In the final analysis, only the Lord God can offer an honest evaluation of my year. Since He will do so one day, I had better endeavor to do so now.
May the Lord bless you with a productive and Happy New Year—for His glory.
Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, based in Columbus, WI, and serving in the Midwest. For more information on his ministry, visit sermonaudio.com/pscharf or foi.org/scharf, or email email@example.com.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.