Facebook created an app called “Year in review” with which users can view a pictorial representation of their activities through the year—for those who duplicate some of their real life events on facebook. Many of my facebook friends made use of the application to share their “year in reveiew”. Unknown to the creators of the application, the application wouldn’t go down well with some because it reminded them of some events that caused them some depression in the cause of the year. But hey! Life goes on. Some chapters are dark while others are bright. And we’re all hopeful that the future will bring brighter days, that’s why those who hang in there do so. As they say, when life gives you lemons, make a lemonade.
We don’t always have control over everything that happens to us in life, but in many cases, making right decisions could go a long way in determining whether we make lemonade with the lemons of life or whether the lemons of life squirts you in the eye. It is good to examine how we’ve faired with our lives in the past year, it doesn’t mean we should stop at brooding over bad choices or rejoicing over good choices, it means information from the past helps us to move forward, better equipped by our experiences. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle, it is traditionally believed that you must fall while learning and the bruises helps you gain balance.
When we look back at our lives, the past year, some wish they could re-write some stories. They wish they could have decided differently on some things, especially when the consequences have been unfavourable; were they favourable, whether the decisions are good or bad, they may repeat them in the year(s) ahead in which case, the consequence may turn out unfavourable. Thus, what should be our yardstick for measuring whether we have made good or bad decisions in the past year is not the consequence of our action but the righteousness of our actions.
It is good to take inventory of our time, money and talents. Our behaviours, jobs and business; our physical and spiritual health; and how well we have fared even in voluntary duties, because whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Ellen White writes:
Another year has almost passed into eternity…. Let us review the record of the year that so soon will be past. What advancement have we made in Christian experience? Our work—have we so done it that it will bear the inspection of the Master, who has given to every man work according to his several ability? Will it be consumed as hay, wood, and stubble, unworthy of preservation? or will it stand the trial by fire? …
Is our earthly, temporal work done with a thoroughness, a fidelity, that will bear scrutiny? Are there those whom we have wronged who will testify against us in the day of God? If so, the record has passed up to heaven, and we shall meet it again. We are to work for the great Taskmaster’s eye, whether our painstaking efforts are seen and appreciated by men or not. No man, woman, nor child can acceptably serve God with neglectful, haphazard, sham work, whether it be secular or religious service. The true Christian will have an eye single to the glory of God in all things, encouraging his purposes and strengthening his principles with this thought, “I do this for Christ.”[i]
It is important to take inventory of our lives because when we do, we have the chance to examine our successes and failures. In the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 lies an important principle which we must adopt. Christ said to them “You pay tithes of mint and anise and cummins, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone”. Here we can find the principle that the things in which we have failed should not also have been left undone, but the good news is that the New Year presents us another chance to press on and not to justify our failure or be satisfied with our successes but to aim at doing better. The Apostle Paul said “I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14,15).
The Psalmist prays, “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Taking inventory of our lives in the past year or years is aimed at making us wiser and not headstrong or discouraged. We must make use of valuable information from therein in order to forge ahead by doing things differently and better.
When we take inventory, it should help us to know where to start off next year after learning from the mistakes of the past. After the death of Uzzah—the man who touched the ark of God and died—David retraced his steps. He said to the Levites “You are the heads of the father’s houses of the Levites, sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult him about the proper order” (1 Chronicles 15:12, 13). David realized that he did not do things after the proper order, and that was the cause of their failure, thus from the next verse, he started taking the appropriate steps. So should we as we move forward. Are there things in which we have failed, if you have not done it after the proper order, then, like David, God has presented you with another chance to do it right. He does not wish that any should perish but that all come to repentance.
When we take inventory, and we see our failure and successes and shortcomings, therein lies an opportunity to give thanks to God for a privilege to set things straight. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). We must give thanks to God for the things He has helped us to accomplish in the past years and for the opportunity of doing more. It’s a time of thanksgiving, we will do well not to leave that out.
As representatives of Christ, He wants us to advance and not remain stagnant, and we must not let any such opportunity pass us by. Ellen White writes:
Every provision has been made that we may attain a height of stature in Christ Jesus that will meet the divine standard. God is not pleased with His representatives if they are content to be dwarfs when they might grow up to the full stature of men and women in Christ. He wants you to have height and breadth in Christian experience. He wants you to have great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, and lofty purposes of action. Every passing year should increase the soul’s yearning for purity and perfection of Christian character. And if this knowledge increases day by day, month by month, year by year, it will not be work consumed as hay, wood, and stubble; but it will be laying on the foundation stone, gold, silver, and precious stones—works that are not perishable, but which will stand the fires of the last day.[ii]
In attempting to make changes, let us remember the golden words of Jesus in John 15:5. He said “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without me, you can do nothing.”
[i] Ellen G. White, Our High Calling, Washington D.C, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1961. P.369