One New Year’s Eve a good friend grasped my hand and looked me squarely in the eye. Instead of the usual, jolly “Happy New Year!” greeting, he said warmly and thoughtfully, “Lloyd, I pray that this will be the best year of your life.”
I thought a lot about that affirming wish during the first days of that year. The best year of my life? What would make it so?
How would you respond? What could make this year one of your best, a year with few problems, good health, and the accomplishment of your hopes and dreams? What year in the past would you consider one of your “best years”?
As I think about this, I am amazed to realize that one of the years in the past I would consider a really “best year” was filled with challenges, difficulties, and trouble. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. Unless I miss my guess, you probably would agree that a truly great year of your past was one in which you faced and conquered some seemingly insurmountable odds. You were stretched to grow as a person and were stronger because of the mountains of adversity you succeeded in climbing. From the mountain peak you knew that the climb was worth it. Also, from your new, elevated vantage point you could see new mountains to climb.
Our Best Year
The “best year” of my past was a year in which I made a momentous discovery. The Lord taught me to live in day-tight compartments. The year of my life was made up of great days, each of which I lived to the fullest, as if each were my last. The cumulative result was a year of spiritual power and the growth in the midst of concerns which might have rendered it the worst year of my life.
So, in response to my friend’s hope that I would have one of the best years of my life, I commit myself to living one day at a time, unreservedly open to the blessings the Lord has prepared.
If I were to greet you some morning by saying, “Joyous new day!” you might be startled. I don’t just mean “Good morning” or “Have a nice day,” but “Joyous new day!” This greeting expresses my new outlook. It also expresses my hope for you — that your day would be a new beginning with yesterday’s hurts forgiven and all failures forgotten.
It is true that:
Who bears in mind misfortunes gone
Will live in fear each hour,
The joyous person whose heart is right
Gives no such shadows power.
He bears in mind no haunting past
To vex his life on Monday.
He has no graves within his mind
To visit every Sunday.
Does it ever happen to you? Do you ever find that you begin a new day bogged down with yesterday’s frustrations, fears, or failures? Do you ever get discouraged about unfinished tasks, or have you ever procrastinated about certain projects? Have you ever begun a new day with the feeling, “Oh, well, one more day for a further pile-up of more unfinished tasks”?
Do the challenges of the future ever put a cloud over a new day? Do you often worry so much about what’s ahead that you find it difficult to tackle joyously what’s at hand? A Scots friend of mine has a wonderful motto: “There are two days about which I dinna fret — yesterday and tomorrow!” That leaves today as our only concern.
The more I admit to my own needs and to those of others around me, the more convinced I am that one of the greatest challenges we all have is to be able to pray with Samuel Wilberforce:
So for tomorrow and its needs
I did not pray
But keep me, guide me, love me, Lord,
Just for today.
Down days have a way of accumulating into discouraging months equaling a dreary year. The problem is that these down days become habitual. We soon expect little from a new day and are not surprised when this is exactly what we get.
It’s a shocking realization, but spiritually, nobody is a victim. No one can ruin a day for us without our permission. The one thing we have at our command is our attitude, which is determined by how we deal with what happened yesterday and our level of trust in the Lord for our tomorrows.
As we deal with pressures, difficult people, knotty problems, demanding deadlines, and frustrating situations in any one day, we discover the extent of the effectiveness of our faith. Lofty theories and carefully polished phrases may be fine for theological debates, but what we need is power for the battle of daily living.
The Land of Beginning Again
Louisa Fletcher Tarkington expressed our longing for a new day to be a real new beginning:
I wish that there were some wonderful place
In the Land of Beginning Again:
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door
And never put on again.
To make each new day a new beginning, we need more than zippy admonitions about self-induced “happy thoughts” and self-generated, self-improvement plans. I would not mock your daily struggles with life with more guilt-producing “oughts.” Instead, I want to talk about what the Lord offers and provides to make each day truly a “joyous new day.”
Paul unlocks the secret of daily renewal in
But closer examination of the Greek text indicates that this is more an offer of a gift than an admonition for us to do something. In the present tense, the words mean, “Go on being renewed in the spirit of your mind.” This is a continuous, daily renewal. But the words are also in the passive voice, indicating something which is done to us rather than something we accomplish. In other words, it is the risen, reigning Christ who does something in us and to us to renew the spirit of our minds.
The Spirit of the Mind
Since this daily, continuous renewal comes as a gift of grace, we can examine what Paul meant by the spirit of the mind. The Bible talks about loving the Lord with our whole being. Moses admonished, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” (
Jesus echoed this description with a crucial addition — the mind. He also said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (
Throughout the Bible the mind is the seat of intelligence. Our spirit is the contact point and channel through which we receive the Spirit of Christ into our thinking, our attitude toward life, people, and our outlook on circumstances.
