2020 offered more distractions to disrupt our focus than we could have imagined.
We all encountered diversions that were anything but amusing and certainly not what we anticipated. It’s quite humbling to realize how unexpected circumstances can suddenly derail our plans.
Looking back, I realize that in my attempt to establish goals and clarify my aspirations for 2020, not once did I consider: “How might a pandemic impact my ministry?”
The thought wasn’t even on my radar.
Those who know me will tell you that I believe in setting goals. I name my desires and chart a course to help move me toward those goals. But last year reinforced the wisdom (and truth) of Proverbs 19:21:
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (ESV)
We enter a New Year with uncertainty.
Making plans in stable times is tenuous. Add to the process a “boatload” of unpredictability, and the exercise becomes precarious at best.
It’s not the first time our world has faced uncertainty, and it won’t be the last. To boldly predict what’s ahead for us in 2021 is unpredictable.
Although uncertainty engulfs us, we have the assurance that “the purpose of the Lord will stand” — not my purpose, not your purpose — but God’s purpose.
Yes, I’m outlining and preparing for ministry this New Year. But I also remember: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” - Proverbs 16:9 [Emphasis mine]. That’s essential to remember.
Last year I made plans to return to Armenia, Belarus, and other Eastern European countries. I had gone as far as booking flights. COVID derailed my plans. It made me recall the words of James:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” - James 4:13–14a (ESV)
Those words are a timely reflection of what we experienced in 2020.
But that’s okay because it’s appropriate to plan. It’s unwise and foolish not to strategize. What’s critical is that we submit our work (plans, dreams, desires, intentions, and effort) to the LORD. “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).
We enter a New Year with HOPE.
Although I’m uncertain about what this year holds, I’m HOPEFUL because I know WHO “holds” me.
My confidence is more than wishful thinking. It’s because I have a history that reminds me of how God’s faithfulness has been extended to me, time and again.
Trusting in God — who loves us more than we can imagine — provides us with enduring confidence to face whatever challenges we may encounter. No matter what we face this coming year, I’m grateful to know that for those who place their trust in the LORD, God’s purpose will stand.
You may be acquainted with the adage: “Starve your distractions and feed your focus.” I think that’s a great pearl of wisdom for us this year. No doubt, there will be many things to distract our focus from the LORD.
Divisiveness is not likely to evaporate. It will require more than a change in political administration to solve our problems. Secularism will continue to question — and challenge — the validity of a biblical worldview. Discouragement and hardships will continue, and a return to “normal” in short order is wishful thinking and highly improbable.
While this may sound depressing, 2021 offers us a great promise— for those who keep their focus on the LORD!
The reason I’m HOPEFUL is that nothing we face this year has the power to separate us from the love of Christ:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? - No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:35; 37–39 (ESV)
Let’s stay focused on the LORD!