Each January, as we turn the page on the calendar to a new year, along comes New Year's resolutions - a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year. Of course, a new year's resolution can be great! But, all too often, what starts off as a great idea can end up feeling rigid and restrictive and is ultimately ditched after a few months. Instead, consider a different tactic to help you focus with intentionality this year: choose a word of the year.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.”
-2 Timothy 3:16-17
For the past decade, Webster’s dictionary has announced its “word of the year”, spotlighting the most popular (based on page hits, online searches, and user suggestions) word of that year. Not surprisingly, the word of the year typically reflects current events. In a similar fashion, it has become a popular habit for individuals to choose their own word of the year each January as a point of focus for the upcoming year.
As Mount Paran Christian School, we have a particular focus on living and learning through a biblical lens, and choosing a word of the year is no exception. Because they are the touchstones for students and families, the MPCS faculty and staff are charged with prayerfully considering what the Lord may be placing on their hearts as a point of focus each year.
BENEFITS OF A WORD
Choosing a word of the year is a habit that anyone can easily adopt. And, the benefits are plentiful.
Focus - Once you have prayed about and discerned your word for the year, you’ll begin to notice that you hear it everywhere. Not only that, but your word will flow through your thoughts at seemingly random moments, when God knows we need the reminder. These moments may occur when we see a book title and read it because it relates to our word. Other times a sermon or even a social media post will catch our attention with a correlation. In every case, we are drawn toward the Lord with a fresh perspective.
Motivation - Our word will pop up at the most uncomfortable times. It’s easy for us to lose sight of long-term goals, becoming bogged down in the daily stuff. But, small emergencies rob us of our greater purpose, the “tyranny of the urgent.” When we feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to shut down. Big or long-haul goals seem impossible to attain. But, our word of the year grabs our attention again.
God never gives up on us. Neither does He fail to remind us when we’ve made a commitment. Whatever your circumstances, a single word as a theme can and will motivate you. You’ll gain a longer-range spiritual goal and a desire to implement concrete actions to solidify it.
Accountability - The natural progression from focus through motivation leads straight to accountability. Our chosen word hangs like a store sign over our life. Part of the attraction of prayerfully choosing a word for the year is sharing it with friends. As soon as it’s uttered, the deal is sealed. We should not change our word or make excuses. Even if we never share our word with another living soul, God knows, and who can hold us more accountable than God?
Remembering that we’re held accountable to God for every detail of our life ought to be natural, but it isn’t. Selective memory is real. But, we are much less likely to block God out of our mind when we’ve committed it to Him with a word.
Choosing a word of the year can help you focus, stay motivated, and be accountable. Here are a few steps to get you started.
Seek God. No one knows your future better than the One who is already there. He is the only secure source of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6-9). Let Him place a word for this year on your heart.
Reflect on the past year. God prepares the soil of your life to harvest fruit in the next season. Where have you been over the last year? What struggles have you faced? What lessons have you learned? In what areas did you invest your time? Were there any life-changing events? Where did you excel? Any missed opportunities? As you ponder the past year, write down words or phrases that surface.
Search the Scriptures. Take your time here. Pray over each word and verse where God leads you, remembering His word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path (Psalms 119:105).
Anchor it with a verse. Once the Lord has selected your word, find an anchor verse – a verse that resonates with your word. Because God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11), this step is a critical part of living it out.
Commit. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans (Proverbs 16:5). He establishes our plans as we commit them to Him. Some ways to commit can include keeping a journal, memorizing your anchor verse so it becomes second nature, and writing out all other verses related to your word. Ponder how this word applies to all areas of your life.
Share. While your word is “yours”, it is most likely to affect those around you, share what God is doing in your life.
When we realize the powerful benefits of a theme word, we can employ this tool as both a beneficial and enjoyable means to a spiritually profitable end. So what will your word be this year?
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