NEW YEAR, NEW ME
by Shery Abdelmalak
Oh man, this is definitely going to be my year, I can feel it!
*Slightest of inconveniences*
Nah, it’s done, this year will be the worst year, EVER.
Why do we let a point of time determine the quality of our lives? St James warns us of a life of apathy where we become like waves of the ocean, driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6). In Ecclesiastes 1:15, this is described as, “the crooked that cannot be made straight.” The crooked way is described by St Basil the Great as an inclination to stray from the path of salvation, whether that be by excess (e.g. boastfulness) or deficiency (e.g. dejected through humiliation and affliction). On the contrary, to be upright in heart is to direct one’s endeavours toward means of virtue, and not to one’s self.
A common misconception of pursuing one’s spiritual life is that it will be tedious and full of struggles. Yes, it may be hard to start. Yes, it may be extremely confronting, but fear not, these sources of perturbation are alleviated when Christ is truly sought above all else – when He is put above our own egos and our own self-doubts. Put on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:11) that gives us the power to trample over serpents, scorpions and over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). Fr David Shehata reminds us this new year of a crucial consideration; everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose.
There is no reason we cannot fulfil this. Stop making the devil’s job so easy because you refuse to fight your own will, let alone any obstacles the devil may tempt you with. Have a vision with clear reasoning so that when you come to read the Bible, when you come to pray, when you come to serve, it is done with purpose and reflects where you want to see yourself come this time next year. His promises have never changed. He has never changed. Those promises that He gave to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to all the generations that came before you and I are still true. In this world, you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). While this primarily provides comfort, there is a challenge involved. Strive to overcome the world and the hold it has on you.
When Jesus tells us that there will be tribulation, He does not tell us to avoid tribulation or to fight tribulation; He tells us to focus on Him, for He was overcome the world. In modern day psychology, this displays the benefits of positive reinforcement over a fear of negative punishment and associated consequences. Studies have shown children are more likely to continue in good behaviour if this is praised in comparison to punishment of bad behaviour. Punishment results in confidence depletion, with little impact on promoting good behaviour. St Paul uses the same method in his epistles to the early churches. While acknowledging the difficulties the Ephesians faced, he emphasised the following;
“Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”- Ephesians 4:22-24 NKJV
If you are avoiding the vanities of this world, then you are choosing a difficult path that is unlikely to cause any change in behavior. BUT to focus on Christ and to always look toward Him, you will find great difficulty in ever looking back to what once brought you pleasure in the world, if love and purpose is continually renewed in Him.
St John Chrysostom also reiterates this saying, “When the thorns are plucked; the field is still unproductive and will bring forth weeds. Hence, it has to be occupied with what is good. Anger is removed and is replaced by kindness; bitterness is removed to be replaced by compassion; evil speaking and malice are taken away to be replaced by forgiveness.”
In 2018, may we learn to walk in imitation of St Paul;
To walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2)
What else attracts people to Christianity but love? The kind of love that knows no bounds is what we strive for.
To walk in light (Ephesians 5:8-10)
The fruits of the Spirit can only come to the one that is empty of their own ego and filled with Christ. Only in a state of humility will virtues grow.
To walk in wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-17)
To be wise is to make use of your time and recognize that it is finite in nature. The wise do not allow a single day go to waste where they have not sought Christ and entreated Him to reveal Himself, that He may replace our weaknesses with His glory.
And to walk in unity (Ephesians 4:1-3)
As members of the Body of Christ, we are knit together in love. Each to their own role that come together in the beauty of harmony. The early church as described in Acts 4:32 is the perfect example of this; “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” For all clothing, all money, all talents, all wisdom, all skill that you have that could better provide for another, then that is not your own, but theirs. If God has entrusted it to you, then it is so you can serve your brothers and sisters. Do not bury your talents in the sand through boasting. Use these for service and for His glory lest we become like the lazy and wicked servant Jesus spoke of in His parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).