Sunday, January 14, 2001

New year brings new opportunities for personal growth

Religion Columnist

The savvy, knowledgeable experts of our American advertising industry understand the impact of key words in generating sales.

Can you guess their favorite word used most often in advertising campaigns? It's not sale. The single, most powerful word used to get consumer's attention is the little word new.

How many times have we heard about a product being "new and improved?" That phrase gets our attention, doesn't it? We like the sound of something new. We feel a sense of hope that this year will bring new opportunities and new blessings.

The beginning of a new year is a good time to take stock of our lives and to take inventory of where we are at this age and stage of our lives. How are we doing? What kind of progress are we making personally, professionally, spiritually and physically? To what do we need to give more attention? What spiritual goals do we need to set this year?

I like the sense of freshness that a new year brings. It's as if we've been given a gift of 365 brand new days to use or to lose. We have been granted 8,760 hours and 525,000 minutes. They fly by one tick at a time, but they do fly. How will we use them?

A disgruntled man stormed into the newspaper office and said, "I want to see the guy in charge of obituaries." The clerk pointed to a rookie reporter and said, "over there."

The guy went over and said, "Young man, I want you to know that my name appeared in your obituary column, and as you can see, I'm as alive as you are. I want you to do something about this mistake. I want you to print a retraction in tomorrow's paper."

The young reporter looked at him and replied, "Sir, we don't print retractions in the obituary column, but let me tell you what I'll do. I'll put you in tomorrow's birth column, and you can start all over."

Wouldn't it be great if we really could start all over?

In a sense, spiritually you can when you come to God in repentance, confess your sin (admit you blew it) and ask forgiveness, and then accept God's forgiveness (see I John 1:9). When He forgives, it's as if you receive a clean slate, at least from God's perspective.

What areas need work in your life? What resolutions are you making for the new year? Most of us don't do too well on our resolutions because we're creatures of habit and we really don't like to change. Change takes too much energy and we just don't want to pay the price.

I heard about two fishermen who went fishing in Alaska. The two went out on a frozen lake, cut a hole in the ice, sat down on a stool, baited their hooks and dropped them into the frigid water. They did this for three days straight, putting up with unmerciful wind chills. One fisherman pulled in fish after fish. The other did not get even a nibble. At the end of the third day, the one turned to the other who had been so successful and stated, "Here we are within two feet of each other with the same size hole, using the same equipment, and exactly the same bait. Yet, you're catching fish and I'm not. What is the secret?

The successful fisherman said, as he pulled a worm out of his mouth: "you have to keep the worms warm!" Here was a man who understood a basic principle in life: to succeed in any endeavor, you have to be willing to pay the price!

Set your resolutions, make your plans and put your goals into place, but be sure you're really willing to expend the energy to make positive change occur in your life. And, by the way, Happy New Year!

The Rev. Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga.

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