For me there is a new home and a new set of challenges for the new year. It seems as though I’m caught wrestling with changes that happen – sometimes by choice but often outside my control. It is in the context of a dynamic ever-changing life that I sense I have a real opportunity this coming year to grow in my effectiveness for God’s kingdom. Not that this is meant in any way to add another burden to my busy life but as a reminder of what is primary in my life on earth lived for Jesus. What emerges is the challenge of setting intentional but realistic goals for the long-term rather than simply as a response to what is happening in the present.
This long-term view is something I want to be shaped by the values of God’s kingdom. God’s values don’t change in a random manner but are consistent. As is the character of God – Hebrews reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). My reliance on God is a connection with a God who wants to develop my life and use who I am to achieve his unchanging purpose. I certainly feel and experience a great deal of inadequacy but am constantly encouraged by God’s forgiveness and grace to rest in his truth rather than evaluate myself as unsuitable for God to use because of my inconsistencies. I need a distinct reliance on God’s Spirit in my life. It is true that God’s Spirit resides in the lives of believers but to walk in the power of God’s Spirit for me is to daily count the cost of following Jesus; to realise that human effort – my efforts to please God – are never going to be adequate; and to place my day – my decisions and my direction into God’s hands under the control of the Spirit. It means letting go of my desires and yielding to God’s control – not that this is easy – it is however beneficial and liberating.
My identity is found in Christ – who values me as a loved child who is fearfully and wonderfully made. This is not something that is changed by my failure but remains the long-term value of God. And not just for me. The great part of this value is that what is true for me is true for every person in the world. Our life experiences or our life choices don’t change God’s perspective on our worth. What often happens, however, is our mind believes lies about our worth based on our experiences. We need to allow the truth to set us free (John 8:32) rather than allow the lies to bind our lives up in ineffectiveness and an ongoing wrestle with our identity. I personally have wrestled over the years with this very understanding and it has been the long-term attention and goal in this direction that has seen the advances in being content with who I am and how God has gifted me. This has brought the freedom to not have to compete against others for recognition or personal validation but simply rejoice in being unique and loved by God.
Paul states that it is the renewing of the mind – a new way of thinking aligned with God’s truth – that enables us to prove the effectiveness of God’s good will and purpose in our lives (Romans 12:2). This lining up of our goals and purpose with God’s will means that we change from focussing selfishly on ourselves and our dreams and visions to a new perspective. And this is the challenge for me to continually grow in effectiveness because I’m committed to God’s purpose.
Maybe the particular aspects of your life and the points of growth may be different from the ones impacting me but God’s truth actively bringing us the freedom and promise of God means that we are all able to benefit from the work of God applied personally. When we believe that God can use us – which is the truth the Scriptures teach – then we are going to make a difference to those we have connection with and influence. Serving our Lord means at times we will have to wrestle strongly with the temptation to go our own way but God’s love, grace and mercy is able to bring glory to God from our willing lives. The first steps of faltering obedience sure beats ignoring the voice of the Spirit of God and remaining in a place of ineffective service to God. So join me (and a growing band of local believers) in stepping out in obedience to the Holy Spirit – though it takes courage and willingness to focus attention on God’s ways it brings the greatest long-term rewards.