(By Rachel Joyce)
Christmas is fast approaching with the New Year right behind it. We don’t usually focus on the New Year until Christmas is over, but I’m writing about this for you to mull over and pray about for the next few weeks so that you’re ready when the ball drops and 2020 begins.
I used to make careful resolutions at the end of each year, but my follow-through wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. According to the American business magazine, Forbes:
Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.*
That’s is a pretty small number. And failing so significantly when you’re barely into the New Year can leave you discouraged and feeling a little less than who you were meant to be. A few years ago I became aware of what Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen call “My One Word.” They suggest that instead of making a long list of New Year’s resolutions, you choose one word to keep focused on throughout the year. I’ve tried it and it works. I love it! I didn’t do it exactly as they recommended, but here are their suggestions in three steps:
1. Determine the kind of person you want to become.
2. Identify the characteristics of that person.
3. Pick a word and commit to it.
I actually just asked God what He wanted my word to be and then spent time in His Word and in prayer waiting on Him for the answer. I don’t have a tremendous amount of confidence in myself and I’d really rather just get it from Him.
This year’s word really raised my husband’s eyebrows (and it takes a lot to do that 😊). When I told him, he said, “What? What kind of a word is that?” But when I explained, he understood and although this has been a hard year, it has been a wonderful one, too. My word was with, as in 2 Timothy 4:17.
But the Lord stood with me.
It was God’s promise to His people “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand" (Isa 41:10). So my word for 2019 was with. I have been acutely aware of His presence with me. He has driven away fear, led me through heartache and loss, and strengthened me beyond measure. I am so thankful for His presence with me.
So a few days ago, I thought about 2020 and wondered what word God might have for me facing the New Year. I asked Him and was surprised at His answer: strong. I’ve never actually felt very strong. Because of my constant battle with chronic pain and the weakness and inability connected with that, I often feel anything but strong. However, arguing with God gets you nowhere, so I started checking out references to get a better understanding of what God wanted. The verse that first convicted me about this word is in 2 Tim 2:1,
Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.
We’ve been studying 2 Timothy in our women’s Bible study and it has been a blessing and encouragement to me. The apostle Paul wanted Timothy to be strengthened by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The words “Be strong” are only one in the original text (ἐνδυναμόω) endunamoō. According to Strong’s Concordance, it means to empower, enable, increase in strength, be or make strong.” Paul explained to Timothy that it was because God’s presence with him which gave him strength. “But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength” (2Ti 4:17 NLT). So it is fitting, after a year of focusing on God’s presence with me, to concentrate on the strength He has provided and wants to provide. In Hebrews, I noticed that it was out of weakness that God’s people were made strong. The writer to the Hebrews told how the people of God, (Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, prophets, etc..) “Quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Heb 11:34). Despite their weakness, when they had God’s presence with them, they were mighty. God wants His people to be mighty through His presence and strong in faith. Paul explained to the Roman believers, “He [Abraham] grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (Rom 4:20-21 ESV). When writing to the Ephesians, Paul exhorted them: “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Eph 6:10 NLT). Their strength was not in themselves but in their mighty God. And finally, to the Philippian Christians, Paul made the spectacular claim, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Php 4:14 NLT).
So, despite our weakness, when we draw close to Him and live in the good of His presence with us, He makes us strong. He wants us mighty in Him and in His power, so He works in our lives to strengthen our faith, to help us to grow strong in His grace so that we are able to say with the apostle Paul, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives us strength.” The psalmist declared, “You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong” (Ps 89:17). I’m looking forward to learning about God’s strength this coming year and I’d like to encourage you to ask Him what He’d like to teach you this year. He knows our needs and if you’d like to join me in doing “My One Word” He’ll direct your heart to just the word you need for 2020.
*Prossack, Ashira. “This Year Don’t Set New Year’s Resolutions.” Forbes. Dec 31, 2018.