I've heard that in Italy, they have an interesting way of celebrating the new year. On New Year's Eve as the clock is ready to strike, the traffic is cleared. There are no pedestrians. Even the policemen take cover. Then at the stroke of midnight, the windows of the houses fly open, and to the sound of laughter, music, and fireworks, every member of the family throws out old dishes, detested ornaments, hated furniture, and a whole catalog of personal possessions that remind them of something in the past year they are determined to wipe out of their minds.
In the same way, as one year ends and another begins, it's a good time for some spiritual housecleaning. We should ask ourselves: Have I grown closer to the Lord over the past year? Has there been spiritual progress in my life? Have I developed more in the gifts that God has given me?
I don't know what kind of a housekeeper you are, but I am the kind who will allow messes to build up. I don't like to tidy as I go. When I do clean, I will do a surface treatment and just shuffle a couple of things around. When it gets bad, when I can't find members of my family anymore, then I know it is time to clean up again.
In contrast to my method of housecleaning is my wife's approach: constant and ongoing. She is always cleaning.
We can apply these principles to our spiritual lives as well. Neglect of our spiritual lives will cause messes to build up. Problems begin to develop, and we begin to reap the consequences of wrong decisions. But if you're constantly working at your relationship with the Lord, then you won't have to worry about messes building up that you'll have to deal with later.
As you look back at 2001, maybe you would honestly say that you have made some mistakes or taken some wrong turns in this narrow road that leads to life. If so, then it's time for some serious housecleaning.
For some, perhaps minor messes have developed here and there, such as a conflict that needs to be resolved, or a situation that should be taken care of. For others, it might be an area that needs some concentrated effort. Whatever the case, now is a good time to take action.
Consider what the Apostle Paul said about his spiritual life: "It is not as though I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me" (Philippians 3:12).
Here is one of the greatest Christians of all time saying that he had not yet attained spiritually. If anyone could have thought of himself as having arrived in some spiritual sense, it would have been the Apostle Paul.
God had used this man to lead countless people to faith, to establish churches, to write epistles, and so much more. Yet, he realized that he had so much to learn and so far to go. He refused to live in the past. He took stock and said, "I press on."
That should be the attitude of every Christian. We cannot rest on our laurels. We must grow spiritually and keep moving forward.
During one of Napolean's military campaigns, a young captain was recommended to him for a promotion. Napoleon said, "Why do you suggest this man in particular?" He was told that it was because of his unusual courage on the battlefield a few days earlier when a victory had been won.
Napoleon responded, "Very good, but what did he do the next day?"
I think the Lord would ask the same thing of us. We may say, "Lord, I did this ten years ago," or, "Yesterday I did this." But what about today? The Christian life is a daily experience. It is not Sunday-to-Sunday; it is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is why Jesus said that if you want to be His disciple, you must take up your cross daily and follow Him.
Let's not live in the past. Instead, let's move forward as believers. As we enter a new year, let's ask God to speak to us about any areas in our lives that need to change. And then, let's start cleaning house.
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.