So we’re already into 2017. We’re going “this year had better be better!” Yet there’s so much that happens that I just can’t control. A wildfire. A downturn in the economy. But then there is stuff that I can control, stuff that I can change. Like how I respond to the wildfire or the economy. My responses are my choice. I know that. I teach that. Hey, it sounds all well and good until you’re the one who looses your job, or it’s your home that’s been damaged or destroyed by the fire, or in my case close to 60 families who have been a part of my church family, leave the city because of the downturn and the fire.
Now as I look back over the last two years, I have learned much from these years and it’s giving me a strong sense of optimism going into 2017. I think it’s the kind of optimism any of us can grab onto as we look forward to this next year. My journey will be quite different than yours, but it’s how we choose to respond to the journey that makes or breaks us.
For myself I’ve been unusually inconsistent these last two years in my resolve to stay focused on key goals. We all have our excuses, and that’s what they are. But so often we allow those excuses to become overwhelming. I know I did.
I entered into 2015 a list of ten personal and church related goals. Okay that is a bit much. I was ambitious. I started really well. But here comes the excuses: 2015 was also the year that the downturn in oil prices began to really do their nasty stuff. I watched as person after person, family after family announced that the economy was forcing them to leave Fort McMurray. Over thirty families left Fort City Church that year mostly due to the economy. My focus was getting sidetracked fast. How can I focus on personal goals with so much mess and mayhem around me?
As the year progressed our church run Daycare was hit by the perfect storm of leadership change and an ongoing struggling economy. It was hell. I was now losing sight of most of those goals. Hey you have excuses too.
When 2016 rolled around, I had made so little progress on my 2015 goals, that I didn’t even attempt any for the new year. And what a year it turned into! By April 30th the Daycare had been shut down. Then came May 3, 2016. Like most, I have a story of evacuating the city from the wildfire. It’s an awesome story of God turning up. Then three months of frenetic activity, serving a city in need, initially from a base set up in Edmonton, and then in partnership with the relief work of Samaritan’s Purse at our church site. Those three months are but a blur.
While the whirlwind did not abate, hope began to powerfully emerge. With the recovery period, sister churches and organizations from across the country had swung into action to ensure that Fort City Church would stand strong as we sought to be a healing presence in our city. As we entered the fall, all of a sudden our church was seeing twice as many people on Sunday as we were two years ago. Who would have imagined?
What happened? Well this week I’m taking some time to reflect on what happened. And I’m prayerfully considering where God is taking my church family and myself in this next year. And as I reflect, I’m in awe to unexpectedly discover that despite being overly ambitious at the start of 2015, 80% of those 2015 goals were met by the end of this year. I hadn’t even noticed!
So what have I learned as I go into 2017:
(1) That taking time to reflect and pray brings perspective.
(2) That goals matter. Even when I was overwhelmed and losing focus, that list of goals stayed with me. They influenced a lot of decision making, even in the middle of the whirlwind.
(3) That goals made prayerfully are goals that God delights to make happen. King David in the Bible nailed it when he said: 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 37:4-5, ESV)
(4) Oh yeah and that, one or two wildly important goals is better than ten!
So as I move into 2017 I’m prayerfully seeking God about the one wildly important goal that if reached will have the greatest impact on my life, the life of my family and the life of my church. With a clear focus on a single target and a little empowerment from the Holy Spirit, 2017 really could be the best year ever.
So how about you? Maybe there’s one goal that you could focus on in this next year that would make all the difference. And if you included God in the process, you could be unbeatable. I’m pretty pumped about what 2017 could mean for you and me.
Doug Doyle is Lead Pastor of Fort City Church. One of his not as important goals is to keep honing his shooting skills to better enjoy his pursuit of wild game as a passionate meat eater! This article also appeared in Fort McMurray Today.