Who doesn’t love a fresh start?
We all need it.
There is something ingrained in each of us that craves a blank slate; a do-over if you will.
As I have mentioned before, there have been several seasons of my personal life in which I was desiring to start over on an almost weekly basis. I knew I wanted to serve the Lord; knew I was most satisfied when I was in constant relationship and communication with Him, yet I found myself on a roller coaster that contained valleys of rebellion, twists and turns of legalism, and the occasional months that I would have considered true seeking of the Lord and His plan. I know I’m not alone in this. I know so many people who have walked through times where they desired God and His will and sincerely began living that out; only to slowly but surely begin to get distracted by the world and forget what was initially their authentic goal.
So, why do we keep going back to Him?
What I mean is, if seeking and trusting and believing and living for God is the very thing that we say satisfies us most, why is it so hard to keep doing so?
The truth is, none of us are promised tomorrow. We may think we know what life is going to look like, but that can be changed within seconds. That being said, this whole fresh new year really is a figment of our imagination in some ways; yet I think it can represent a key heart change in which the direction of our lives, the life we truly want to live, begins to take root not just in action but in spirit.
I can’t give you a twelve steps to freedom list.
There isn’t anything motivational enough hanging on a wall or a poster that will give you the drive to keep on keeping on in the faith.
Yet, I do have a few exhortations from His Word that I believe can help you begin to choose, consistently, to choose Him despite a culture that suggests anything but.
His Hands His Feet His Heart blog readers, the first thing I want you to remember as we enter in to 2016 is this:
There is a battle going on at all times, and the very nature of the word “battle” signifies that there are two sides.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand…to stand firm.”- Ephesians 6:12,13
The enemy of your soul would love nothing more than to have you think that your fight is against the people around you or the circumstances you have been placed in. Friends, that is a bold-faced lie. He would also love to convince you that if you shelter yourself enough from the things around you, secure “your” world, do the comfortable thing, micromanage your days, you will be able to stand. No. The truth is, without the armor of God, we are all left hopeless. With His armor, namely the righteousness and record of Jesus Christ and His Spirit within us, the victory has already been won. On this side of heaven, things will always be different than they appear. We have to fight the false mindset of self and present living in order to experience the peace and freedom of living for future glory, now. 2015, while full of many, many supports and celebrations, was also a year that challenged the very foundation of our faith. There have been times where it felt like we were in a video game in which we were the target and there were obstacles and dangers around every corner. I am learning to not let thoughts marinate until I analyze them beside God’s Word, and here is the truth: I am not the target. You are not the target. Jesus made Himself the target so that we could be free to know that in the end, God wins and the victory has already been won. From now until you meet God face-to-face however, you have an Enemy who is going to do all he can to convince you otherwise. Amidst seizures and unknowns and new health challenges and feeling isolated, there have been times this year that I allowed myself to go down the path of hopeless thinking instead of heavenly blinking. What I mean by that is this: I want to have my thoughts and heart and actions so turned toward God that with every blink of my eyes, He is what is on the forefront of my vision. And, I want that for you. In order for that to be true, we must not only realize we are in battle, we must also make our crucial aim to fall more in love with Him every day. The same Enemy above works hard at attempting to get God’s children to think God main desire for us is to radicate sin for our lives. Here is where these deceits get tricky: that was God’s main goal, but He knew we couldn’t do it on our own, so He did it for us. Now, because that was already done on the cross, He simply longs for us to fall more in love with Him. The more we know Him, the more we will trust Him. The more we trust Him, the more we will serve Him. The more we serve Him, the more we will be like Him. The more we are like Him, the more we will know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him. When people ask me how we have had so much faith in this journey with our girls, I very quickly let them know that we haven’t. My faith has been weak but God has been strong and because of that, His faithfulness has become mine.
“For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness.”- Psalm 26:3
In the beginning of this journey, I spent so much time focused on Ally and Bailey Grace. I was fixated on the God in our family instead of the God over the whole world, and while grace still abounded, I was not experiencing the peace that comes from fixing my eyes solely on Him and His purposes. The miracle of being a Christ-follower is that the more we focus on His character, His commands, communion with Him, the smaller our trials and suffering get. When we look at Jesus in the manger, we find Hope in a God who is so other than us but who uses all things. When we see Jesus on the cross, we find Grace and the Joy that comes from knowing whatever we are facing has been placed on His shoulders. When we read about the resurrected Lord, we find assurance that He is strong enough to do all that He has promised. Suddenly, our own “stuff” fades in light of His holiness. This is the beauty of the Gospel. While trials and tribulations are seen by God, allowed by God, and used by God, they were never meant to be the center of the story. Just like the joys and celebrations, the sufferings were always intended to point us to the One who ultimately overcame them all. Friend, any and every detail of the past year and the year to come has one goal in mind: for you and those around you to see and know more of God. And, to know Him is to love Him.
When Jesus was days and hours and minutes from being unrightfully accused, when He was about to take on the punishment that belonged to the whole world, He wasn’t focused on running from the suffering or avoiding the pain or looking to Plan B.
“Yet not my will, but Yours.”- Luke 22:42
Jesus continued steadfast in the truth that His life was about ushering others into the arms of their Savior, and He knew more than we could ever fathom the glory that awaited. It may seem that Jesus was others’ focused, and while this certainly was true in ways, I believe something more. I believe that Jesus was God-focused, and because of that, His love for others was abundant because He understood the love His Father had for His children.
In 2016, let’s be a people who fall more in love with God and trust Him to do the rest. Let’s look to God’s Word and offer Him up a blank canvas, or, as our former pastor and friend once preached, a blank check, to do with our lives what He will. This is where steadfastness is found. I do not know what this year holds for our family, but four things I am sure of: we have an enemy of our soul who hates us, we have the God of the universe who loves us. The enemy of our souls will do anything to convince us differently about God’s perfect, provisional, unconditional love. All glory to our Savior who gives me the assurance to say that in the end, God wins. No matter what this year holds, may you look to His Word and seek His presence in order to be able to confidently say in all things, but God. Happy New Year, friends.