“New Beginnings” – Devotional with Chaplain Smith

I am one of those strange people who love new beginnings. I love the thrill and excitement of a new challenge or new experience, and at my age, those don’t come along as often as they used to.

There seems to be an adrenaline rush when I conquer something new, learn a new skill or decide to experience something from a different vantage point. But, just as much as I enjoy new beginnings, others do all they can to avoid them.

For some, the thought of leaving the comfort zone of the known is terrifying. This mindset causes them to forgo many of the new growth opportunities that come their way. They often ask, “If I leave what I know for something new, what happens if it doesn’t work out and I have to start over again?”

Now, I did not always look forward to new adventures. For a period of about 15 years, I did all I could do to avoid change. The thought of giving up the safety of the known seemed to paralyze me. Then after some years of serving as a pastor, my thinking began to change.

After conducting a lot of funerals, I had the unique experience of examining up close the way many people had lived their lives. When talking to the families of the deceased, almost all of them would say that this person always wished they had done this or that. To which I would ask, “Why didn’t they do that?” More than half of the time, the response was, “Well, they just waited too late.” What a sad epitaph. Wouldn’t it be interesting to walk through the cemetery and look down at a tombstone and see the epitaph: “Here lies a guy that waited too late.”

One of these days it will be my time to leave this earth, and when I do I want my epitaph to be, “He used all he had and squeezed so much living out of his life that we barely had enough of him left to bury.” You see, I finally decided that if I had to start over…great. At least I will have better information this time than I did the first time around.

Fear of failure often keeps us from new beginnings. We need only look around to find people who are stuck in an open grave. I call it that because if you have been to a cemetery, you know that often they are beautifully landscaped with beautiful trees and lush lawns all around. But none of the people there can enjoy it because it’s too late. It’s a wonderful place, but the enjoyment of it is now out of reach for those who reside there.

Some of us are that way with life. We have beautiful things and opportunities all around us, but we don’t get to, or we won’t take advantage of them because we are stuck in the failures and fears of the past. Oh, we can see the opportunities, but we don’t take advantage of them because we are stuck in our open graves.

What new beginning are you putting off because of past failures? What is it that you want to do but don’t have the courage to try again? Maybe rather than a new year’s resolution, you should have a new year’s revolution! Maybe it’s not just changing what you do but changing the way you think as well.

You need what one pastor referred to as “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” You need something greater as an anchor for your focus. Maybe personal gain is not a strong enough rope to pull you along as the going gets tough. Why don’t you consider a spiritual component as a part of your new year’s revolution?

Have you considered the claims of Jesus? He made some pretty audacious claims. He said, “That I am the Bread of Life.” He is more than bread to satisfy our physical hunger, Jesus offers himself as the “Bread of Life” to fulfill deeper longings and an eternal need.

Jesus says He is the “Light of the World.” A relationship with Him provides the light we need to move forward. Jesus says I am the “True Vine.” If we abide in Him, we will be productive. Without him we can do nothing.

The scriptures go on to tell us that as believers, to set our minds on things above. We should be heavenly minded. We should be known for love, not slander — forgiveness and restoration, not for condemnation. We should be that person that people come to for understanding and truth.

We are always caring, fair-minded and compassionate about the things of life. A heavenly mindset will encourage us to try again and not be afraid.

Now back to this revolution, this new thinking. The idea is I have something that I am so committed to, so enthralled with, so filled with that I don’t even want to look at other things. It is the “expulsive power” that throws out all these other things. It is a new affection…it is Jesus. When I love Jesus with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind, it will change the way I look at everything in life.

Here is what I’m saying: Put Jesus first in every part of life — the thoughts you think, the friends you choose, the way you spend your time, the goals you set, and the resolutions you make. It will transform you. So, make every year, every month, every week, every day and every hour, count.

This year may God give to each of us the “expulsive power of a new affection” and a renewed love for Him.

Remember Proverbs 16: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

Written by Chaplain Smith and Greg Laurie


Chaplain Shelby Smith served at a local church for 19 years before joining Arkansas Heart Hospital. Here, he has the opportunity to meet the spiritual needs of patients, their families and our staff. In addition to offering prayer and encouragement, Chaplain Shelby Smith shares a weekly devotional.

Read more of Chaplain Smith’s devotionals.