It is my practice, on the last Sunday of the year, to share a few things I heard that year, and hopefully learned. If I may, I would share part of that sermon with you in this column.
God calls us to co-labor
Read 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 for the context. This is a passage that leapt off the page to me as I read it on January 4. I wrote in my journal, “Paul didn’t stay in Troas because Titus wasn’t there. An argument that ministry should be done with others. Or that Paul wanted a companion to encourage him and bring him joy in the hard work of ministry.” Elijah was so discouraged in his ministry as a prophet that he wanted to die and told the Lord so, adding, “I have been very jealous for the Lord…, (and) even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away.” God told him that there were seven thousand in Israel who were, in effect, standing with Elijah. He also sent Elisha to him, to travel with Elijah and eventually to take his place. We are never alone. But we also must seek out others to co-labor with, as Paul did, and as Jesus did.
Habits of Grace
One of the best books I read this year, and then took two young men through, is “Habits of Grace,” by David Mathis. Mathis focuses on various practices and habits of Christians that will sweeten our walk with the Lord, help us grow up in him, and make us more useful for the work he has called us to do for his name’s sake. But the author issues a caution right up front: “The grace of God is gloriously beyond our skill and technique. The means of grace are not about earning God’s favor, twisting his arm, controlling his blessing, but readying ourselves for consistent saturation in the roll of his tides.”
I love that he includes wonderful quotes from some of my favorite authors, like Donald Whitney: “One of the costs of technological advancement is a greater temptation to avoid quietness,” and so we “need to realize the addiction we have to noise.”
I don’t remember when I first heard this acronym, but I wrote about it in my journal in February.
Specific: Non-specific goals are not goals at all. For example, a goal to “read more in my Bible this year” is not specific enough. To “read through the Bible” is better. Or, “to spend a month in a single book of the Bible, reading it over and over, before moving on to another book in the next month.”
Measurable: we all know what that means. How will you know you reached your goal if you cannot measure it? To become “better acquainted with the Bible” is not as measurable as, “Commit a chapter of Scripture, like Ephesians 1, to memory.”
Attainable: “Telling everybody at my workplace about Jesus,” is not attainable if you work at a large company. “Tell one new person about Jesus each week” is a reasonable goal.
Realistic: To travel to every state in the country this year is not realistic. To take your family on a vacation for a week is, and if you haven’t done that in a while, I highly recommend it. Jesus told his disciples on occasion to come apart for a while and rest. As Vance Havner said, “If you don’t come apart for a while, you will come apart!”
Time-Bound: If you are going to pay off a debt this year, set a reasonable time limit. Put a date on when you plan to finish writing a letter, or a song, or even a book. Then do whatever it takes, without sin, to meet your own deadline. Plan your work, then work your plan.
May the Lord bless you with great fruitfulness in Him this year!