Happy New Year! I feel like I need some more faith for 2020. Faith to make it a year that matters.
At this time of year, many new years resolutions get made. Two weeks from now, most of them are broken. People have given up on them, and they have settled back into their old routine.
I want my 2020 to be different. I want there to be goals, not just resolutions, actions not just dreams. Now I know that resolutions and dreams are a good place to start, they just aren’t enough.
Also, I want my 2020 to be a year that matters to eternity. And for that I seriously need faith.
One of the things I am learning in my life is that faith is not just me deciding what I want to see done, and then believing for that. Faith starts by hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17 paraphrased)
I think that goes deeper than just reading and hearing what the scriptures teach, though that is important. I believe it goes to the place where I get alone with God, asking him what he is saying and doing, and hearing that.
That requires the audacious expectation that Jesus will speak his will to me and into my situations. It also requires me to create time and space to listen to God. And then to discern whether the whispers and impressions I am hearing are just me, or God.
Jesus says that he could only do what he saw and heard the Father doing. (John 5:19 paraphrased) And so, we also can only speak and do what the Father is doing if we want to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.
I have struggled with this concept for a while now. Growing up in the faith tradition I did, there was not a whole lot of emphasis placed on a living relationship with the Heavenly Father in our day to day life and the situations we faced.
Don’t get me wrong, we were definitely taught that being a Christian meant we had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But that is about as far as the personal relationship went. You heard Jesus calling you and convicting you of sin, and you responded to that and embraced his sacrifice by faith. And that is truth. That is how it should be. I just believe that applies to more than just getting saved.
Scriptures teach that we are born again when the Holy Spirit convicts us, points us to Jesus, and we believe in Jesus in our hearts and declare it with our mouths, but never was I taught that this same progression is what leads us into further faith to live a life that is pleasing to God. We were taught to leave sin behind, and that there was grace to empower us, but truthfully, it always felt like now that I was a believer I had to attain righteousness by my works.
It took me years to start seeing that grace comes out of continual relationship. That grace is the fullness of Jesus living on the inside of me. (John 1:16, Ephesians 3:19 paraphrased) Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches, and that if we abide in him, we will bear much fruit. (John 15:5 paraphrased) But what does it mean to abide in him? I was told that it meant reading the scriptures and praying.
But Jesus also said: “You study the scriptures thinking they give you eternal life. But the scriptures point to me. And yet you refuse to come to me so that I may give you life.” (John 5:39-40 paraphrased)
He also says: “My sheep know my voice, and they know me, and I call them by name and they follow me, and I lead them out.” (John 10: 3, 27 paraphrased) That speaks of a personal relationship. He calls me by name and speaks his will into my life and situations.
When I hear God speak his will into my life and situations in my own heart, then faith rises up to meet the challenges. Then I can believe in my heart and declare with my mouth that this is so.
Faith is simply believing that God is who he says he is, does what he says he will do, and rewards those who diligently seek him out. (Hebrews 11:6 paraphrased) Hebrews 6 continues on and says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Why is it important that I have faith when God has already said he will do something? I believe it speaks of partnership. We have a part to play in God’s will being done here on earth.
So that is a long rambling article just to say this. I wanted to hear what God says to me about what he was wanting me to move towards in 2020. And so I sat down, stilled myself, and asked God. Then I waited and listened for a whisper or an impression. And there are two things he impressed into my inner being.
The first is: “Presence! Milton, you will be very fruitful if you learn how to better live out of my presence.” Hardly surprising since that is something I have been learning over the last 10 years of my life. Not just that, there is literally a verse in scripture that says that to everyone. (see John 15:5)
But as smart as I seemingly am in some areas of my life, this one is hard for me. I just want to set goals and then work towards them. To make a habit of sitting still and waiting for God to speak into my life and circumstances, now that takes a stillness, a discipline that is hard for me.
But I believe when God invites me into something, that he always provides grace for it. So that is what I am moving towards in 2020.
The second is this: “Milton, I have called you to encourage and teach people. I want you to get back to writing.” Oh man, the urge to write is also old and familiar. But so is my overwhelming sense that I have nothing to write about, and nothing to teach. And I told him so. But he just simply said: “then write that.”
So that is what I wanted to say: “I have nothing to write and nothing to teach you.”
If you are still reading, wow! But let me ask you, if you take the time to still your heart and ask God: “what is it that you wish me to go after in 2020?” What is he saying in a still small voice to your innermost being? You know his voice and he is calling you by name. (see John 10: 3, 27)