Every fall you hear the same message from me: “Begin seeking God for what your spiritual focus should be next year!” I issue that challenge because an intentional pursuit of God brings the joy of knowing Him more intimately. And there is nothing better than that.
So actually, I’m inviting you to experience joy!
You don’t have to adopt a “spiritual focus” for the year in order to pursue God or cultivate a more intimate relationship with Him, but I’ve found that it helps to have a map that guides you toward a worthy goal. The yearly Scripture passage becomes my map and provides me with a course for the year. Setting the heart toward a certain destination will produce greater results than wandering aimlessly.
For me, 2016 began with this journal entry:
[box]So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16–18)[/box]
This passage was the foundation for my spiritual focus for 2016. Day in and day out, each morning of this year started with inscribing this passage on a fresh day’s journal page—while also engraving it on my heart. As these words poured out on paper, I voiced prayers for those who’ve been living this passage: For moms and wives who’ve released a loved one to the “unseen and eternal” but are left waiting for that day when they will be reunited. For those of us who need a “sight readjustment” to see beyond the temporary, and for loved ones who are bodily wasting away, while needing that inner renewal.
Almost every day (and often it’s repeated throughout the day), I’ve challenged myself (and friends) to look to the unseen, the eternal, rather than staying fixated on the transient. I’ve been pressed, at times, to step into that area of faith that involves mystery: where I trust God’s character and know that He is good and all powerful—even when witnessing horrific events.
The word (and action) that has stayed on my heart throughout the year has been: surrender. This was to be the year of the yielded heart, surrendering all to Him. Living the “Not my will, but Yours” life—moment by moment.
But Has my will completely yielded all I most hold dear?
Can I say with the Apostle Paul that: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”?
Do I have a settled understanding that all I hold dear here is only transient . . . just like the closing of the cover on this year’s journal?
Not yet, but I hope to.
Read again the first sentence of my Scripture passage for 2016: “So we do not lose heart.” This is the key to not losing heart—surrendering the heart to His plans. Knowing that whatever affliction a year may hold, it is temporary. The affliction is temporary, but the eternal weight of glory that is formed through that affliction is eternal. Eternal.
And is eternal glory not worth more than all the temporary affliction?
In knowing His character, there is joy in the surrender. His character is good and merciful. His mode of operation is redemption! I often remind myself of this statement that God gave me back in October, 2015:
If I truly desire God’s glory, I will embrace every affliction God appoints for me.
He brings afflictions and He brings abundant goodness. In all of it, He is working out a beautiful plan—an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
Back in the fall, when I began asking God what Scripture passage He would have me focus on for 2017, He quickly brought this one to mind:
[box]Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 3:17–4:1).[/box]
This is my Scripture passage for 2017. This will be my “map” for the spiritual journey God has me on this year.
It’s interesting to me that the same phrase is found in both last year’s focus passage and this year’s: “. . . do not lose heart.” As this wonderful year—filled with loss, joys, pain, laughter, sorrows, grace, conflicts and unexpected surprises—comes to a close, I’ve struggled with “losing heart.” I’ve felt overwhelmed as I see that there are greater needs surrounding me than time to meet them. I’ve struggled with questions over how my time is being spent. I’ve been bone-dead weary and felt much older than my years. I’ve had unfulfilled longings for more time with loved ones on the other side of the country. I’ve wondered (often) if what I scribble out on this blog even matters.
Last year’s word, surrender, is actually an antonym for “not losing heart.” I’m intrigued by that. We’re called to surrender all, but not lose heart in doing that. In surrender, relinquishing all control to the Savior, we find hope. And hope is a synonym for “not losing heart.” Hope. That is the word that keeps coming to mind, and I’m thankful. Hope is filled with confident and delightful expectation. Hope is a beautiful word to wake up to in the morning. Hope is the anchor that holds in the fiercest storm.
So, I’m taking to heart the truths from this passage, and will be preaching them to myself this year—and possibly to you dear readers who will listen. Today, I take from it the promise of freedom. I do not have to be enslaved by the fears, doubts, and pulverizing condemnation that threatens to take me down. There is freedom as I walk under the Spirit’s command.
There is joy in surrender, and hope gives reason to “not lose heart” as the surrender grows more difficult.
Will you join me? What will be your spiritual focus for 2017?
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