On February 24, 1584, Pope Gregory VIII (1105-1187) signed a papal decree that the Christian world would accept the new Gregorian calendar. The motivation behind the Gregorian calendar was the Julian calendar, which assumes that the earth takes 365.25 days to circle the sun. The days are divided into twelve months. The months are divided into weeks and the weeks, days. An extra day is added every four years. We call those years “Leap Year.” According to the Gregorian calendar the new year begins on the first day of January.
The new year is celebrated around the world. Can you name any other holiday that the world, in its entirety, has embraced more than New Years? Did you know Sydney, Australia celebrates the New Year by exploding 80,000 fireworks for an estimated crowd of 1.5 million at the stroke of midnight? In Valparaiso, Chile two million come to see fireworks explode. In England, everyone gathers at the London Eye to watch fireworks as Big Ben strikes midnight. In New York City, a crystal ball is dropped in a one-minute countdown in Times Square. In Rio de Janeiro two million people gather on the famous Copacabana Beach to watch a fifteen-minute fireworks display. Edinburgh, Scotland hosts the world’s largest Hogmanay events to celebrate the New Year. It lasts four days. Finally, in Central America New Year’s events are scheduled throughout the entire month of January. Can I ask you a simple question?
Why do so many people get excited about New Years? The world does not celebrate any other day on the calendar like New Year’s Day. Why January 1? Just think about it. There is nothing special about March 1. We barely notice it. No one cares about August 1. The world does not notice the coming of November 1. December 1 is lost in the Christmas season. What is it that makes January 1 so special? Why do so many people get excited about a New Year? If you surveyed the worldwide crowd, then you would discover there are several reasons why people celebrate the New Year.
Some celebrate the New Year because they will celebrate anything. This group is always ready to party. It really doesn’t matter the event. They are the same people who pretend to be Irish and celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. They are the same people who pretend to have Mexican roots and celebrate Cinco De Mayo. They are the same group that celebrates Thirsty Thursday. For this group any reason is a good reason to party, so why not celebrate New Year’s Day? Some celebrate the New Year because they will celebrate anything. Are you in this group?
Some celebrate the New Year because they are glad to see the old year end. For many, 2022 was a difficult year. It was the year you lost your job. It was the year you lost a loved one. It was the year you lost your good health. It was just a bad year, so you are glad to see it go. It is my experience every year was filled with both the good and the bad. For example, in 2021, my daughter got married and I had major surgery. Perhaps, it is just human nature, but I reflex more on the hardships of that year. Some celebrate the New Year because they are glad to see the old year end. Are you in this group?
Some celebrate the New Year because they need a new start. I am in this group. Do you feel like you need a brand-new start? I have not owned a paper calendar for years, but my wife does. Annually, she will walk in the door and show me the new calendar. Her old calendar is faded and warn but your new calendar is clear and crisp. Each day is empty and filled with possibilities. What do you want to do in 2023? What do you want to do better in 2023? We make New Year’s resolutions because we know we can do better. We know we can do better physically, so we are going to exercise and lose weight. We can do better intellectually, so we are read more and watch less television. We know we can do better with our relationships, so we are going to more time with our loved ones. We know we can do better spiritually, so we are going to spend more time with God. There is no better time to improve yourself then right now. That takes us to our scripture reading.
We are instructed today from the first nine verses from third chapter of Ecclesiastes. It was written by King Solomon. He will always be remembered as a man of wisdom. Some have questioned that because he had 700 wives. (One is enough for me!) He reminds us to live life in balance. It is true in every aspect of your life, including your spiritual life. You cannot just live alone. You must live your life with God. Solomon understood, individuals who live their lives without God are fools. Afterall, our time in this world is very short. So, this is the question.
