The prospect of a new year brings hope for positive change. Many will make resolutions, but what is the real key to change? Psalm 1:1-3 provides an answer:
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
There is a blessing and there are specific promises in this well-known text of Scripture. All are conditional and based on two major expressions of faith.
First, guard yourself from detrimental influences. This is a matter of faith that God knows what is best for us. We must guard ourselves from ungodly philosophy that counsels against God’s wisdom, sinful practice that runs contrary to God’s way, and scorning attitudes that despise God and His truth.
Second, let yourself be guided by divine influences. This also is a matter of faith in God. The psalmist delighted in God’s words because he delighted in the Lord Himself. He said, “Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words” (Psalm 119:57). He delighted in God’s truth so much so that he meditated on it.
Delight in the Lord, and therefore, delight in His Word. Thankfully, we can ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes that we may behold God’s wondrous truth (Psalm 119:18). As we meditate and ponder God’s words, the Spirit illuminates the truth and teaches us the grand realities of truth connected to the words. In so doing we meet with the Living Word.
These expressions of faith in both guarding and guiding have blessed promises attached to them. The first promise is to flourish like a tree, planted by ample water, that bears fruit in regular seasons. The second promise is to not dry up, and the third is to prosper. Whatever he does will prosper. What amazing hope for a new year!
When I was a boy, I remember my father as a faithful shepherd encouraging our church to read the Bible through in a year. As a fifth grader I accepted the challenge and began my reading of the Word of God. There are other ways to approach a devotional time with the Lord, but if you are not presently in the Word, reading the Bible on a year-long plan is a practical way to start. If this seems a bit daunting, you could start with just the New Testament. With 365 days to work with and only 260 New Testament chapters, you could split a few of the longer chapters in the Gospels into two readings. If the truth of a given chapter strikes you, you could take the time to read it again a second day, meditate further on the matter, and still be on pace to easily finish the entire New Testament within the year.
Remember, the issue is not the ritual of having your “devotions,” but rather delighting in the Lord and cultivating a rich relationship with Him.
Why not express faith in God based on Psalm 1:1-3? Doubtless, there are many ungodly influences, but there is also the reality of readily available divine influence. Trust in God by guarding yourself from harmful influences and letting yourself be guided by the enriching influence of the divine. Seek the Lord. Delight in His Word. Follow with commitment the practical plan the Spirit leads you to apply, and you will be blessed. God says so!
John Van Gelderen