How to make a fresh start
How are you going with those New Year’s Resolutions? Apparently only 8% of us ever successfully achieve them. I’ve certainly felt a reluctance to set myself up to fail. But making a fresh start – now that’s a resolution I understand.
Can fresh starts be more successful than annual Resolutions? I’ve been studying a guy called Abraham whom God invited to make a fresh start. Abraham’s experience offers us six do’s and don’ts to guide us should we embrace our own invitation to make a fresh start.
Do – respond to the invitation
One day, out of the blue, God interrupted Abraham’s everyday life in Mesopotamia and invited him to a fresh start in the land of Canaan (modern day Israel). Surprisingly Abraham accepted God’s invitation and he and his clan set out for Canaan. Without Google maps this was a journey into the unknown and required gutsy faith. By accepting God’s invitation Abraham took the first step towards making a life changing fresh start.
Don’t – give up!
The journey ground to a halt when Terah, Abraham’s dad, decided they would settle in Haran. After his dad died Abraham again committed to embracing God’s invitation to a fresh start. Although Terah is the true family patriarch he did not become the patriarch of fresh starts! He gave up, Abraham didn’t! It’s not the only time Abraham got off track. However, he always picked the journey up again. He didn’t give up. Thus it’s Abraham we admire thousands of years later as the model of how to embrace a fresh start with God.
Don’t – wait until we have God sorted
Abraham didn’t know much about God – he probably worshiped idols like his father (Joshua 24:2). So when Abraham responded to God’s invitation he knew very little about this Deity. Abraham’s lack of understanding did not become a barrier to embracing the invitation. The journey itself developed his relationship with God. As Jesus once said, faith as small as a mustard seed is enough.
Don’t – wait until we have ourselves sorted
Abraham messed up quite a few times along the way yet this was not a barrier to God offering him the invitation. Abraham actually successfully arrived in Canaan (Genesis 12:5) but his fresh start journey was not yet complete. When things got tough he failed to rely on God and went further than God had told him to – he headed beyond Canaan to Egypt. And there he created a mess for himself and his wife, Sarah. Fear led him to deceive the Egyptians about the true nature of his relationship with Sarah. Consequently Pharaoh ‘borrowed her’ until he found out! This deception could have ended very badly for Abraham and Sarah.
Remarkably, despite his human flaws Abraham becomes one of God’s favourite people. Not because he was perfect! I suspect his failures forced Abraham’s to embrace an inner journey – one which transformed his character. His fresh start journey required a parallel inner journey that developed the humility, courage and faith he needed to overcome the challenges of embracing a fresh start. God’s invitation is never conditional on us having ourselves sorted before we begin.
Do – set boundaries
The next challenge Abraham faced is that he and his nephew started to quarrel, as did their staff. The same space could no longer support both of their families and livestock. So Abraham set new boundaries. Firstly he faced the fact it was time to create some distance between himself and his nephew. Abraham also set a boundary around how he and his nephew would treat each other – quarrelling was not to be part of their on-going journey. I tend to resort to setting boundaries grumpily, once resentments have built up. But Abraham set his boundaries graciously, generously offering his nephew first dibs on the land.
Do – make bold declarations of faith
Throughout the journey Abraham often boldly professed his trust in God. When he first arrived in Canaan he built a monument to God and took time out to pray (Genesis 12:8); after a big battle he refused to take the plunder declaring he was trusting God for all he needed (Genesis 14:22, 23); and having finally settled in Canaan he participated in a special ceremony with God to celebrate completing his journey (Genesis 15). Audacious professions of faith helped cement his intent and kept him focussed on the journey.
Do’s and Don’ts for our next fresh start
What is true for Abraham is true for us – God invites us to make a fresh start. We can put up barriers or we can allow the invitation to beckon us to greatness! As we ponder the invitation currently in front of us let’s be guided by Abraham’s six do’s and don’ts. Firstly, do accept the invitation. And even if we get off track go back to it – don’t give up. Don’t think we must have a well-defined theology before we can step out with God. And don’t allow a sense of messiness or brokenness be a barrier to a fresh start. Do set boundaries to support the journey; and finally, do boldly profess our growing faith in God. This helps cement our intention to continue the journey.
The invitation awaits us – will we embrace the fresh start being offered to us today?
Abraham’s journey can be traced in Genesis 12 – 15 in the Bible.