This article originally appeared on The Exchange with Ed Stetzer.

When I was pastoring, I would pick a theme that would drive us for the year and then do a mini-series on it. I’ve also observed over the years how many leaders pick a word that speaks to how they want to approach the new year. 

Given the abnormal year 2020 was, I figured it was appropriate to pick three words that describes my themes and approach to 2021. 

New

I love the word new. Who doesn’t like new things? When I think about a new year, or a new day, I’m drawn to Lamentations 3:22–23 that says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” If God’s compassions, or his mercies, are new every morning—what are they every year? If God breathes freshness into every day, I’m pretty sure he provides a fresh canvas for us every year.

For me, I always see each new year like a blank canvas. 

Regardless of what did or did not happen the previous year, 2021 is a new year, with new possibilities, with new opportunities. When I think about new possibilities or opportunities I’m reminded of Isaiah 43:19 where the prophet writes, “See, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Of course, God is talking about the new covenant he will initiate through the Savior. Nevertheless, I believe God is constantly working in us and through us to bring about something new. 

If we are new creations in Christ, and if we are small windows for the world to peek through to see the new creation (kingdom) in which Jesus inaugurated and will one day consummate, then then I’m constantly asking myself what new thing does Jesus want to do in and through me and in and through his church? 

For me, 2021 is the year of new beginnings, new possibilities, and new opportunities.  

Promise

I know people were ready to see 2020 in their rearview mirror. However, not much changed between December 31st 2020 and January 1st, 2021. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Hundreds and thousands are still dying every day from the virus. Our nation is still divided, and we (as a nation) face a lot of uncertainty in 2021. 

In addition, the church in the US is bleeding severely. We are coming off one of the toughest years in our Western history. Our models of church have been disrupted, our metrics of success have been challenged, and our fellowships have been fragmented. 

Needless to say, 2021 will be a rebuilding year. Therefore, 2021 is also a year of promise. As I journey into 2021, I need to rest on the promises of God. 

One of the most important promises God uttered was to Joshua and the disciples. Joshua 1:9 God promised Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Jesus told his disciples at the end of their commission, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

Regardless of what transpires in 2021, God is with me, God will never leave me. I don’t know if 2021 will be better or worse than 2020 from a human perspective. But what I do know is I will not be alone. And not only will I be anchored to the promise of God’s presence, but also to all the other promises he has made.

For me, 2021 is a year to anchor to the promises of God. 

Anticipation

I’m an optimist—mostly. Given what has been said or projected regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, it seems that at some point this year strict restrictions should begin to lift. The dust settling from the COVID-19 pandemic reminds me of the water subsiding from the flood. Could you imagine Noah looking out the window seeing the water levels slowly reside. The lower they become the more he anticipated life after the flood. 

What will life after COVID look like? What will return to normal? What will remain different? Only time will tell…

However, I’m anticipating the day when our church family can be at full capacity. I’m anticipating the day when I can meet with my small group and see the entirety of their face. I’m anticipating the day when I can gather with my co-workers around a meal recounting the faithfulness of God. I’m anticipating the day when my children can return to in-person schooling and sports. 

For me, 2021 is a year of anticipation. 

New, promise, and anticipation—those are my three words for 2021. What’s your word(s)?

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