PROGRAM – W-1709
Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions for 2018? Lots of people use the beginning of a new year to set some goals and make some changes—which can be a very good thing. But for me, most of my new year’s resolutions peter out by mid-January or so!
There’s one thing I’ve been doing for a few years which doesn’t fade quickly, and that is to choose one word for the new year as a theme—a goal or an area in my life that I want to grow in. I first got started in this practice after I read the book, My One Word, by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. I highly recommend this book, and I will be sharing some from the book as well.
The subtitle for the book, My One Word, is “Change your life with just one word.” You may be thinking, How can one word change my life? I admit it sounds like a bit of an overstatement, but words have power. When you look at the 29 times that words are referred to in Proverbs, you will see that words can be perverse and seductive, and they can ensnare you and pierce you like a sword. On the other hand, words can be wise and insightful, they can be just and pure, they can bring healing and comfort, and they can be gracious and sweet. Words have the power of life and death.
So, choosing a word—the right word—to focus on for an entire year can indeed effect personal change and spiritual formation in your life. It’s not a self-help program; it’s a way to change your thought life—to see things through God’s eyes. When you and I become truly focused on changing our attitudes and our thought patterns, then we open ourselves to wonderful changes by the power of God’s Spirit.
How do you choose your one word for 2018? First, think about some things you would like to change about yourself. For example, patience might be an area where you know you need improvement. Perhaps it’s discernment—that was one of my words in the past, as I recognized that I am not naturally a discerning person. Another example you might choose is a word that exemplifies areas where you want to grow, such as wisdom or thankfulness. As you think and pray about what your one word will be for 2018, you will be amazed at how that process will lead you to the right word for you.
Here is an example, from the book, of a word that someone chose:
My word for the year is PAUSE. In my busy life there are so many times I need to pause. Pause to remember these days, for they will fly by so quickly. Pause to say yes. . . and no. Pause to give thanks. Pause before I speak in anger, judgment, or criticism. Pause to say I’m sorry. Pause to dwell on God’s goodness and mercy.
What a great word to choose for 2018. Do you see how many areas of your life could be dramatically affected if you focused on the word pause for one year? To focus on your one word means that you are going to pray about it regularly—daily—and seek God’s power to effect the changes he wants to make in your life through that word. Then, do a search in the Bible for passages that relate to your one word.
For example, if pause were your word, some verses you might choose are as follows:
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1
“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” Psalm 116:7
I would recommend that after you choose your one word, you begin a journal of how God is using that one word in your life. Keep track of all the verses that come to you throughout the year as a reminder of what that one word means for your life. If you seriously commit to focusing on that one word, praying it into your life, and asking God to empower you to make it a reality in your life, you will be amazed at how that one word will truly change your life.
Here’s what another woman wrote about her one word:
I am an intensely shy person. I avoid confrontation at all costs. And I only share my faith when it happens into a conversation. The idea of BOLDNESS, of being a truly bold Christian, is seriously out of my comfort zone. But it seems that this is God’s challenge for me this year. I am to actively pursue boldness and be transformed in the process. So here I go—man, this is intimidating!
This is an example of choosing a word that challenges you in areas that push you out of your comfort zone and teach you to trust God in new ways. God might put this kind of word on your heart—something that even frightens you—but you know God wants to do a new work in you in that area. For example, that word might be boundaries, where you recognize your weakness in setting appropriate boundaries in your life. This often requires some confrontation, but if you recognize your reticence and fear of setting good boundaries, that would be a great word for you in 2018—and by God’s grace, it could truly be life-changing for you.
Your one word might be a word of vision—a word that sets a goal and a vision for you to work toward. From the book My One Word, here is an example of how one woman chose the word integrity, her word of vision for the year. She wrote the following:
I am a radio personality, a writer, director, and producer. My one word is INTEGRITY. Integrity refers to the quality of a person’s character at the core of their being. Integrity, for me, is one of the hardest words to live by, especially in the entertainment business. Striving for integrity reminds me to live by God’s standards, not the media’s. I want to live every day by my one word.
Living every day by her one word is the vision God gave her as she chose one word for the year. That’s the way this practice of choosing one word for the year can truly make a difference in your life—when you sincerely desire to live every day by that one word.
For example, a visionary word might be purity, where you choose to live every day by God’s standards of purity. That would affect many parts of your life—including purity of speech, purity of lifestyle, purity of motivations.
Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” Maybe this is an area where you struggle—to have purity of thought and lifestyle. If so, can you see how choosing this one word could help you attain your goal of living a pure life in 2018? It can be a life-changing word.
Here’s one more example from the book:
My word is TRUST. I have subtle fears that were almost impossible to see until God pulled back the veil and showed me. They’re small fears that I’ve ignored or not recognized before, but now I can see the areas where I lacked trust in the Lord. This revelation rocked me completely, but it is so amazing to see the Lord working! I am giving him these areas bit by bit, and his Holy Spirit is speaking to me and leading me. I also have started journaling. What an awesome thing!
It is an awesome thing to see how God uses this simple practice to focus you on an area where you need to grow spiritually—and it’s exciting to see the changes that happen. I think it’s interesting to learn how God led this person to a word that revealed areas of fear that she never really recognized before. Just a simple word—trust—that proved to be so powerful in her life to set her free from fears and give her new freedom in Christ. That’s how choosing one word for an entire year can truly make a difference.
Let me share my one word for 2018. It is gentleness. I am not by nature a gentle person—I tend to be very direct and unsympathetic toward others who are different from me. I want 2018 to be a year where I live every day remembering to be gentle. Gentle in the words I choose; gentle in my attitudes toward others; gentle in my actions and even in my body language!
Philippians 4:5 is my verse for the year: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” It’s listed in Galatians 5 as a fruit of the Spirit, and in Colossians 5 we are admonished to clothe ourselves with gentleness—to put on gentleness. That’s my one word for 2018.
Putting it out there is a bit risky, isn’t it? It means I can and should be held accountable to being gentle. I encourage you not only to choose your one word, but to let others know what it is. I print my one word along with the verse that I’ve chosen in large letters, make several copies and laminate them, and then put them around me where I can see them often.
As I suggested earlier, a good idea is to keep a journal focused on your one word. You’ll be surprised how often, as you read your Bible, your one word will jump off the page and remind you to keep that word in your mind. Putting it in writing is such a good way to remember what God has shown you, and what has inspired you and encouraged you.
I’d love to hear what you have chosen as your one word for 2018. You can communicate with us through our website, or by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will get to me personally, and I’d love to hear about your one word for 2018. I hope you’ll take this challenge because I believe you’ll see how profitable it is in your life—then you’ll want to do it every year. It’s much better than a New Year’s resolution!