Now that we are well into 2019, I’ve been thinking about the lessons learned in 2018. As I look back, I think there are three main lessons I’ve learned:
1. So much is ultimately out of our control. With the loss of one of our precious team members to cancer was a lesson in how much is really out of our control. Ultimately, there is only One who is in control no matter what we may be experiencing, and He will use those times to teach us what we need to know and to direct us where we need to go. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 is such a great reminder of how God often works:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
• God is always leading – He has a master plan – even when it feels like we are wandering and struggle with the way forward.
• He often has to humble us to test our resolve to follow Him and trust Him – as well as to show that He will provide when there doesn’t seem to be a way forward.
• He wants His people to understand that while we must do our part, we must ultimately trust Him for the outcome.
I’m reminded of the truth of Galatians 2:20, that Christ now lives in us, but the secret to Him living His life out through us is faith. Trusting Him. As Jim Denison states, “If we begin each day by surrendering it to the Spirit and walk through the day seeking his leadership and power, God will do far more through us than we can do for him.”
2019 FOCUS: To have confidence that God is indeed working His plan and that as we trust Him, He will release His power to work through us.
2. So much is in our control. The second lesson of 2018 is the need to steward well what God has put into our trust. This is in our control.
Matthew 25:14-28 comes to mind, where the master entrusts to his three servants his wealth and then goes on a long journey. He expects a good ROI on what he has entrusted to them when he returns. And he rewards the two that effectively invest his resources and excoriates the one who doesn’t.
I think this parable of effective stewardship applies in at least two ways.
• We need to keep the return on investment front and center. How well are you investing what God has put into your trust?
• We need to be willing to take risk (notice that there was no guarantee of the return for the servants who invested the 5 and 2 talents) to ensure success.
2019 FOCUS: To constantly work on effectively investing what God has put into our trust, never being content to let it run on automatic.
3. We are engaged in a relentless, hard-fought spiritual battle. The third lesson of 2018 is that we will always be part of a hard-fought spiritual battle that ultimately depends on God going before us to give us the victory. Deuteronomy 9:1-3 comes to mind:
Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you… Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you.
• It’s vital that God go before us as a “consuming fire” to destroy the efforts of the enemy to thwart our work.
• Even though He is going before us, we have hard work to do as well to gain the victory.
I challenge you this year to make this a daily prayer – that God would go before you as a consuming fire to destroy the efforts of demonic powers to thwart your work. As Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle says, “When every demon in hell stands against us, the God of Abraham remains faithful to all his promises. Jesus Christ can do anything but fail his own people who trust him.” Again, the key is trust.
2019 FOCUS: Consistently ask God to go before you as a “consuming fire” and then show your trust in Him by doing the hard work as He prepares the way.
The work of ministry sits at the intersection of faith in God to work through us and the personal responsibility to steward our ministries well. As you seek His face and trust Him to go before you and to lead you, you exercise your faith in Him by doing the hard work of ministry, leaving the results in His hands.
Rick Newman in his book, Rebounders states, “A whole body of scientific research has shown that overcoming setbacks can make people stronger, smarter, and more durable.” I think that is God’s design and as you hit choppy waters in the coming year, know that He is at work helping refine you and make you even more effective!
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