No Time For Autopilot (New Beginnings)

Each year, I typically look for a verse or passage that God would use to direct the course of my life throughout the upcoming 12 months.  In 2020 I posted a blog The Verse God Gave Me For 2020 and expounded on Ephesians 5:15-17:  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.  Little did I know how much that verse would impact me and became something that consistently guided me through the highs and lows of last year.  I fell in love with the verse so much so that I end all of my blogs with it now.  It’s become a theme and I think it will always apply in some shape or fashion to what is written here. 

For this year, I was led to a favorite book of mine, James.  I was reading in the first chapter and this verse just leaped out at me:  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12  Upon reading this verse and pondering its meaning, I felt like this was a verse for my life in 2021.  It is one I need to commit to memory and stand upon, especially in these uncertain times. 

I’ve titled today’s blog “No Time For Autopilot” and I did that for this sole reason:  as Ephesians 5 states, the days are evil.  We fool ourselves if we think we have lots of time and that the world we will live in is always going to be a certain way…mostly an idyllic view we have.  But today is as much of a wake-up call as it a promise to those who see the days as short.  For those who run the race with abandon to all else, 2021 is going to be a year of great things.  I believe it and I want to expound James 1:12 further for the purpose of today’s blog.  Let’s dive in! 

1. The man or woman of God is steadfast under trial 

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial 

Anytime we hear a “blessed is the (blank)” in the Bible, our ears should perk up.  James 1:12 is such a moment.  Blessings come to those who are steadfast under trial.  Another verse, earlier in the same chapter, states  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2,3  It is clear in this passage that James is not avoiding the subject of adversity in the Christian walk.  Quite the opposite, actually.  He’s saying when you meet such things, it is the testing and proving your faith.  And from that (vs. 12), you are blessed because of what you endure. 
Let’s just say for purpose of illustration, 2021 is the worst, most hate-filled year for the Body of Christ.  It’s a year of marked persecution.  Of churches being shut down.  Of pastors going to jail for speaking the Word of God.  Talking about America here.  But in that scenario, can we see that a steadfast believer is blessed?  Hard to, isn’t it?  But that is the shift in our mindset that we are to make.  Our lives are blessed and our faith is proven that much stronger when we face trials, opposition, persecution, and the like.  James 1:12 is an encouragement for those who undergo such things.  Are you taking flak for your belief in Jesus?  Good.  It means you are doing something right! 

2. We are to stand the test of time 

For when he has stood the test 

I love where James goes next.  This isn’t one of those “if” or “maybe” or “perhaps” type of statements.  We’ll see in today’s final point where this culminates. But James is saying “when” he has stood the test, meaning that the test will come and in order to survive the trial, he must endure.  I think a lot of us in 2020 didn’t want to see things shift so suddenly.  We weren’t ready to have to battle for it.  Churches being closed.  Worship cancelled.  Even Easter was not celebrated how we normally envision it. 
The fact is many stopped attending church and fell out of fellowship even after things opened up again.  And for those that entirely stopped coming, I have to ask “Is your faith strong enough to withstand the storms?”  Because more is coming.  Even as I write this in mid-December, not knowing election results and other things, I know we are still on a collision course in this country and in this world with evil.  We are going to see more things threaten our everyday way of life.  That will include the ability to worship:  freely and openly as we have known it.  We stand the test knowing that even if we face opposition all around, we continue to worship and praise our Lord (think of the faith of Daniel and Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego — unwavering). 

3. We will inherit the promise if we stand 

He will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 

This is the culmination of the verse and the best part, if you ask me!  This is the promise and for you and I; this is the reason we stand.  The reason we endure.  The reason we keep going.  There is a crown of life at the end.  God promises it.  God is watching you and I run this race (as well as a host of other witnesses) and He is cheering us on.  He wants to see us succeed.  He wants to give you and I the tools and abilities to succeed.  And I believe despite what we face this year, God is going to do amazing things through us if we are willing to lay down our lives in surrender. 
I know many people are weary, even as we enter a new year.  The change of the calendar seems like some glimmer of hope, but really it’s just a new year with all the same problems.  If we look at life that way, we’ve already sealed our course and destiny for this year.  But if we look at the year as an opportunity for God to display His glory, come what may, then we have a different outlook.  Hallelujah! 

You see guys, there are going to be some setbacks this year.  There are going to be some gut-punches and things out of left field that you weren’t ready for.  And part of why 2020 was so hard was because people did not have their footing and grounding ready for what the year would bring.  It sifted a lot of people out and instead of leading them to a deeper trust and dependence on the Lord, it led them into fear and a desire to control things.  All that James 1:12 talks about is based in surrender and obedience.  If you give God the wheel, you say “OK God, come hell or high-water, I’m riding with you.”  That needs to be your 2021 perspective and with that, you need to stop doing life on autopilot and start engaging life with a renewed hope and purpose. 

Brothers and sisters, you know I love you.  You know I’m praying for you.  You know every hard word I relay is one that I’m already dealing with and wrestling through.  Today is such a word.  I’m here.  I’ve done things on autopilot, but no more.  Jesus, I’m running for that crown of life.  I’m running to see Your face!  Guys, if you get there before me, save me a seat!  I’ll see you on the other side. 

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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

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