Encouragements for the New Year…

December 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

The most encouraging person I know is my wife, Katherine. It would be impossible to list the ways and moments throughout our lives together that God has used her simple words to lift my soul and make me smile. They aren’t always pivotal, life-transforming words, but often those daily encouragements that nourish me enough to make it through.

There is a line in the last Indiana Jones movie (I carry no shame for loving those movies) about ‘the space between all other spaces,’ and in some way those little encouragements are exactly that. You can’t plan for them, and unless they are brought to your attention, you wouldn’t even know your need for them – but when they come, it is obvious that you did.

So with that, I hope you’ll pardon a longer-than-usual post, and say farewell to 2011 with Eight Encouragements for the New Year – It would probably be better if Katherine offered them, but this is my blog, not hers! And in some way each encouragement reflects some of what she has infused into my life through the years, so consider it a collaborative effort. If nothing else, I hope a few make you smile…

1. If you are His, you have everything – I know we can’t always ‘feel’ this, especially in the thick of tough times, but it is true. And regardless of how distant that absolute sometimes feels, it is always there. None of us will be around in 100 years, so what matters most is what will survive past the day we leave this world, and for those in Christ this is a no-brainer. In Jesus we belong to the Father who has prepared a home for us in heaven. Remind yourself of this at least 366 times in 2012 (Yes, it is Leap Year!)…

2. Your struggles are not struggles to the Father – Hey, don’t resolve to not struggle in 2012, or else prepare yourself for disappointment. The important thing is that while you are wrestling with a lot of the things you have faced your entire life, God isn’t (In fact, He might find some of your greatest struggles to be quite boring!). Remember, it never was about your ability to hold on to Him, so let this year be one in which you enjoy His grip on you – It will take the fear out of your obedience and the excuse-making out of your sin…

3. It is worth the Fight – Life, that is, and particularly, the Christian life. Sometimes living the Faith feels like a journey not worth taking because we are always confronted with our own weaknesses. And every Christ-follower has moments where they want to give up. However don’t be fooled into thinking that the hard part is living perfectly. As long as we are on this planet we will struggle with resident fallenness – God knows this. What actually makes being a Christ-follower difficult is the daily temptation to make ourselves out to be something we aren’t. That’s the fight! – Believing the Gospel to the extent that we trust in God’s grace rather than any goodness we think we possess. Fight on, friends, and remember, where it most counts, the war has already been won by Jesus…

4. Your future is no mystery to God – With the New Year comes a whole host of unknowns. I can’t begin to list them, but I know that sometimes the unknown is paralyzing. Everything from personal health, to job security, to family well being, to financial matters will seem to be one thing on New Year’s Day, and any of them can radically change by the 2nd of January! And whatever you do, don’t depend on the headlines to determine your level of hope! Finding rest in the Lord brings unspeakable peace. So don’t sweat what you can’t control (which is everything), and live in the crazy unknown of God’s Sovereignty (which on any other plain would be lunacy!). He’ll take it from there. And if you don’t feel you can rest in Him, tell Him – He’ll understand and in that simple act of trusting Him with what is true, you will have begun to rest…

5. Jesus is Enough – This may be another way of stating the first Encouragement, but I mean something different here. The truth is that each of us has shortcomings, sorrows and all kinds of regrets. Like the country song says, ‘You ain’t got to dig too deep to get a little dirt on me.’ None of us is the entire package and all of us have baggage. But Jesus is sufficient. His death was sufficient to atone, and His presence is enough to sustain you, regardless of the details of your life. He isn’t turned off by your past and He doesn’t look at failures and poor decisions the way we do. He is enough, and this means that whatever deficits you think you have, in Jesus you have Someone to offer them to – every day. I can’t promise that He will change your situation, and He may not. But what I can assure you of is this: Mysteriously and inexplicably He give you a fresh perspective and He will redeem your pain – bringing meaning to even the ugliest realities of your life. Sorrow and regret have a way of convincing we unfinished ones that we are damaged goods, which is exactly why Jesus became damaged goods for our sakes, and when we offer ourselves to God, uncut and unfiltered, we can prepare to be amazed. So trust Him with who you are and discover that He already knew and has been waiting for you to let go…

6. Don’t take yourself too seriously – Solomon says, When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other… (Ecclesiastes 7:14) Christians are famously adept at being miserable when times are bad, and conversely poor at simply enjoying the good things God brings their way. But life is too short to be so serious-minded all the time! In 2012 commit yourself to a few dumb things, a few belly laughs, and of course, a few happy moments that accommodate the ‘good times’ God brings your way…

7. Don’t take God too seriously – What??? Seriously, let Him be to you who He actually is and what you hope He is – a Father who enjoys (‘delights in’ – Psalm 149:3, Zephaniah 3:17) His children. Sure, worship Him because He is worthy. Believe in Him because He is real. Give your life to Him because He has offered no less, and find that there is no greater sense of fulfillment than to do so. But don’t stop there! God wants you to enjoy Him. And that means trusting Him with the lighter things in your life, along with the heavy stuff. As you enter this New Year, ask God to free you to trust Him with your enjoyment…

8. Don’t take your friends to dinner – Okay, that one is just to follow #’s 6 & 7, but there is some truth in it as well. You have heard it said that you can’t really give until you know how to receive, and this is true. Being on the receiving end of things is an act of vulnerability that we often don’t want to expose ourselves to. But always giving is a sign of insecurity and distrust, not one of strength, and sometimes what may seem to be the most generic of offers may be serious attempts on another’s part to enter into your life. Don’t miss those cues in 2012…

With year’s end I am filled with gratitude for you, and your willingness to endure the musings of a fellow unfinished Christ-follower. We share a journey that really is worth taking and for this I am thankful. Paul says it best in Philippians 1:3I thank my God every time I remember you.

Happy New Year.

peace.

§ 3 Responses to Encouragements for the New Year…

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