Doug Phillips of Vision Forum had a great email recommending three things to do at the end of every year. Three of the most important things we can do, Doug says, is record, thank, and forgive! Here are some selected portions from Doug’s email
1. Chronicle God’s Providences
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. ” (Psalm 77:11, ESV)
First, using simple bullet points, outline the key events for every week of every month of the year. Take the time to do the research which will help jog your memory and allow you to make an accurate record. I find that reviewing bills, blogs, journals, newspaper headlines, letters, and even organizing my photographs chronologically are enormously helpful tools. Those individuals who were faithful to journal or keep a diary will have little problem reconstructing key events. Give yourself a good week to reconstruct your own outline of the year.
2. Say “Thank You” to those who have invested in your life
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, ” (Ephesians 1:16, ESV)
“Before the year ends, make a list of two types of people: The first list are the names of people whose life, ministry, or personal investment in you have deeply touched you and changed your life. (In my case, the list includes parents, pastors, and even some teachers from the early years of my Christian walk that I did not meet until much later in my life, but whose books and tapes were crucial to my personal discipleship as a young Christian.) The second list should include those people who played the most significant role in your life in 2010.
Write a brief, meaningful letter to each of them. Be specific in your gratitude. Explain what they did for you and why it was important to you. Show them how they were God’s instrument of blessing in your own life. Pray over each letter, asking God to grant you rich insights on the character qualities of each individual and on the way those qualities changed your own life. . . . You cannot imagine the joy this will give to someone from your past who may think you have forgotten them. Give generously and without concern for getting a tax deduction. I strongly recommend sending money to your parents. Keep in mind that you will never be able to return their personal and financial investment in your life, except through your testimony of faithfulness, covenant keeping, and honor to the Lord.”
3. Forgive those who have wronged you
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ” (Romans 12:19–21, ESV)
In the course of a year, it is possible to build up many offenses and personal grievances at others. Left unaddressed, these grievances fester and grow. They turn the heart black and the body weak. They foster a spirit of vengeance and misguided self-righteousness. The short of it is this: Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Bitterness curdles the mind and the spirit.
Fresh starts and new years should begin with forgiveness for others. Having a genuine spirit of forgiveness towards those who have wronged us is a mark of biblical Christianity. It is an evidence that we have been redeemed, and that we are praying lawfully: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Bitterness comes from being unwilling to forgive. Bitter people are small people. They are unsuccessful people. They are people who cannot move forward. They are people who believe that the personal wrongs against them are so great that they — the offended — are entitled to do to their offenders what they pray the Lord Jesus Christ will never do to them: refuse to forgive.
Here is my recommendation: Think through every grief, minor and major, caused by others to you in the year 2010. Now add to the list any other personal offenses that continue to linger from past years. Write these down as bullets on a sheet of paper.
The first thing you will likely realize is just how many offenses are polluting your thought life and, probably, your spirit. This is a sign of latent bitterness. Bitterness will kill you. It renders you completely ineffective.
Now prayerfully walk through the list — bullet, by bullet. With each offense, remind yourself that the most despicable action taken against you by another utterly (and infinitely) pales in comparison to the least of your offenses against the Lord Jesus Christ.
And yet He has forgiven you.
Before 2011 begins, adopt a spirit of forgiveness towards your insensitive friends as well as your hateful enemies. Forgive your imperfect father for whatever it is you need to forgive him for (and pray to the Lord that your own children someday forgive you for your failures). Quit devoting untold precious hours to commiseration, mental replay of the wrongs done, and thoughts about just how badly you were wronged. Stop blaming everybody but you for your problems. Look to yourself. Once you start chronicling your own sinful attitudes and crimes against God and man, you simply won’t have time to worry about the wrongs done to you. You will stop being bitter, and you will start being thankful.
Wipe the slate clean. “Press on.” Forgive.
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