Doing things differently in 2023

Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

My son Matthew and I enjoy walking together. On one occasion we were climbing ‘Pigeon Rock’ in the Mournes. We had experienced real difficulties getting onto the normal path, which was submerged in water. Everywhere was waterlogged (as the accompanying photograph shows). Finally, we found a route across the river, got onto the path further up and made it to the old quarry. The view was fabulous. It was worth every ounce of frustrating effort.

On the descent, I suggested we try a similar route home, one that I had earlier dismissed. In words often attributed to Einstein, my son replied, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Wise words that I needed to hear and heed! And, a pair of soggy feet and a pair of knee-less trousers later, I realised that I should have taken his sage and astute advice!

Our expedition got me thinking…this year, will we do the same things, make the same mistakes as last year and hope, somehow, for different results? Do you think that if you cross your fingers, touch wood, hope for the best, or whatever your mantra may be, things will turn out better this time around?

View from a wet and boggy Pigeon Rock Mountain
View from a wet and boggy Pigeon Rock Mountain
View from a wet and boggy Pigeon Rock Mountain

For example, will you continue to live your life without Jesus and expect His blessing? Jesus tells us that it is not how He works, saying, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). We need, says Jesus, to honour God, before everyone and everything else. And we need to seek to live the holy life that pleases God. Then, “all these things will be added to you” – the necessities Jesus had been talking about: our food, our clothes, and everything else.

But how is this possible? I want to live to please myself. I want to live by my own easy standards. In fact, God’s Word, the Bible, says we are all like that. In fact, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So, we need to ask God to enable us to turn humbly from living for ourselves, to living for Him. And we need to trust in Jesus to forgive our sinful self-centredness and make us right with God. Then, God will look after everything else that’s important.

Perhaps you already follow Jesus? Do you continue to think that the best life to live is one where you just give Jesus the leftovers? Do you think that will work out better for you this year than last?

The Psalmist explains the two sides of keeping on with God, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8). God’s followers are to go hard after God. But we do that knowing God’s unshakeable grip on us is stronger than our clinging to Him. Indeed, it is God’s saving strength in His followers’ lives that makes our clinging to Him possible.

By God’s enabling grace (His love that we don’t deserve), let’s do things differently with Jesus this year. For some of us, that will mean trusting in Jesus for the first time. For others, who already follow Jesus, doing things differently means by Jesus’ enabling, giving Him our best. Ask God in 2023 to enable you to do things differently, and expect different results.

God bless. And Happy New Year!

Rev Kenny Hanna is the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s first Rural Chaplain. Growing up on the family farm in the Kingdom of Mourne, he began serving in parish ministry in 2001 in Glenwherry. Prior to his appointment as Rural Chaplain, he was minister of Second Dromara Presbyterian Church for 10 years. He continues to farm part-time.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Kenny at [email protected] or call him on 07938 488 372.