Do have a word for the year? A word that defines what this year is going to be like? A word that the Word of God has led you to for any of a variety of reasons? Well I do, and this is the first time I have ever done something like this.
Let me give you a little background. We recently had a guest speaker at our church from Winning at Home Ministries. I was a little skeptical of him at first as he appeared to be quite hyperactive and a bit intense (yes for all of you who are silently chuckling to themselves he reminded me very much of myself) but he grew on me very quickly. His message was to find the word for this year that God is giving to you. This word will define your year, help you grow, shape your life, and radically challenge and change you.
I don't like change. I like consistency and control. I like knowing what will happen. I like being prepared. I mean come on, I was the guy who would leave two hours early for his shift at midnight, that was thirty-five minutes away, in case there was a tornado, an accident, a fire, or an apocalypse! I like to be in control of my life, that's all I am saying. And as I sat in my seat saying all these things to myself, a word kept slapping me upside the head: FAITH! I kept saying "No, no, I have faith. I trust God." But the more I tried to convince my own conscious and heart that I didn't need this word, it kept coming back bigger and louder: FAITH. I wanted to shout (which would have been a bit odd in our church context since it was during the message) out loud that I didn't need this word, but the more I argued with myself, the more I realized just how desperately I needed it.
I have struggled with faith and trust my whole life. The two go hand in hand, especially in a relationship with Christ. How can you have faith in someone you do not trust? Remember the trust fall you did at youth retreats? Didn't you have to put faith that those behind you will catch you? Didn't you had to put your trust in them? Well I never did well with those. In fact I tried not to do them. I couldn't put my faith and trust in something I couldn't control. I would never had made it to Neverland with Peter Pan. For those of you younger folk, you may have to go and watch this Disney Classic!
Anyway, I don't like trusting others and having to put my faith in something outside of my direct control, but the more I argued the more I realized I had to. God was calling me to let go. Faith is being willing to trust someone (God in this case) with something (my life) and putting my trust in Him that He will guide me to where I need to be, when I need to be there.
This is not easy for me. I don't like it, but I realized I need it in my life. A true believer walks by faith, and trusts that God is there for him no matter what. As I was grappling with this word, a passage kept coming to mind (Matthew 6:25-34). It talks about worry, and when you think about it worrying is the opposite of faith and trust, and again if you know me, you know I am a worrier. This word just kept getting more difficult. I am to give up trusting myself and worrying about things I can't control, and let go even more? I was getting a wee bit frazzled.
I asked God during that service why He would give me a word I couldn't, and to be quite frank didn't want to, handle. And His response was simple: "It is a step of Faith." I almost threw my hands up in exasperation! But I knew it to be true. It isn't a word to grow by if it is something you already know or understand. So I finally, albeit a bit grudgingly, accepted that this word would be my word for the year.
That was a few weeks back, and let me tell you that this has been a year where (real) Faith is very actively making itself known in my life. I am realizing that having an active faith means ceding control to the Lord in all circumstances. It isn't a give and take option. I can't say "Sure God, have control over my driving habits, but not my finances." I can't say "Today I have faith, but tomorrow when the day gets hard, I will put my faith into something tangible (sounds like idolatry no?)." Faith is a 24/7/365 commitment, that requires you giving up control, and allowing God to take over. I will be completely honest with you all and say that I don't like it. I don't like not being in the driver's seat! I need to be able to hit the gas or brake because in my mind only I know how, when, and where to do that. And when I actually hear myself say that out loud I realize how stupid it sounds.
Having faith is something we all struggle with from time to time. We look at the way our lives, our society, our culture, and the way our world is going and sometimes our faith may falter for a brief moment. But our assurance is in the fact that our God is sovereign, all mighty, all powerful, all knowing, above all others, and forever in control. Faith is tough my friends, because we don't like to give up control. But let me ask you this question: Who better to be in control than the all powerful God of the universe? Are you better qualified? Can you know the past, present, and future?
Trust me, I know that faith is hard. I struggle with it daily, but I also grow daily from it. I have been trusting God with so many things, and laying burden upon burden on His strong shoulders, and in doing so easing my own. It isn't easy, and giving up control is a struggle I am only now beginning to understand. I feel my mind screaming no, but my heart and soul are crying out yes. And as I have given up control and put my faith and trust in God's plan, I have begun to experience peace. Peace knowing that Someone better than I is looking out for me, and that He has a plan for my life.
That doesn't mean each day is easy, or that I am worry free, because ask anyone who knows me, and they will say that I am anything but. However, I am realizing the freedom and joy I receive from giving up control. My God is Greater, My God is Stronger, My God is Higher than any other. And my joy, my peace, my strength, and my solace is all found within the loving and open arms of my Savior who begs me to give Him control to carry my burdens, struggles, pains, and fears.
Faith is tough. It really is. But thankfully, faith is rewarding, and peace and love is everlasting. My word for this year is (Real) PEACE! What's yours?