Is your spiritual life in balance? In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quotes, Deuteronomy 8:3. It says, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Our world has a surplus of people who are living spiritually out of balance. There is a time to do the things of this world and a time to do the things of God. How much time do you spend doing secular things? (Working, paying bills, cleaning the house) How much time do you spend with God? (Worship, devotion, prayer) King Solomon believed mankind is basically blind to God’s ways. We spend our days chasing after things that really don’t matter. How many meaningless things are going to fill your calendar in 2023? How much time are you going to give God this year?
Today, my goal is to help you live more spiritually balanced lives. I am going to do that by doing two things. First, I am going to remind you of something you must never forget. Second, I am going to challenge you to do something that maybe unique to you. Remember, our goal is to live spiritually balanced lives. There is a time for the things of this world and there is a time for God.
First, if you want to live a spiritual balanced life then I want to remind you that you are a child of God. That is easy to forget in our world. We are so busy running around; we are so busy dealing with life’s problems and challenges. Never forget, you belong to God. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “The purpose of life is to glorify God.” In Romans 14:8 Paul says, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Never forget that you are a child of God. Is the way that you live bringing glory to God?
On September 3, 1967, the old television game show “What’s My Line?” went off the air. It had been a staple on CBS for seventeen years, airing 867 episodes. Do you remember What’ s My Line? If you do, then you have been watching television for fifty-five years! Do you remember how the game was played? What’s My Line was a guessing game. The panel would ask the guest ten “yes” and “no” questions. They were trying to discover their vocation. At the end of the questions the panelists would guess what the guest did for a living. In seventeen years, the country discovered there were many odd vocations and many people who did not stereotypically look like their vocation. So let me ask you the question.
So, what is your line? You can earn money in many ways. You may be a teacher, preacher, librarian, engineer, secretary, or a person of business. Those are ways to earn money, but they are not your primary purpose in life. Your job is only a part that you play in this world. It is how you pay the bills. However, what you really are is a child of God. If you are going to live a balanced life, both secularly and spiritually, then never forget your true purpose, to glorify God. Does your life bring glory to God? Or do you have some work to do?
Second, if you want to live a balanced spiritual life then I challenge you to develop a plan to help you grow spiritually. In other words, I want you to schedule God into your life. I hope you make God a real priority in your life. There should be a time for service and a time for the spiritual disciplines. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) once said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan?” What is your plan to grow spiritually in 2022?
Years ago, I preached through the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Do you remember his story? He went back to the city of Jerusalem. The city at that point in history laid in ruins. Nehemiah dreamed of building a wall around the city so he could rebuild it. Along the way we learned that he was both a visionary and a leader. We learned he was detail oriented. Do you remember? He had a plan. He knew the length of the completed wall. He knew the height of the completed wall. He knew the thickness of the completed wall. Based on those facts he knew the resources he needed to complete the wall. Having a plan does mean you don’t trust God. Having a plan simply means you going to do your best for God.
What is your plan to grow spiritually in 2023? Maybe one of the reasons you aren’t growing in the faith is that you don’t have a plan? How much time are you planning on giving God this year? Are you going to read the Bible more? Are you going to pray more this year? Are you going to mediate more this year? Have you scheduled God into your life, or doesn’t God fit into your plans for this year? What is your plan to grow spiritually in 2023? Let me end with these random facts.
Did you know the first electric light was so dim that a candle was needed to see its socket? Did you know the first steamboat took 32 hours to chug its way from New York to Albany, 150 miles? Did you know Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first airplane flight lasted only 12 seconds? Did you know the first automobiles traveled 2 to 4 miles per hour and broke down often? Carriages would pass them with their passengers shouting, “Get a horse!” What do those stories teach us? They teach us one thing. How you begin really doesn’t matter. What matters more is how you end.
How are going to end 2023? Are you going to be closer to God then you are at this moment? The great wise one, Solomon, said mankind is basically blind to God’s meaning for man’s existence. We spend our days chasing after things that really don’t matter. Life is meant to be lived in perfect balance! Is your life in perfect balance between the secular and the spiritual? Or do you have some work to do. Now is the time to begin.