I'm not one for making resolutions for the new year. Probably because I am a realist and I don't like to set myself up for failure!
However, I do like to spend some time at the end of the year reflecting on what the passing year has held and then looking to the Lord for hope and help for the coming year. Last year at this time, I was drawn to this passage
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:12-14
I focused on laying aside (as in not being controlled by) the good and the not-so-good of the previous year and looking ahead to what God had for me coming up. Clinging to His promise of grace through faith for whatever He allotted to me, trusting that all His ways are loving and faithful.
Seems appropriate to do the same thing again.
I walked my way through 2017 in my head. Starting at the beginning and working through the memories. So many sweet and wonderful blessings! A new grandbaby, time with family, successes for my kids, encouragement from many kind enough to buy my book, lots to linger over with gratitude and treasured thoughts.
But, as every year does, this one had some "opportunities for growth". Some disappointments, some "no" answers to fervent prayers, some painfully silent heartaches. Facing some uncertainties and some unknowns. Some things left scars on my heart and some places in my soul are still numb. Same for you, I am sure.
As I spent some time with my Heavenly Father, asking what I should focus on for the coming year, He led me to this passage in 2 Peter 1 -
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love
Yes, that is where I want my focus to be - learning to love like He does! But there are some powerful truths not only in this passage but also around it. Let's unpack these verses in the context of the letter that Peter wrote...
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Here's what I see...
1. His grace gives me everything I need to be all He calls me to be. In a culture that not only "encourages transparency" but practically celebrates being a hot mess, we need to hear the truth that, while God certainly accepts us just as we are, He does not want us to stay that way. Instead of excusing our failures and inadequacies (aka laziness and sin...), let's embrace the truth that God's divine power has granted to us all we need to live a godly life. Not a magic potion but divine power, available to us as we humble ourselves. Clinging to His promises of eternal life - beginning now and lasting forever - equips us to resist the temptation to look for satisfaction in lesser things. The truth of His sufficiency for everything is the foundation for life and godliness. Ask for His grace and trust His Word to be true.
2. Trusting these promises means that I must be diligent to ensure their fulfillment in my life. Because these promises are true, I am enabled to press on towards the ultimate goal of love. Peter lists eight things we are to pursue - faith, virtue (moral excellence), knowledge, self-control, steadfastness (patience), godliness, brotherly affection (kindness), and love. This is how God wants His people to live.
It seems that faith is the gateway to these other qualities - confidence in God's promises unleashes His power in us and ultimately transforms us. This passage urges us to be diligent to let His power work in us, much as Paul exhorts us in I Corinthians 15:10 - But by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace toward me did not prove vain but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me.
Both of these passages bring us to the divine tension of God's power working out our salvation in us, our part to trust His promises and obey His word. Yes, it is all His grace, but His grace is active, not passive. We are called to be diligent. John Piper puts it this way "The evidence that God's power has been given to you by faith is that you are now making every effort (as verse 5 says) to advance in the qualities of Christ."
3. Pursuing these qualities will keep us from being useless for the Kingdom of God. As believers, our confidence in God's promises should result in lives of virtue. Instead of immorality or dishonesty, we should be noted for moral excellence. Rather than complacency or spiritual laziness, we should be characterized by a hunger to know Him more and to become more like Him. Instead of yielding to the urges of our flesh (including our appetite, our tongue, our tempers, or our sexual desires), we will be demonstrate restraint, our fleshly self controlled by the Spirit. When we are tempted to retaliate to those who wrong us, we will instead respond with patience, and kindness...we will love...even our enemies.
Such love fulfills the command of Christ, to love God and to love our neighbor even as ourselves. And so His Kingdom is advanced.
4. Therefore, this should be the aim of our lives. God could just take us straight to Heaven, immediately after our conversion from darkness to light. But He doesn't. Instead, He leaves us here, not because He "needs" us to accomplish His work but because He uses our time here to perfect His work in our lives. Increasing in our knowledge of Him, learning how to obey Him, letting His word perform its work in us transforms us to a life of love...which is the rule of His eternal Kingdom.
So, this year, my friends, my aim is to love. To love God, of course, and to manifest that love for Him by loving others.
I hope you'll join me. After all, God has provided all we need for the journey!