A New Year and A New Goal
That went fast.
2021 I mean.
It seems like just yesterday we were rounding the corner out of what some have called “the lost year” of 2020 and were screaming into 2021. Many of us came into the year with measured expectations. Some of us had amazing years, others have had a rougher time of it. What has marked this last year, and indeed, all of this season, has been faithfulness. More was accomplished in 2021 than you might think.
Psalms 37 (NASB)
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.
Better is the little of the righteous
Than the abundance of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the LORD sustains the righteous.
The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.
They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.
But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.
For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,
But those cursed by Him will be cut off.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.
All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.
Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abide forever.
For the LORD loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.
The wicked spies upon the righteous
And seeks to kill him.
The LORD will not leave him in his hand
Or let him be condemned when he is judged.
Wait for the LORD and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.
Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
For the man of peace will have a posterity.
But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.
But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him.
Let's talk about faithfulness.
It is really underrated in a “do or be-nothing” society like ours. But our cues are not taken from our society, as broken in places as it is, nor as wonderful as it can sometimes be. Our cues are taken from one place; God, and He is the paragon of faithfulness. Truly there is no one more faithful than Him.
You see we were created for faithfulness. It is in our DNA. I hear some of you citing both Biblical and personal evidence to the contrary: Peter denying Jesus, or yours and my own failings. You would be right to cite these because they happen.
But, I am not talking about the journey, but the destination.
God has destined us to be like His Son, and the Son is exactly like the Father, and the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit are unity itself, all of them are faithful. We are designed for it and we are destined for it.
Faithfulness shows up in many different ways, many different forms, and many different expressions.
It could be the faithfulness that is given from a husband to a wife. It also could be the faithfulness that is expressed from one friend to another in a variety of ways. It could be the faithfulness of keeping a commitment to God, to others, and to yourself. It could even be found in your keeping a commitment of ministry that the Lord has given to you. There's so many ways that we could be found faithful.
Faithfulness Flows from Relationship
The key is not to allow moving toward faithfulness to become a checklist for either, commendation or guilt by compunction. You see, faithfulness like all things flows from the relationship we have with the Father, through the Son in the Spirit. All of the things that we experience in Jesus are meant to flow in, through, and back to relationship.
Romans 11:36 (NKJV)
“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
Because God is faithful and relational, our relationship together with Him produces faithfulness. As we relish in the commitment that he's made to us, we find ourselves being drawn toward Him, and in that drawing, we become faithful to Him.
The problem with ancient Israel was that they didn't want a face-to-face relationship with God, they wanted a relationship with a checklist, with the rules. The reasons for this are many, but they all resulted in a broken relationship on Israel's part. Why? Because they never knew who God really was. They didn't learn from his desire to come close to them. They didn't learn from the many acts and miracles which He did for them in the wilderness wanderings and later through their establishment as a family nation. You see they never really knew him.
Our call today is to know him and all of his ways, and through all of our ways, whether they be persecution, suffering, joy, victory, and even massive fruitfulness. All of these things are invitations to know him. There is no greater thing in life than to know God and be known by him. This is not an intellectual knowing. This is not a religious knowing. It is deeply and thoroughly relational knowing. It is the key to all life in Jesus. We are to know him and He is longing to know us.
Faithfulness & Fruitfulness
So how does this faithfulness work in our society? Every year we come up on the calendar and the hope of a brand new year. We buy brand new blank journals and daily planners, and we begin to fill them with our goals and plans. All of that is good, if it follows the primary things in life.
And what is more primary than accomplishing things in our careers and in our families? Being faithful in our relationship with God, and our relationship with others, and our relationship to our self.
Faithfulness always precedes fruitfulness in the kingdom. Let me explain for a minute. When you first get saved, there is a wave of things begin to happen in the momentum of what God is doing to establish you in a relationship with himself. Every prayer you prayed, just about, gets answered. Do you need a parking spot at the store? You pray, and boom it's there. Your washing machine stopped working and you pray, and Boom, it starts working again!
So I'm only partly kidding about this kind of thing. I've watched new believers for years receive answers to incredible prayers. And then there's a season that inevitably follows where we pray and we don't seem to get an answer. I've watched a few people over the years lose their faith in this. Not only is it sad, but it's also shortsighted. So many times what's missing in these moments is us asking not just any question of God, but the right question. What would that be?
"Father, what are you doing right now?”
Philippians 3:10-11 (NASB) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
You see in these moments where God seems hidden, he is inviting us to come and be with him.
I love what Graham Cooke says about this. “When we stop seeing God manifest (become powerfully present in answers and actions) in our world, and He becomes “hidden”, He is inviting us to become manifest in His world.”
Simply put, when the answers to prayers come all the time, sometimes, we quit pursuing relationship. We begin to treat God as if he were a vending machine. All we have to do is insert the right prayer in the right slot, and answers come automatically. What God is asking us to do, is to keep relationship at the forefront.
He has told us that he would answer prayer.
John 16:23-24 (NKJV) "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Answered prayer is part of the believer’s daily experience. We were meant to have our prayers answered. But always first, is our relationship with the Lord. When God is hidden in our world, he asks us to manifest in his.
So many times we go through life and we don't view God as a partner or one who wants to work with us toward for filling was uniquely called us to do in this life. We separate our sacred life from our secular life. God never intended us to do so, the God who is called Immanuel, or God with us. That means he's with us when we go on the job. That means he's with us when we go to school. That means he's with us when we're traveling. That means he's with us when we're contemplative the problem in front of us that we can't solve on our own. He is with us not like some shadowy figure, but as one who loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. Our hearts should reciprocate the same.
The key to fruitfulness in this life is to be faithful to what God is called us to be. To be fruitful is also expressed in our stewardship of the gifts and relationships that God has given us. Being fruitful is expressed in obedience, as we simply do what he is asked us to do, regardless of the immediate outcome.
Faithfulness Will Reap Benefits Long After
How many of you would invite to a leader’s conference, a person who had taken his following from 5000 people to 12? As Banning Leibsher recently observed, "most of the conferences in America would never invite Jesus to come, because he's not enough of a "success" as they wish for."
What Jesus ended up doing was creating his culture and life in a few people through his cultivated obedience to the father that raped benefits after he was gone and to this very day.
You see, faithfulness produces fruit not just in the moment, but in the future as well. By being faithful to God, to our family, to our marriage, to our church family, in our business, in our recreation, we are setting up a legacy of faithful relationship that will benefit not just now, but forever.
In a few days, I'm giving a small portion of a talk about legacy for a friend of mine recently passed away. His life reverberates like a soliton wave, emanating forward to generation after generation. I myself was affected by his faithfulness in life. It's this kind of legacy that we all want. One net, continues on in our generations and amongst our peoples. This kind of legacy comes through faithfulness, the kind that is cultivated through relationship with the father.
This is why when I pass myself, I want it to be said of me that "he knew God and God knew him.” I encourage you in this new year to cultivate faithfulness. To do so, you set you up for ultimate fruitfulness, and you do so in the context of relationship with the father.
Happy new year from Janice and I to all of you! God is going to do some wonders among us so prepare yourself for a tsunami of His goodness!
Joshua 3:5 (NKJV)
And Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you."