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To kick off the New Year here at ACFW Colorado, I’m cross-posting some thoughts I posted on my personal blog, The Writer’s Tool.
Be strong and of good courage . . . fear not, nor be dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
1 Chronicles 28:20
This and several other verses in my quiet time this morning, dealt with courageously moving forward into the New Year. And my birthday on New Year’s Eve always lends itself to reflection on the past year.
My word from the Lord for 2010 was trust. Learning about trust more has shown me how closely related trust is to surrender, the word for 2009.
True surrender involves casting all my care on the Lord and leaving it there. Hannah Whitall Smith describes absolute surrender like this: “You must not think of it or brood over it, but must dismiss it from your mind altogether, except whatever degree is necessary for proper self-care.”
When I came across that statement when doing research for a devotional project for Barbour Books (Shared Hope: Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul, releasing February 1, 2011), I was facing the biggest struggle of my life requiring me to surrender someone very dear to me completely to the Lord. I was brooding over the situation, and the loved one. I had shed tears of grief and even guilt, feeling like I had failed. I thought I’d surrendered it before, but when I read this sentence, I realized how much I was still clinging to my desires, trying to maintain control of people and situations.
What peace came over me when I confessed my control issue and totally surrendered the situation and the person to Him.
Then the Lord revealed trust as His word for me this year. He’s taken me on a somewhat different journey this year. Another situation out of my control. And instead of getting better, as of course I wanted, it continues to worsen. Every time I think I’m learning what it means to trust, the Lord takes me deeper. And this is good.
We all know the Lord has a sense of humor in the midst of conforming His children into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Believe me, I’ve caught both the humor and the irony in His leading me to choose an elective class on Wednesday nights at my church. In this class we’re studied a book entitled Running Scared by Edward T. Welch. My pastor led the discussion as we worked through the book. While we finished the class before Christmas, it isn’t the end of my needing to reread the book and continue to grasp the biblical principles the author teaches.
In learning to identify and deal with my fears, which are many, I’ve learned better to analyze myself—my motives and my desires—in light of who God is and what He desires for me. And it has challenged me to examine whom I believe—me influenced by the flesh, the world, and Satan, or God, the sovereign ruler over all creation.
But what truly got my attention was my study in the last two weeks of the class. One chapter took us to an examination of Romans 6, a passage I memorized nearly twenty years ago when the Lord used Romans 6 through 8 in bringing me out of a severe clinical depression.
The passage declares that when Christ died, I died. When Christ rose from the dead, I, too, was raised. Not to walk in my own way, but to walk in God’s way. If I died with Christ, then I am dead to sin. It no longer has power over me. It’s still there, but it only has power when I give it permission. Paul exhorts believers in this chapter to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. It’s the only way we can live surrendered to and trusting completely in Him.
The reminder that I’m dead to the desires of the flesh helped me realize that many times I’m trusting in a dead person—one who can do nothing! I am dead. What can I expect from myself that will help deliver me in any situation? I’m only alive spiritually because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and my belief and trust in Him alone for eternal salvation. So it only makes sense for me to put my trust in the One who paid such a price for me. He has never failed, nor will He.
As I was going over my notes from the final chapters, the Lord reminded me of ways He had taken my fears from me in the past. The biggie: my fear of speaking in front of people, either strangers or those I knew well.
Did you know that public speaking is very high on the list of fears people have?
I was so shy I barely passed the required two semesters of freshman speech classes in college. I knew the Lord had called me to teach, and I was obedient to that call in pursuing training in that field.
But I chose elementary education rather than my first love of English and literature. The Lord still used it for good and slowly started teaching me to trust Him to open the doors where He would have me teach. Today, I’ve taught children and young people from first grade up through seniors in high school (Spanish, English, and literature) to teaching a ladies Sunday school class, leading Bible studies, and even speaking to women’s groups. That isn’t me. I’m still that shy person inside. That was the Lord. And I love it.
After reminding me of this, He asked me, “So why can’t you trust Me with your lesser fears?” Um, good question. Why can’t I?
Because I want to control my life, my way. Even though I stink at it. My control in certain areas has led to near disaster. To what now looks like an impossible situation.
Yet God says, “I am the God of the impossible.”
I’ve also learned that I tend to live in the future. And I worry and fear about what might happen. No one but God knows the future. So why do I fret and fear? God is in control. My calling right now is to live one step at a time, trusting my present and my future to the God who is sovereign, the God who is enough, the God who has already made me a conqueror because of His amazing love that caused Him to send His Son to die so that I could have fellowship with Him.
So I’m committing myself to “Trust God and do the next thing” (Elizabeth Elliot). It’s still in the early days of this, but instead of looking at the big picture of what the future holds, I’m asking the Lord to show me what I am to do today, this hour, this moment. And when I complete that task, I ask Him for the next task, trusting that His plan is being worked out in me, one step at a time.
And you know what? It’s okay that I can’t see what’s ahead. The more I grasp the concept of trusting God one step at a time, the more I realize how freeing that is. It breaks the chains of fear and anxiety, and I can know the peace of God that passes all understanding.
And my word for 2011? Confidence. Which is just another step in surrender and trust. God is good . . . all the time!
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things though impossible.
He does the things others cannot do.
(Oscar C. Eliason)
May each of you have a blessed New Year!
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