Of all the first days of the months of the year, January 1 carries the greatest burden of all day 1’s. Because January 1 is printed on a calendar with a brand new year, it carries the burden of the perception of new beginnings and fresh starts. With the change of the year comes the idea that January 1 provides opportunity to begin anew. Often our desires and intentions for those new beginnings and fresh starts are verbalized in New Year’s resolutions. The challenge that comes with the average resolution is that instead of it being a firm commitment to do or not to do something, it is simply an expression of a desire or intention for change with no real commitment backing it up. As a result, many, in their pursuit of a successful life live from one January 1 to the next, finishing the year with nothing but broken resolutions to show for their efforts for meaningful change.
There’s a better way to experience the success we’re looking for. The guiding principle behind that way is based on a mindset change which involves this truth. Life lived successfully is a life lived fulfilling our obligations of stewardship. Stewardship is a word rarely, if ever, used in daily conversation and therefore may be foreign to some. But the concept of stewardship is something readily present in our daily lives. According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, stewardship is “the conducting or supervising of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” For example, stewardship is the relationship that my wife Lynne and I have with a man named Kyle who manages our financial assets. Kyle doesn’t own those assets. We do. But we have entrusted those assets into his care with our expectation that in his role as steward of those assets, he will manage them carefully and responsibly for our benefit.
If a life lived successfully is a life lived fulfilling our obligations of stewardship, then that leads to another important conclusion. That means each of us is a steward or manager of assets that belong to someone else. That being the case, who owns those assets? The Bible says God does. In Psalm 24:1(NASB) we’re told, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it.” That means because God created us, we and every asset we have, belong to Him. God’s management plan for the affairs of man is for each of us to be responsible stewards (managers) of the life assets that He has chosen to give us. His expectation is not only that we manage them, but that we manage them in such a way that we achieve the outcomes He desires. Thus, He has tied true life success to how we manage those assets. True success, as defined and measured by God, is based on how well we manage our life assets according to His will such that our lives bring honor and glory to Him as we grow daily in the likeness of Jesus Christ.
In thinking of our stewardship responsibilities, we must be careful not to limit the scope of our God-given assets to just a few. We also must be careful to recognize that none of the assets can be put on autopilot. Each must be managed with careful evaluation and development of action plans to address deficiencies and to enhance those running well. What are some of the assets God has placed in our care? In addition to our financial assets (whether great or small), other assets include our minds, our hearts, our time, our emotions, our moods and “tudes”, our character, our habits, our personal relationships, our bodies and physical health, our faith and spiritual health, our priorities, our talents and spiritual gifts, and our commitments.
When you think about it, that is quite a load of responsibility God has placed on us. How in the world can we possibly know how to successfully manage those assets and more? We learn how from reading God’s management manual – the Bible. In that manual we find this disclaimer in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB) regarding the Bible’s guidance in one’s pursuit of successful living: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” God has not left us in the dark to wander around until we stumble over success. He has gone to great lengths to tell us how to find it in ways that we can understand and accomplish.
To achieve the changes you want for your life in the new year, don’t simply make resolutions consisting of desires and intentions. Instead, commit to the noble calling you have from God to steward successfully the assets He’s given and entrusted to you. If you do, you cannot help but change for the better in 2023.
Jerry Long, Minister of Pastoral Care