Happy New Year a couple of days early. 2018 is almost over and 2019 is just about here. What makes for a happy new year? A happy new year for a believer is a year in which you follow Jesus closer than you did the year before. A happy new year is a year where you hear God speak and you obey Him better than you have before. A happy new year is a year where you make a bigger impact for God’s Kingdom. The Bible teaches us that every year for the believer should get better and better.
Proverbs 4:18 (ESV) But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
God wants you to shine brighter for Him in 2019 than you did in 2018. But that won’t happen automatically. Each of us has a part to play in how bright our lives shine.
Philippians 3:13b-14 (ESV) But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
As Paul writes here, we must forget the struggles and failures of 2018 and press on in 2019. We press on fulfill God’s purpose for our lives in the New Year. I believe that people fall into three groups with regard to how they approach the New Year. Most people make no meaningful plans for the New Year. So, the New Year will be like the past year or even worse. The next group of people make some resolutions for the new year, but either those resolutions aren’t from God or they don’t follow through on them and so nothing changes. The smallest group of people are those who listen for God’s direction and then follow that direction. They are the ones who truly have a Happy New Year, who make progress on life goals and whose path shines brighter and brighter.
What if our resolutions were not all about ourselves but about what God was calling and empowering us to do in the New Year?
Today, I’ve entitled our message “Listen for Direction.” In the final message in our Christmas Stories series, we’re going to be looking at the most ignored person in the Christmas story, Joseph. We’re going to see how God spoke to Joseph three times and how Joseph obeyed God’s directions.
James 1:5 (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Today, we’re going to learn how to ask God for direction for our New Year. God will give direction and it is simply up to us to follow His direction with His empowerment. So, we must pray and ask God for direction and then we must listen in 3 areas.
The first time that God spoke to Joseph was about his relationship with Mary. Mary had become pregnant and Joseph was considering divorcing her quietly. But God spoke to Joseph.
Matthew 1:20 (ESV) But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
The angel explained that the baby had been conceived, not through a man, but through the Holy Spirit. Yet, God wanted Jesus to be raised on a home with a mother and father who loved Him and who trained Him in God’s ways. So it was important for Joseph to build a marriage relationship with Mary. And Joseph followed God’s direction.
A godly marriage is one of the important foundations to raise children who walk with the Lord, along with a church family. If you are raising children as a single parent, you can do it with the support of your church family. What relationships does God want you to build in the coming year? How does He want you to do it? Ask Him and He’ll tell you. Perhaps you have a …
If you’re married, God wants you to concentrate on building your relationship with your spouse this year. The marriage relationship is foundational to your other relationships.
Ephesians 5:33 (ESV) However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
In this verse, you see that there is something for both the husband and wife to work on. Now as a husband, your resolution would not be to make sure your wife respects you, but it would be to love your wife as yourself. Likewise, a wife’s resolution would not be on how her husband should change, but on how she can grow in respecting her husband. Ask God how you can work on strengthening your marriage in the New Year.
Deuteronomy 6:7 (ESV) You shall teach them [God’s commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
The primary responsibility to teach children in God’s ways rests not with the church, but with the parents. Parents are to teach their children God’s Word from morning to night, at every opportunity. In order to do that, you as parents must know God’s Word and be growing in God. Not only should you teach your children God’s Word. As they grow, you should teach them how to study the Bible and pray for themselves. Each child needs to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask God how He wants you to teach your children and grandchildren in the New Year.
1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
In the Bible, people who are not yet believers are called lost, they are lost to God. How do lost people find Jesus? Someone has to tell them about Him. Why would we want to take the time and make the effort to tell someone about Jesus? First of all because God commands us to do it. Secondly, because we love lost people as Jesus does. We want lost people to discover the wonderful life of a believer and spend eternity with God as well. Ask God how you can share your faith with the lost people in your life. Might be relatives, neighbors, friends or workmates. Listen for relationships to build, marriage, children or lost friends.
After Jesus had been born, Joseph needed further direction from God about the future.
Matthew 2:13 (ESV) Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
This direction was a warning about a danger to avoid. King Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Joseph obeyed immediately, got up in the night, took Mary and Jesus and traveled to Egypt. King Herod had given the command that every baby boy in Bethlehem 2 years and younger should be killed. There was no way that Joseph could have known about the danger without God’s warning.