This volitional aspect of our brain may also be implied. We must will to receive the Spirit’s inspiration and interpretation in our thoughts. The renewal of the spirit of the mind means that we are to have our thoughts controlled by the Spirit.
As the mind is the nerve center for all the responses of the body, so, too, the spirit of the mind is the control center of the mind. We do not naturally desire Christ to be Lord of our thinking. Even after conversion, we lapse back into a desire to run our own lives. This is why only Christ can create in us a new openness to Him.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
It is fascinating to note that the Greek words for “do not be conformed” and “be transformed” are also in the passive. Something is done to us. We mustn’t let the world conform us to its values, ideas, and attitudes. Instead, we must allow the transforming power of the Spirit to renew our minds. Then we will be able to think, know, and test what is the Lord’s good, acceptable, and perfect will.
This is possible because of what happens when we become Christians. Paul’s invitation to be renewed in the spirit of our minds is nestled between two affirmations — that the Christians to whom he wrote had put off the old man and had put on the new man.
The renewal of our minds by the Spirit of Christ enables us to claim daily our commitment to Christ and to surrender our old ways of thinking, acting, and responding to life. This is called conversion, which means a new birth, a new beginning.
What is this new nature we put on? In
The process of growing as a Christian is consistently being filled by Christ’s Spirit – becoming ever more like Him each day. Whatever happens around us in any one day creates a greater openness to the fullness of Christ in us for the next day. More of our nature is excavated for the infilling of His Spirit.
You may be wondering what all this means for living each day to the fullest as a “joyous new day.” Simply, Christ offers us a new mind for each new day! As we begin a new day in quiet commitment to Him, He renews our willingness to be captivated by His mind. Within our mind, He assures us of His forgiveness for our yesterdays.
Without His assurance, we cannot live with freedom and delight, making the most of what comes in any one day. With it, He gives us the precious gift of wisdom for the problems we must solve, accepting love for the people with whom we must deal, discernment for the decisions we must make, courage for the stands we must take for truth and righteousness, and strength for the endurance we must have to take the physical drain of serving as His disciples.
So, who is in charge of what we think? The spirit of the mind! You! Yes, you and I make a choice very early in every day that either opens or closes the gates of the flow of Christ’s Spirit into our brain. This is why a definite period of quiet meditation and prayer determines the day ahead. The most strategic moment in this time is that instant when we willingly surrender ourselves to be invaded by Christ anew. He renews us, making us young and viable again.
Often we miss the adventure of a new day. Recently I asked a friend how he was feeling early one morning.
“I’m not sure yet,” he answered. “It’s too early to tell. I’m not awake and I’m not even sure that God is up this early.”
Ah, but He was. In fact, He had never retired. He is the Lord who never slumbers nor sleeps. The night and the day are alike for Him in His constant, consistent, loving care.
New Every Morning
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
The prophet had every reason to be discouraged and to greet a new day with despondency. He wrote these words after the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. His people had been dragged off into exile. Yet, in the midst of his lament over what the rebellious people had done to cause the Lord’s judgment, Jeremiah was seized by a magnificent thought. God’s mercy had not changed. His faithfulness was not diminished. In fact, His mercies and compassion were offered anew with each day for the challenges of each new day.
The awesome thought of indefatigable grace invades our minds. We are called to forget our failures and remember the Lord’s goodness. And what better description of Christ’s presence with us and in us could we have than the mercies and compassions of God?
I believe our thoughts of Him are the result of His prior thought of us. Our thinking of Him and asking Him to guide us through any day is because of His prevenient penetration in the spirit of our minds. Our thinking of Him and our desire to have Him capture and condition our minds are the result of His gracious liberation of our wills.
As He grasps our thinking at the beginning of a new day, He reminds us that we are loved, that He has washed away our sins and failures, and that He is ready to help us maximize the day for His glory and our growth in His grace. He will neither leave us nor forsake us wherever we are in the day ahead. His faithfulness will not be judged by a smooth or easy life. He will be with us in the heat of battle as well as in the delights of life. And in each day begun with confidence we will be able to trust His divine intelligence for our creative work and difficult decisions, as well as His love and acceptance for others in difficult relationships and encounters.
What is the result of a year of days like this? One of the best years of one’s life! More of Christ’s fullness — more of His Spirit, mind, character, attitude, and disposition. John expresses the compilation of a life of years like this in
Until then, we are offered grand days and the best years of our lives. At the beginning of each of these days, as the Spirit of Christ touches the spirit of our mind, we can begin to live the hours of the day, singing:
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
So say it to yourself as you begin tomorrow. Sing it to the people you meet. Most of all, claim it and live it. Joyous new day, indeed!
From Enjoying God by Lloyd Ogilvie. (C) 1989 by Lloyd Ogilvie. Published by Word, Inc., Dallas, TX.