For the past decade, I have participated in a seemingly small discipline that has greatly changed my life. In December, I begin asking God for one word that he would like for me to concentrate on as the theme for the coming year. Sometimes the word has come randomly, like an inner voice making an interruption in the middle of my ordinary day. Other years, I seem to become very aware of a word, seeing it over and over again everywhere I go. Most often, I will find the word in a scripture that I am particularly meditating on at the time. Whatever the method, God always seems to make the word very evident before the coming new year. Here are some of the benefits I’ve experienced from this practice.
There are so many good endeavors, so many quality life-changes to be made that sometimes it can be overwhelming. I’ve found that if I empower my goals by meditating on that one Spirit-given word I am much more likely to accomplish them. Conversely, if I scatter a bunch of goals aimlessly with no specific target in mind, I struggle almost before I start.
Martha found this to be a struggle too. She was in a flurry of activity, all of it good, but missed what was most important. Luke tells us in Luke 10:40-42a, “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.’”
One of the biggest things I learned in my experience as the executive director of a small nonprofit is how important it is to be missional. Having a specific mission in mind helps to filter out all of the “good things” in order to choose the best thing as is pictured in the above scriptural text. If I trust that God has given me direction through my “one word,” then I can trust that I can use it as a filter to determine my goals and plans for the year. Staying on point and in mission really helps strategic planning for the future because it decides what the priorities are at any given moment.
Silencing the voices, ideas and manic opportunities around us, helps us to center and sit at Jesus’ feet the way Mary, Martha’s sister did. We are able to hear God’s voice more clearly when we focus on ridding ourselves of the chorus of voices both inside and around us.
I Corinthians 2:16b in the Amplified Bible states, “But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.” As we trust God to lead us to his priority for our life, we can have the confidence that we are being led by his purpose for us rather than our own. We are allowing him to create his mind in us and for us and he is able to do more than we can imagine when we surrender to him!
Life coaches and productivity experts agree that multitasking is not where productivity is found. In fact, studies show that when we are able to focus on one task or problem at a time our success increases exponentially. Focusing on one problem to solve or task to complete without interruption allows for creativity and outside the box solutions.
Perhaps you aren’t used to asking God for something so specific. Allowing God to speak to you in such a direct way is a learning experience and fulfilling in itself. God promises that if we seek him, we will find him, when we seek him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). After I’ve determined the word I will focus on through prayer, I often make a “mind map” with my word in the center and several aspects of my life as offshoot bullet points. I ask myself how that word could affect that part of my life in the next year and write a thought or two. As time goes on throughout the year, I can look back and measure those goals and continue to plan still filtering through my “one word”.
God works in different ways for different people. I am not at all saying that this strategy is for everyone. I only know that it has really helped me in every area of my life. No matter how you go about setting goals, keeping God and his will for your life should always be at the center. You can trust that he will lead you and guide you perfectly for your personality.
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster