Proper Exit Strategy
If you've ever had young children, you've probably experienced a scenario similar to this one. Embarrassed by a screaming child not getting what he or she wants; having worked themselves into a frenzy, unable to compute any reasoning. The best thought is find an exit - get this child to fresh air and proper discipline away from the eyes of strangers. But here's the problem: HOW YOU EXIT DETERMINES HOW YOU ENTER.
The young mother still had a kicking, screaming child she had to deal with outside the exit doors. The doors themselves didn't determine the change.
The same is true of our lives.
How you exit one season determines how you enter the next one. Jesus once shared a parable about this very thing. He said God's kingdom could be likened to a wealthy owner who made plans to travel away for a season. In his absence, he put his servants in charge, giving each of them a measure of talents. Upon his return he asked each servant how they handled his affairs while he was gone. The first two servants reported their faithfulness to multiply what he had given them. The last servant hesitantly reported that he had been unsure what to do so he simply put it in safe-keeping. The owner said the one who did nothing would receive nothing. However, to the others he said, "Well done, good and faithful servant(s); you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. ENTER into the joy of your lord" (Matthew 25:14-28).
The actions of each servant determined their entrance into the next season.
So I'll ask you: how you will be entering this new year? Will your life resemble the kicking, screaming child? Or maybe the frantic mother? Does your life resemble the hesitant servant? Or have you been found faithful? The clock striking 12 on the last day of the year isn't going to produce a magic slipper in your life. 12:01am will look just like 11:59pm.
The Apostle Paul understood exit strategy. In each of his letters he affirmed these things. He spoke of maintaining good works, avoiding contentions, being found faithful and much more. One great passage is found in his letter to Titus. Paul said, "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward men appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the act of spiritual rebirth and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men" (Titus 3:1-8).
Why would he say these things are good and profitable? Because every action determines the next. Our God is merciful. When our actions are repentive (realizing and making the necessary adjustments to turn and go the other way), God responds with corresponding actions of forgiveness and help. We could say our change (our "exit") determines how profitable our entrance will be.
So if this season has been good to you, enter the next with gratefulness and the same motivation. If this season has been challenging, remember every action has a corresponding reaction, so "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8).
The sun is certainly setting on this season. The question is, have you planned your exit strategy?