As we close the door on one year and open the door to another, I think it’s good to have a spiritual resolution for the new year as well. I believe Philippians 4:4-8 provides us with some great things we should resolve to do not just in the coming year, but throughout our life. Verse 4 says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (NLT) In 2019, don’t let anything steal your joy. Joy shouldn’t be based on your circumstances, and it’s where you get your strength from. Trust in what God is doing and stay joyful.
Verse 6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Refuse to let worry have a foothold in your life. It uses today’s strength for tomorrow’s problems. Turn your worry into prayer. Let the The things you can’t control push you closer to the One who can control them. Prayer changes our perspective and helps us to let go of the burdens that are too heavy for us to bear. Put them in God’s hands and take His burden which is light.
Verse 7 says, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Having peace in your heart, your mind and in your life is a wonderful thing. We were not created to live in turmoil. When we learn to trust a God with our decisions and with the things in our life that we can’t control, we can have God’s peace. Let His peace guide you in the coming year so that you operate in His will for your life.
Finally verse 8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Choose what to think about. Your thoughts are powerful and determine the direction of your life. Don’t dwell on what could be, but focus on what is true. One true thing I focus on is that God is in control, and nothing that happens in my life is a surprise to Him. 2019 is already history to God. Resolve to make it the year that you trust Him completely and you will experience joy, peace and faith.
Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Life is unpredictable. It’s full of uncertainties, crossroads, and unknowns. When we are facing these things in life, our minds get consumed looking for answers and wondering what tomorrow holds. It can suck the energy right out of you if you let it. I think that’s why Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries” (NLT). He knew that with all of life’s uncertainties, we could easily get wrapped up in all the what if’s of life.
The truth is that even though you and I don’t know what tomorrow holds, God does. And He’s not worried. What is unknown to us is history to Him. He knows how it all plays out and He is in control. No matter what each day brings, we can trust that He has a plan for our lives and a path for us to walk down. Psalm 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Not only does He direct our lives, He knows all the details that are unknown to us.
Trusting Him in those times is paramount to our peace of mind. Where worry consumes us, His peace frees us. We get peace in uncertainty when we trust that God is in control, that He has a plan for this season, and that He is directing our path. Stress and worry come from thinking we are in control, that God doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t have a plan. He gives you and I the ability to choose in this situation. Do we want to stress or do we want peace through trust?
I’m reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6 when it comes to trusting God in uncertainty. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way” (GNB). The word “trust”, in the original language for this verse, means to feel safe, be careless. In our most difficult times, we can feel safe and be carefree by trusting God. He will direct our path and show us the right way when the time is right.
When it comes to taking a test, there are two main methods: taking your time and cramming. I usually found myself on the cramming side. I remember staying up all night trying to get as much information in my head in as little time as possible. When you’re up against a deadline, an all nighter is common. Deadlines make force us to focus and put our energy into what’s critical to us at that moment. Remember the last time you were up against a deadline? You got rid of all distractions and did what was necessary.
Jesus faced a literal deadline. He knew that He would be sacrificed as a Passover lamb. The night before His crucifixion, He pulled an all nighter with His disciples. He spent all night helping them to cram as much information as they could before He died. He focused on the critical things with them. He showed them servant leadership, had supper with them, then gave them final instructions. In John 14:1, I believe He said one of the most important things to them, and it applies to us today.
He said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (NLT). That word “let” means to allow. He told us not to allow our hearts to be troubled, anxious, or worried. We have control of that by choosing what we think about and who we trust in. Jesus was telling them, and us, “Don’t panic. I got this. Trust me.” He knew that the disciples were about to feel like sheep without a shepherd. He was reminding them that when life gets chaotic, He may not be visible, but He’s there with us. We can trust Him to work His plan.
If you believe in Jesus, then you have to know that our God is not a hands off God. He is one who is intimately involved in our day to day lives. We can put our trust in Him instead of in the uncertainty and chaos of our life. Don’t let your heart be troubled. God is in control. He sees the whole picture of your life, and is working things for your good. You may to see it now, but that’s where faith and trust comes in. If you trust Him and have faith in Him, you don’t have to let worry rule your heart.
