Well, 2018 came and went in a snap, don't you think?
As always, in the days leading up to New Years, I spent a good amount of time praying, reflecting, and writing goals *in my shiny new planner.* For a type A personality, New Years is like Christmas--a whole year full of potential to achieve, achieve achieve.
I believe many of us are similar-- we want to make big strides this year in the ways that matter. We want to walk more fully in our God-given purpose. We want to grow in our faith. We want to increase our impact and influence for the Kingdom.
As I sought God about these desires, He led me straight to the book of Joshua.
Joshua is the amazing story of the Israelite conquest of the promised land. It begins at a breathtaking crossroads in the nations' story: finally, they had reached the promised land!...But now they actually had to enter in, to own it, to take ground. And they were afraid.
How do we take ground well in this new year? How do we really enter a new place, or pursue a new goal well with power and grace? Joshua gives us several insights I want to share:
1. God Is With You
Moses had just died, and Joshua had big shoes to fill as a new leader. It's fitting that in the very first sentences of Joshua, God reassured him:
"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." (1:5)
As 21st century Christians, this promise belongs to us--in even greater measure. Not only do we have the promise of God's everlasting friendship through Christ--we also have the promise of the Holy Spirit's constant presence on the inside of us.
Several years ago, I was going through a tough time with some relationships in my life. I had made some mistakes and felt like God couldn't love me. One day, I went for a run to clear my head. As I ran, I actually started crying, overwhelmed. I started crying out to God with my heart pounding. "Jesus, help me," I cried out.
After awhile, I slowed to a walk. Then, I suddenly heard God's voice in my heart, barely a whisper: "I will never abandon you."
As you enter into 2019, remember that no matter what happened in 2018, no matter how hard you failed at your goals, no matter how quickly you abandoned your resolutions, no matter how high you flew and succeeded--God is with you. God's presence with you is not determined by your performance. It's a PROMISE. It's a new day. It's a new year! He is excited to walk beside you, to lead you in this new chapter.
2. Focus on the Destination
In the first chapter of Joshua, God took the time to lay out exactly where He was calling His people:
"Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses."
The Israelites already knew where they were supposed to go--so why was God reminding them? The truth is that God knows how easy it is for us as people to get lost in the details, in the small things. We over-think, overanalyze, and obsess about the obstacles in our way. We convince ourselves out of what He has called us to!
We we can't focus on the details--we have to focus on the destination. When we stay focused on the promises of God, we gain courage and resilience to face the coming battle. If we focus on the battle itself, we will be too scared to try.
3. Be Brave
"Do not be afraid, or discouraged," God commanded Joshua.
Remember that this year you will face challenges and obstacles. The New Year is all about optimism, but then the real world happens, and it's so easy to lose steam, to grow discouraged and worn now.
Decide now that you will face them with courage. Decide that you'll see obstacles as upgrades, challenges as opportunities for growth. Decide now that day in and day out, you'll let the tides of life make your skin tough. Don't shy away from the hard stuff!
What hard things will you do this year? What risks will you take for the Kingdom of God?
4. Remember God's faithfulness.
In Joshua 3, when it came time to cross the Jordan River, God did something amazing. God parted the waters for them to pass through!
The purpose of the miracle was to be a sign for the Israelites that God was with them:
"This is how you will know that the living God is among you..." (3:10)
God's presence, in the Ark of the Covenant, went first across the river--then the Israelites.
When the Israelites faced battle in the promised land, they could look back and remember how God had parted the waters for them, and led them through Himself. How powerful!
Begin 2019 by writing down and reflecting on all the ways God was faithful to you in 2018. Deliberately meditate on and remember His faithfulness!
And wherever you are going this year, remember that God is going first. His presence always leads the way, into this year and beyond.