Two years ago, my dad handed out little slips of paper he had prepared, with ten questions.
He encouraged us to take the time and thought to answer Donald Whitney's Questions for a Fruitful New Year on our own, taking a day for each question so we wouldn't be tempted to rush through the list with vague or superficial answers.
I grimaced inwardly when I glanced at the list. These were soul-searching questions which would disturb you, poke you out from your comfort-zone. Questions you couldn't just answer with a yes or no. Tucking it into my Bible, I mentally tucked it away in my mind under the convenient label when I have time. (this label is where we stash all the stuff we know we ought to do, but are too lazy to take the mental energy to plan time for; we call it when I have time, but in reality it's more like 10yearstorage.)
Thankfully, it didn't stay in 10yearstorage till it crumbled into dust. Somehow I discovered the slip of paper (very wrinkled by now) and somehow decided to give it a go. Since then, it's become one of my little routines for transitioning to a new year. The piece of paper is sitting before me now; still hopelessly wrinkled---but this time because it's been well-used, not because it's been tucked away for a year and a day.
I'd like to share those 10 Questions here, in the hopes that you too will be helped by it. Whether or not you end up writing out all the answers, or whether you simply browse through and mull over the thoughts these questions should instinctively arouse in your mind.
Some are deeply personal. Some are wake-up calls.
All of them are specific.
1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
I appreciate that this question came first of all--it was a timely reminder that we need to seek to grow in our joy and love for God. and not only agonize over our spiritual disciplines, our failures, our 'walk'.
Our heart comes first of all.
2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
Sometimes, we get so focused on our spiritual life, our struggles, that we forget to focus on the person of God. We're out of touch with His attributes. We doubt, because we forget He's faithful. We get cynical, because we forget He is powerful. We fear, because we forget He is good.
We need to stop looking only at ourselves, and look up.
3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life?
4. In what spiritual disciplines do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it?
(I think I can hear echoes of the ouch this question stung from me!)
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, make this year different from last year?
The previous questions had forced me, from my comfortably zoomed out view of the year, to a close look at the specific, practical details and actions I needed to take.
Question 8, however, suddenly zoomed me back out to a big picture view with breathless speed.
But this time, having dealt with the practical details that I had previously comfortably blurred out, the year became simpler, clearer. If I had had to answer this question first I would have probably dashed off something generically correct and hopelessly vague, such as 'grow spiritually' (and most likely end up doing nothing about it.)
This time, after having first thought through practical steps in the previous questions, I knew that what I wrote in answer to this question reflected the ultimate outcome I hoped those practical steps would have. That put the whole year into a different perspective. My answer to question 8 was something which tied in with my answers to the other questions--no longer hopelessly vague, but the overall effect, so to speak, of a concrete plan.
9. What 1 thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years--in eternity?
Eternity is a big word.
a quiet voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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