Sometimes at night, I’ll send my son to his room to get his pajamas. He’ll get to the stairs and say, “Are you watching me?” After he turns on the light, he goes up the stairs. He asks again then turns on the hallway light. I watch him as he walks across the balcony and gets to his room, but that when he stops. He peers into the dark room and asks, “Can you come with me?” I get frustrated and tell him to turn on the light, but his fear keeps him outside the door. I remind him that I’m watching him, but he wants me to come turn it on before he enters.
It can be a nightly thing sometimes. I try to explain to him that his fear is in his head and that he can just walk in. I remind him that there are other times when I’m going up the stairs behind him, and he runs into the dark room hiding in the darkness. It proves he has the ability to go in the dark room, but that doesn’t stop him from panicking during times when he’s just as secure. To silly from my perspective and also frustrating that he doesn’t get it.
I think that’s how Jesus felt when he was sleeping on a boat they were all on. A violent storm arose and the disciples panicked. They went to Jesus, woke Him up, and said, “Lord save us, we are going to die!” (AMP) Isn’t that how it usually goes. We let our fear of whatever cause us to panicky to the point we think we’re going to die, and we flip out. It’s often as silly and frustrating to God as my son’s irrational fear of taking two steps into his room to turn on the light.
In Matthew 8:26, Jesus woke up and said, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” I wonder how many times Jesus says that to us when we are in a panic, banging on Heaven’s doors with prayer. What often seems so big, daunting, and scary to us is so little to Him, and He wonders why we don’t trust Him more. Has He failed you before? Has He left you? No. He’s still in the boat with you. Have faith that whatever has you panicking right nows under His control. He’s watching you and won’t let you down. Have faith that He will be true to His promise to never leave you nor forsake you. Even if things don’t go the way you want, they go according to His plan and purpose got you. He sees the bigger picture.
Do you ever find yourself letting your mind wander through all the possible outcomes of a situation? Before you know it, you can lose a couple of hours or even a day. I’ve been known to lose sleep just thinking about all the “what if’s”. When I was at a dead end in life and was forced to file bankruptcy, I couldn’t find an outcome that were positive. I was worried sick over how hard the next seven years were going to be. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the implications of it, not to mention the embarrassment. I got caught up in an endless cycle of thoughts that were detrimental to my well being.
God knows all too well how our minds work. I think that’s why Jesus dealt with those of us who are constantly living in the future of “what if’s” instead of in the present what is. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (MSG)” He was very plain in that verse and His words hit home with someone like me.
When I give my attention to the “what if’s”, I take away from what God is doing in this very moment. I lose sight of the reality that He is creating in my life today. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I have no clue how my current situation will end, but God does. He knows all too well what tomorrow will bring and what I need to do today in order to prepare for it. When I worry about the possibilities, I miss out on what He’s showing me today in order to help me tomorrow. That’s why He wants me to give my entire attention to what He’s doing right now, not what He’s going to do.
In the second part of that verse, Jesus assures us that God will help us with what comes next. He’s not going to let you walk into a trap and then abandon you. He’s not going to hang you out to dry when times get tough. People may do that, but God never will. Jesus said that He will help you with whatever hard things come up and will be there for you when you need him. Deuteronomy 3:18 says, “The Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can testify that He is true to His word. He did not abandon me when I needed Him most and He won’t abandon you when you need Him most.
He is merely a prayer away. When the hard times come, simply say, “God, I can’t do this without you. In my own strength, this is impossible, but with you, all things are possible.” Don’t worry about all the worst possible outcomes of what could happen. Find God in the middle of today’s mess instead. Look for Him in the midst of what you’re walking through today. He will be your fortress of refuge, your rock and your shield. Give your mind a rest from the worry. God knows the outcome and whatever it is, He will give you the grace and strength you need to make it through.