Here’s the Most Important Thing You Can Do in 2018

Over the next few weeks, your newsfeed will doubtless be filled with well-meaning advice about how to save more money this year, how to make the most of your new gym membership, and how to make progress in your newest hobby. There’s something beautiful about the turning of a calendar, freeing us to renew our commitments and start afresh. As you draft your resolutions for 2018, I would love to challenge you to add a few more to your list.

Resolve to pray continuously for spiritual eyes to see those around you through the lens of eternity.

Every single person you have ever met was created by God Almighty with incredible care, constructed with tenderness and flawless precision, and instilled with incalculable worth as image-bearers of the one true God. Even those upon which we might naturally look down, ignore, or despise are infinitely valuable in our Creator’s sight, and they ought to be infinitely valuable to us as well.

“Even those upon which we might naturally look down, ignore, or despise are infinitely valuable in our Creator’s sight, and they ought to be infinitely valuable to us as well.”

Tragically, since the Fall, each and every infinitely valuable image-bearer has faced the sting of the curse and been laid into the grave. After death comes judgment, and on that great and terrible day, every man and woman will be either welcomed into unimaginable bliss in the presence of Christ or cast into unimaginable, unending torment—not based on their own merits, but whether they have laid claim to the merits of Christ.

If we could but remember that every person will exist forever in unfathomable joy or unyielding torment, it would doubtless transform every aspect of our lives, including how we spend our time, how we spend our money, how we speak to others, and every other thing.

Not only that, but Jesus himself promised that once the gospel was proclaimed as a testimony to all the nations, he would return in glory to establish justice, bring peace, and wipe every tear from every eye. If we long for that day—and how can we not—let us pray for eyes to see the unreached around us.

In our increasingly globalized world, the nations are now at our doorstep. There are an estimated 368–641 unreached peoples living in North America, and approximately 81 percent of all Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists worldwide do not even know a Christian they could talk to about Jesus.

This year, brothers and sisters, let us resolve to pray daily for eyes to see others through the lens of eternity, especially eyes for the refugee and foreigner among us.

Resolve to pray specifically for the lost around you.

If we serve a sovereign and loving God (and we do), and if this God knows all things (and he does), then it stands to reason that this sovereign, omniscient, and loving God has specifically and purposefully placed people in your life for his glory.

In other words, your neighbor did not move in next door simply because she got a new job. No one who is in your life is there by accident. The refugee did not land in your town simply at the whim of the State Department. Your coworkers, classmates, family members, and the foreigners in your city were placed around you in part because God has entrusted you with the task of being an ambassador to them. It’s as though God is making his appeal through you.

But we know that truth-filled words can still fall on deaf ears, right? Therefore, the primary work God has called us to do for those around us is on our knees. No matter how airtight our explanation or eloquent our words, unless the Holy Spirit removes scales from blind eyes, they will not be able to see the light of the gospel, the glory of Christ.

This year, let us daily beg the Lord to rescue the refugee, our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family members, just as he has rescued us. Let us resolve to fervently implore the Lord to take hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. Let 2018 be the year you pray like never before for the nations in your hometown and abroad, for the souls of your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, and your family members.

Resolve to speak boldly and serve generously.

Have you ever been around someone who recently became engaged? It is truly remarkable; no matter what the topic of conversation is—be it the weather, the value of Bitcoin, or the College Football Playoff—the conversation with a newly engaged person is inextricably drawn back toward talk about his or her fiancé. It’s as irritating as it is endearing.

But why does it happen? Because the newly engaged are so desperately in love that the object of their love never truly leaves their minds. Their joy and love for the other person inevitably bubbles up every conversation. Every. One.

This week, I’d like to challenge you to read the gospels and look for passages where people “evangelize.” Every time someone is changed by Jesus, they cannot help but tell others. The news is so good, so liberating, so transformative that they can’t help themselves. They may not always be incredibly articulate, but they are bursting with delight in Jesus, and it overflows into their speech to others.

“Every time someone is changed by Jesus, they cannot help but tell others.”

The woman at the well in John 4 and the man who received his sight in John 9, in their joy, simply shared with those they encountered what God had done in their lives, and they invited them to meet Jesus for themselves. Our evangelism ought also be so simple.

This year, resolve to pursue Jesus so wholeheartedly that you cannot help but talk about him and invite others to meet him for themselves. Resolve to find places where internationals hang out in your city, befriend them, and invite them into your homes and into your life. Resolve not to put off hard conversations until tomorrow, but begin planning now about how and when you will have those conversations. Plan how you will love and serve those people before and especially after you share with them.

Let 2018 be the year that you finally have those difficult, tear-filled, pleading conversations with loved ones, welcome in the refugee, and beg God to do the work that only he can do. As Charles Spurgeon said,

If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.

Matt Francisco serves as the pastor of college and worship leadership at Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He and his wife, Erin, have three children: Sarah, Ezra, and Amos.