God warns us of dangers to our physical, emotional and spiritual lives. We must listen to be kept safe by His power.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
God wants us to take care of the bodies that He has created for us, for the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. Things by which we damage our bodies are dangers to avoid. Many popular habits are hazardous to your health, such as overeating, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and lack of exercise. On the positive side, physical exercise and healthy eating contribute to healthy bodies to glorify God with. We honor God and bring His blessing as we take care of our God-given bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Some people are dangerous. The people you hang around with, the friends you have influence you, either for good or bad. God warns us to pass up people who pull you down or away from God. God will show you is there is someone or a group of people who are bad company for you. Sometimes believers think they’re going to hang out with bad company in order to be witnesses to them. Rarely works. Jesus sent out His disciples two by two to be witnesses. If you want to be a witness to some bad company, take along a believing friend. If you’re not sure about someone or some group, ask God to show you whether they are drawing you closer to Him or pulling you away. If the effect is negative, choose to spend less time with them.
In the year 2019, we have more ways to be entertained than in the history of the world. For most of these ways, you don’t even have to leave your own hone. Due to the wonders of the internet and cable television, you can bring any kind of entertainment into the home, both good and bad.
Psalm 101:2b-3 (ESV) I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
To have integrity, you should not watch anything worthless. According to these verses, worthless things are created by those who fall away from God. God wants us to hate worthless entertainment and not set it before our eyes. For if we do watch it, it will cling to us, defile us and draw us away from God. Some entertainment is not really wrong in and of itself, it is just a time-waster, drawing us away from the other things God has for us, such as relationships. Other entertainment is directly defiling and causes our minds to think sinful thoughts. Take control of your television, your phone and your computer. Use blocking technology and accountability software for your family. Listen for dangers to avoid.
The third time that God spoke to Joseph as after the danger had passed. God spoke to him about an opportunity, the place he was to move to.
Matthew 2:19-20 (ESV) But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
Joseph obeyed immediately and went back to Israel. When he arrived, God showed him exactly where to live in the town of Nazareth. Not only are there dangers to avoid in the New Year, there are opportunities to embrace. In order to hear from God about those opportunities, in fact, in order to listen for direction of all kinds, you need to build your relationship with God. The first way is by spending …
Matthew 4:4 (ESV) But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
A believer lives spiritually by feeding on God’s Word. God’s Word is written down for us in the Bible. Yet, the Greek word for “word” in this verse is rhema, which means the word of God directly spoken to us through the Holy Spirit. The rhema word of God will never contradict the logos word of God in the Bible.
As you spend daily time with God reading the Bible and praying to God, God will speak to you His rhema word of direction for your day. As you speak and listen for God’s direction, your relationship with God grows closer and you are better able to hear Him speaking to you. When you do not spend regular time with God, you will be more apt to miss His voice completely or to mistake your own thoughts for God’s voice. I encourage you to spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day of quiet time, reading God’s Word and praying. Most believers can organize their time to spend 30-60 minutes a day with God to see dramatic progress.
Not only do you need personal daily time with God, you need to be part of a …
Christianity is like a team sport, you can’t succeed in it alone, you need a church team to be part of.
Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
There is a disturbing trend across churches in America of people doing exactly what this verse warns against, neglecting to meet together. People now call themselves regular church attenders who come to church once or twice a month. If anything arises that interests them, they do that, rather than come to church. According to this verse, what is lost when believers neglect to meet together. What is lost is the encouragement they would have received and the encouragement they would have given to others. Church is not just about what you get out of it, it’s about what you contribute to it. Make church your top priority and God will bless you.
There are two types of church teams that are essential for spiritual growth. The first is the Sunday service, where we worship, hear from God’s Word, teach children and pray for one another. The second is our weekly small group Bible studies that meet at various times. In those smaller groups, you are able to discuss, ask questions and bring up your prayer requests on a weekly basis. I encourage everyone to become part of a weekly small group in 2019. Listen to God for opportunities to embrace.
Today, we’ve seen how God spoke to Joseph in three areas: relationships, dangers and opportunities. God wants to speak to you in those same three areas with regard to the New Year. Take your outline home and pray over it. Mark the areas that God is giving you direction in. Then ask Him for specific steps that you can take in each of those areas. As you submit yourself and your plans to God, He will direct your steps. You will have a Happy New Year!