“The Christian life is a life of constant growth.” Billy Graham wrote that in his book, The Journey, and oh my goodness, was he ever right?! They year 2013 has been amazing and deep and sad and fun and a struggle and, altogether, it’s been beautiful. The Lord has laid ground work this year for so many things that I am believing will come into greater fruition in the year 2014, and I am anxiously awaiting all that He’s going to be doing in my life, as well as the life of my family.
For no particular reason, other than I’m also growing fond of list-making, I decided to do a re-cap this year. A year in review of my own, of the 13 greatest things I learned this year. Some of these I’ve written on, some you’ll probably see in the future, but as always, I hope that in all this, someone out there in this great big world might come to know the Lord as I have known Him because He’s shown me so many incredible things about Himself, about the world around me, and – finally – about me.
So without further adieu, here it is…
1. Ministry is a lifestyle, not just a profession.
At the beginning of this year, I was pumped to be a part of a newly beginning ministry and allowing God to call me into parts of the Church where I had gifts to offer. Knowing that I am called to ministry as a profession, but in a stage of my ministry where it’s just newly founded and not yet capable of standing on its own as my career, it’s caused me a great deal of frustration at my current place of employment. I know this is a means to an end and I have been awaiting the end… which caused me to miss the great opportunity I have here.
Ministry CAN be a job, but it isn’t just a job; and I’m not convinced, either, that God necessarily meant for them to BE jobs. I fully believe He intended for ministry to be our LIVES. Ministry is our families, our relationships, our hobbies, and our service. It’s our work, our recreation, and our conversation. Ministry should be what we do all day long – constantly ministering to the hearts of those around us.
2. Dreams come true.
Check out the story about how God made a dream of mine come true at: https://samfindsfaith.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/dreams-come-true/
3. You shouldn’t say everything you think.
Jesus Himself taught me this lesson in John 8, when the angry crowd asked Him what He thought they should do with the adulterous woman who then intended to stone to death.
Read more about it here:
4. People sin. People suffer consequences. God redeems.
This line is literally taken word for word from the book Multiply by Francis Chan (highly recommended), which I read this year. It taught me so much about the Bible and what it means to be a disciple, as well as how to approach the Great Commission in Matthew 28.
God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t erase consequences for our actions. In some cases, it does and in others, it might not. For example, a consequence of pre-marital sex may be a sexually transmitted disease; or in my case, an unplanned pregnancy. Before anyone jumps on my case, I don’t think my daughter is a punishment from God. Not all consequences are punishments. However, it is difficult and we do struggle raising her in two households, between her father and I, and I have to maintain contact with someone I would’ve preferred to leave in my past. My daughter though, is very much a blessing, which out-weighs the consequences for sure, but it does not erase the difficulties that I must overcome in the situation, or that she must overcome as she grows up. God works all things for our good, though (Romans 8:28). He redeems our mistakes and is able to take a consequence and make it a blessing (which brings me to number 5..)
5. “God will not protect you from anything that will make you more like Jesus.” –Elisabeth Eliot
This quote has wrecked me in so many amazingly, wonderful ways. I really feel like it so simply answers a question that is such a complicated and difficult question to answer, which I myself have been asking since very early in my walk with the Lord in 2011: Why does God let bad things happen?
He may not cause them to happen, because I don’t believe Biblically He’d do anything to cause us harm, but Biblically, He promises that He’ll walk through pain and suffering with us and use it for our benefit; that’s for certain.
Part One: https://samfindsfaith.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/why-god-lets-bad-things-happen/
Part Two: https://samfindsfaith.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/why-god-lets-bad-things-happen-pt-2/
6. God provides.
God has been working this in so many ways in my life this year, beyond anything I can even begin to explain in a reasonable amount of words, so I’ll just share with you one story, about how a very unexpected change in the plans for the be.you.ty project (my women’s ministry – beyoutyproject.wordpress.com ) opened up doors for God’s provision that I never imagined.
Story viewable at: https://samfindsfaith.wordpress.com/?s=change+in+plans
7. I should hold myself to standard of grace, not perfection.
God rested this one on my heart last month as a message for the be.you.ty project’s unveiling and it is constantly shaping the way I view myself, as well as the others around me.
Message posted on the be.you.ty project’s blog at: http://beyoutyproject.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/a-standard-of-grace/
8. Forgiveness comes by the blood of Christ.
I have a lot to say about this that I’ll save for another post, but it’s been a life-changing realization for me that was revealed by Hebrews 9:22:
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
Without the blood of Jesus, there is no atonement. If you don’t accept and live by and, essentially, cover yourself in His blood, there is no forgiveness.
9. God is not an instrument of my success; I am an instrument for His glory.
Any hope that I have at this point is just that Christ be glorified through all that I do, overcome, say, and live. This year has brought me a lot of responsibility within ministry and leading and through it all, God continues to remind me that I cannot do it alone. With each humbling experience, He has brought me strength and help through the Holy Spirit, but also, through His followers. I can’t use God to be successful, but He can use me for glory.
10. Love deeply and sacrificially.
It is already on my heart that 2014 will be a great year for learning about love, and I can feel the Holy Spirit whispering to me that I will have a lot of opportunities to learn what it means to love God, love people, and love myself this coming year. This is something though, that I know He’s been laying groundwork for in 2013.
Read my findings of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: https://samfindsfaith.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/what-is-love/
And also, on that note…
11. Submit to one another.
Especially facing an upcoming marriage, Ephesians 5:22 has been really causing a deep stirring in me and my flesh is fighting it, almost violently. Prideful flesh doesn’t appreciate being humbled, even if it’s by the God that I love.
It is, also, a concept that I believe the Holy Spirit will continue to work in me this year, and throughout my marriage. What I have begun to realize, not just in my head, but also in my heart, is that we do not submit to one another because the other person is right or deserving of our submission, but because we do so for Jesus, because He is right and deserving.
12. Just because someone’s in the Church/is a Christian, doesn’t mean they will treat you Christ-like.
A lesson learned the hard way more than once this year, is that just because someone believes in Christ and may have salvation doesn’t mean they’ll understand how Christ is working in you or through you. Also important to note: because of that, some of our greatest persecution and resistance will probably come from within the Body. Not everyone in the church building is in the Church, will encourage you to pursue God’s calling in your life, or will be receptive to the way the Holy Spirit is trying to work in you/through you. I praise God, though, because in all of the situations I’ve face this year, He has blessed me abundantly for following Him and His plan, rather than that of other people, and when I have faced persecution for it, He has offered me the greatest comfort, support, and security I’ve ever known or experienced. In hind sight, the experiences were wonderful.
And last but not least… the greatest lesson of all that also continues to grow in my heart and mind and my life as a whole…
13. Sin doesn’t make you bad, it makes you dead. Holiness doesn’t make you good, it makes you alive. Again, I have so much to say here, have said, and will say someday soon, that I’ll just point you to what I’ve already posted at:
Good Christian, Bad Christian: https://samfindsfaith.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/good-christian-bad-christian/
Good tree, Bad tree: https://samfindsfaith.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/1107/
Above all, thank all of you who continually read my blog, support me, pray for me and the be.you.ty project. I really do have the deepest love and appreciation for you guys – even those of you I’ve never met or known.
I pray that 2014 brings all of you blessings and the fullness of Jesus Christ. Let’s live and love abundantly this year, friends!