Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
We’ve all had a lot of time to reflect on 2020 and start thinking about what a new year will look like for us personally. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know I like to talk about life in terms of the “buckets of influence” we have. It starts in the home and then from there, we move out into our communities: our jobs, schools, and churches. Beyond that, we start looking at life with a broader lens: what is God trying to do in my city, my state, our nation and our world?
I believe 2021 is a year of rebuilding and refocusing. We did not know going into 2020 just how much life would be turned upside down. And as much as you could prepare for a year like that, there’s really not a lot you or anyone could’ve done to avoid what was given to us. We made adjustments, moved forward, and pressed on with the knowledge we had. But a lot had to be on faith and a trust that God was in control.
I’ve titled this January blog series “NEW BEGINNINGS” and I believe it will give some vision for the months ahead. Right off the bat though, I believe we have to look back. Back to 2020 and even further. To do some self-evaluation and heart-checking. In doing so, we position ourselves to be ready and more prepared for what is to come. We may not see it all clearly, but we can find value by looking at the past and using it to adjust our present and shape our future. Are you ready to dig in? So am I! Let’s go.
1. What mistakes did I make last year? What regrets do I have?
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23,24
This is a solemn moment and it takes being vulnerable before the Lord. It’s not been a place I’ve wanted to go because a lot of times during 2020 and even further back, I’ve just assumed I’ve been doing things the right way. But God has revealed a lack of faith on my part. An unwillingness to submit and spend time in His word and in prayer like I should. And He’s shown me that I spent a lot of my days wasting time in 2020, rather than sowing seeds into others around me. Whew. Heavy stuff and as I type it I feel like there’s some liberation in just admitting these things. This first point is personal. It’s between you and God. Sit in quiet before the Lord and just let His words and His love wash over you. Despite mistakes you have made, He forgives you and wants you to know He loves you deeply.
2. What has held you back from not stepping out in faith more readily?
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:26
Again, if I’m being transparent my reluctance to step out has been due to fear. I’m afraid of what people might think. I’m afraid of whether or not I’ll lose status, lose my job, lose my ability to provide…so on and so forth. Maybe your fears have been different than mine, but the commonality we share and what I believe held us all back is and was fear. It’s the big lie we believe. FEAR was 2020 in a word, if I can be that bold. We allowed fear to shape our thoughts and from there, our words and actions. Fear is a huge motivator but 2021 must not be based in fear if we are to rebuild and restore. Identify your fears, confess them to the Lord, and walk in victory!
3. What actions steps do I need to take this year that God has revealed? Be specific and write/plot out if necessary.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18
Faith without works is dead. We know that. But a lot of what we plan and prepare for in January fizzles out by the beginning of February. There’s some accountability in actually doing what God is laying on our hearts for this year. Some of that starts with just listing it out and planning actions steps. Are you taking steps to start a new ministry? Are you wanting to witness more to your neighbors? Do you feel a pull to give more financially to a certain faith-based charity or missionary? All are just examples. But the fact is you alone know what God is speaking to you. It may require some further thought or prayer. Or you may already know exactly what you need to do and how to do it. Either way, start plotting out those actions steps. Don’t leave 2021 without taking them.
4. What do I still need to pray about?
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7,8
Maybe in looking back to missed opportunities, you realize you need to spend more time in prayer. You know God was laying upon your heart something but in the noise of 2020, you didn’t spend enough time praying it through and getting past the initial thought He imparted. So…before 2021 gets too far ahead of you, spend some dedicated time in prayer getting an answer. To surrender that control and allow God to guide you is a wonderful thing. It will wash away fear and doubt and make you all that more certain of the steps you are to take.
I hope this “New Beginnings” series will springboard many of you into new ventures this year and new opportunities for Christ. I believe this is a place to start for 2021 and it will benefit us spiritually and otherwise (physically, mentally, emotionally) to just “pause” and look back before we move forward. Consider all that God has spoken to you not just over 2020 but the course of your entire life. What if this year is marked by a strong departure from all that is safe and comfortable? What if this is the year you truly step out in faith and complete dependence upon God?
That’s been a theme for me for so long now. My family and I have made some decisions to pursue a calling and be in ministry more deliberately. Still there’s a fear of letting go of what I have been comfortable with. God used 2020 to reveal where my heart was at and how much I was putting stock in myself rather than in Him. Let’s not make the same mistakes and follow the same path we’ve been on. Let’s do something different this year. It’s time!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17