I woke up at 5:40am this morning all of a sudden and had this immense feeling that I needed to start writing. But I wasn’t sure what exactly I was supposed to be writing.
Last year, I had decided my word for the year by the second day of the year (see Patience). Honestly, I knew what the word needed to be well before that, I just didn’t sit down and write about it until then. It is now January 5, 2018, and until 6:19am I still was unsure what was going to be my word of the year.
I know people do not “have” to have a word of the year. But I do. I need a theme, a central verse (or verses), a central word or phrase to remind myself of what it’s all about during the long year ahead. And every year, God is faithful in providing me one word that always ends up being the word that carries me through the entire year’s mountains and valleys.
So I opened my bible and started searching. I landed in Colossians, around 6:05am, and just started reading and listening. It’s only 4 chapters long, and I had this feeling that I was supposed to read the whole thing. Wow am I glad I did.
Colossians 3:1-2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Focus. I found my word right then and there. I had been kind of given that word during Passion Conference the first few days of the year, but I hadn’t really gone looking for it, so I felt like I needed to do some searching on my own.
Set your hearts on things above, WHERE CHRIST IS. Where else should our hearts lie?! And not only our hearts, but our minds as well. I LOVE that. Paul is telling us that the focus of our entire souls, our hearts AND our minds, should be Christ, who is at the right hand of God. This is a powerful passage.
I found several other passages and verses upon further search and recollection that I think are going to be key for me (and maybe some of you) this year, some also having to do with setting our mind above the earth.
First, Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
This one from Matthew is so fitting, but we have to take a step back and look at the passage it comes from to really understand why.
Matthew 6:31-34: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (emphasis added)
The first thing I noticed was verse 33, where Matthew outlines where our focus should lie. He says that we should seek FIRST God’s kingdom and righteousness, and then we will be given all these things too. Then I realized I needed to look back at the rest of the passage because I didn’t know what “these things” was referring to. Turns out, it’s the things we worry about. “What shall we eat?” “What shall we drink?” “What shall we wear?” We may not ask those questions in the same ways but we definitely have those same struggles and same worries today too. Then Matthew says something that got my attention. He says that the pagans, people who are not Christians, run after all the worries of the world. Key words: run after.
Do you ever feel like you are running after something but it just keeps getting farther and farther away? I do. I pursue something, and after a while I step back and reflect and I have to ask myself if that thing I was pursuing was another thing of this world or if it was me actually seeking God’s will first. A lot of the time, I feel like I am trying to seek my will and somehow force it to align with God’s will. Definitely beginning to realize how that is not how it works. What about you?
The pagans were RUNNING after things that — get this — it literally says (verse 31) God already knows we need!!! So my question for you is, if God knows what we need, why are we running? Why are we pursuing the things of this world if they hold no fulfillment for us outside of God? Why are we running towards the desires of our flesh when God knows what we desire and will give us what we need at the proper time?
I think I may have a slight answer to that. Because somehow in this generation we have a huge misunderstanding between the words “need” and “want.” This passage is not talking about things we want. It is talking about things that He knows you need. Food. Drink. Clothing. Things considered essential for life. But we are a fallen people and there is sin and greed in the world so we have come to think that God owes us something. God does not owe us anything!!! In fact, He already paid the ultimate price for us years ago through Jesus on the cross so He honestly does not owe us another dime, yet He continually provides for us, though we are so unworthy. That alone is something to be grateful for!
To my next verse, Romans 8:5:
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
This one is simple. This part of my “Focus” campaign for 2018 is to focus not on things of the flesh, but on things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 echoes the passage from Colossians 3—they both center on focusing our hearts and minds on the things above, not on earthly things. I will be continually praying for discernment, for myself and those around me, to know the difference.
Also included in this: keeping my focus on things of the Spirit means keeping my focus off of the approval of human beings. THIS IS HUGE.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” — Galatians 1:10
Wow. That is powerful. And extremely humbling. What a reminder that we cannot please people over God. If we seek the approval of human beings, we are seeking their approval before God’s. This is Paul’s way of reminding us to always seek God first and it is honestly just a good reminder of how small other humans’ opinions are when it comes to God’s opinion! Our earthly brains cannot even begin to fathom what He has in store for us, so the fact that we are always trying to please people just goes to show how small we really are and how much we really need Him. My prayer is that 2018 be a new start for us all, that we stop trying to please people and start trying to please God. Amen.
A few more things. Also fairly simple in thought, but somewhat complex at the same time.
Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
2 Corinthians 5:20: Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (emphasis added)
Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
The Great Commission, ambassadors for Christ, shining lights. I thought these were very fitting seeing as I labeled this section of my Focus Plan “Focus on the Cause of Christ.” Essentially, this part covers a lot for me. I want to focus on the calling that has been placed on our lives to be Christ’s Ambassadors on this earth. I want to focus on making disciples of all nations. I want to focus on spreading what I know and have been given to my circles of influence. I want to work on expanding my circles of influence, so that I may reach more people for Christ. I want to focus on letting my light shine so that God may be glorified, and not me. I just always feel like there is so much more we can be doing.
I also want to spend this year (and every year after that) pouring out God’s love to other people because I know how much I am loved.
John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
1 John 4:7-11: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Final thoughts. I have the privilege of leading others in worship from the platform both in Birmingham and in Oxford, and I’m studying worship leadership in college as well, so I think about worship a lot. I was reading further in Colossians today and chapter 3 verse 17 jumped out at me (remember when I said I was so glad I kept reading?):
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” —Colossians 3:17
I have been learning so much recently about what it means to worship in all of life, and it is my wish that this learning continues in 2018. Whatever you do, do EVERYTHING in the name of Jesus. That is an act of worship. You don’t have to be singing or in a church on Sunday morning to be worshiping—you just have to be dedicating your lives and your actions to Christ. And be thankful.
I saw someone create a plan for their word of the year, and I thought maybe I should do the same. Maybe we all should. This is short enough to put on sticky notes around offices, desks, mirrors, binders, or wherever you and I will see it and be impacted by it most.
My Focus Plan:
1. God’s Kingdom and Righteousness
2. Things of the Spirit, not of my Flesh
3. The Cause of Christ
—2 Corinthians 5:20
4. Pouring Out (God’s Love)
—1 John 4:7-11
5. Worshiping in All of Life
You know why I chose the flower picture for the “featured image” of this blog? Because sometimes the things that are directly in front of us are not meant to be the object of our focus. Sometimes we just have to look a little further, at the yellow flower in the back on the left, to find what truly deserves our focus. God is like that too. He deserves our focus even when the orange flowers of this world are immediately in our line of sight. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to see that.
Song today is simple. It just says that our eyes are on God and we are never looking away again. Talk about focus!
All Eyes on You, SEU Worship //
“All eyes on You
All eyes on You
I’m never gonna look away
No, never, no, never
Right here, right now
You have all my attention
Right, here, right now
You have it, You have it
Right here, right now
Come take all my affection
Right here, right now
Come take it, come take it.”