Overall, I believe the majority would say that 2016 has been a challenging year. There have been many test and trials from a personal level on up to a grand scale. But with all of the trials and turmoil experienced this year, I can say one thing...I have surely come out stronger, wiser, and with a greater understanding and trust in God.
In 2015 we asked God for growth in 2016. Then all 2016 we complained about our struggles and challenges but what if that was God growing us? 2015 we asked God to remove those who mean us harm...Then all 2016 we complained about losing friends/relationships. Well maybe they meant us harm. We ask God for all of these things but then complain about the process that He uses to do it. Growth requires challenges and removal hurts. If you don't want to be challenged and stretched, don't ask God for change or growth. Too many of us want change without challenges and growth without discomfort. It doesn't work like that. If we try to forgo the process we will forfeit the promise. 2016 was a preparation year...it was a year of process...it was a teaching year...it was a year where Jesus showed us ourselves...it was the year where He stripped us of what wasn't like Him and broke us down so that He could build us up into who we were predestined to be.
2016 really taught me a few things and I wanted to share some of them with you:
- God ALWAYS comes through...
God used 2016 to show me, me. 2016 revealed a lot to me about myself that I didn't recognize before. I didn't realize how much I lacked faith. My constant stress and worry about everything and my need to always plan stemmed from my lack of trust in God. One of my friends said to me, "you feel the need to plan everything because you don't trust God to work everything out for you." I had never looked at it that way before but if we get right down to it and are honest, that's true. If we really believe God in His Word when He said that He has a plan for us (Jer. 29:11) and is working all things for our good (Rom. 8:28), we wouldn't stress when things go "wrong" or not according to our plans. Literally every. single. thing. that I have stressed about this year, God has worked out, so I don't know why I even insult Him by worrying.
2016 also showed me how much disobedience and distractions can delay development.
This has to be one of the greatest lessons I learned this year... - Disobedience Leads to Disappointment...
“Follow the whole instruction the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.”(Deuteronomy 5:33 HCSB)“This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”(Joshua 1:8 HCSB)
“and keep your obligation to the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to keep His statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn,”(1 Kings 2:3 HCSB)““Now if you faithfully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth.”(Deuteronomy 28:1 HCSB)“If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings. In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart.”(Malachi 2:2 HCSB)
*******God's warnings aren't suggestions, they're protection.******* I feel that many, if not most of us, treat God's commands/warnings as suggestion to some degree. We may not always deliberately disobey them or blow them off but to an extent, we feel that they only have to be followed if we agree or they are a last resort if our way doesn't work out but that couldn't be any further from the truth. When we disobey God, move ahead of His time or act after He speaks instead of when He speaks, we end up settling for less than His best, we make a mess and we also end up disappointed in the long run because God doesn't bless mess.This year, anytime I tried to do things my own way or in my own timing (because delayed obedience is still disobedience) I ended up being frustrated, stressed, annoyed...just flat out disappointed. I heard God clearly about what I needed to be doing but I didn't want to move when He said move or speak when He said speak. I said I would just do it later on when I was ready. But the thing is, God doesn't move on our time, we move on His and when we choose to not move on His time, we can in fact miss Him. When we choose to just go along doing things our way, we delay our our development and progress. God doesn't need us, we need Him. He sees the big picture, we don't. He knows The whole story (being that He wrote it) and we only receive glimpses when He shows us. Who are we to decide what commands we will follow and when we'll follow them? We only hurt ourselves when we do this.Also, moving before God speaks is just as bad as being slow to listen.
ISHMAEL CAN NEVER BE ISAAC. Whatever we gain by moving ahead without God can never compare to what we would have if we wait on God.
When we try to move ahead of God and take matters into our own hands, we are still being disobedient. God says to be still and know that HE IS GOD (Psalm 46:10)...Not us...HIM. God calls us to follow ALL of His instructions and do what He tells us WHEN He tells us...not just follow the commands we agree with or move when it feels comfortable to us. God's instructions are not suggestions but commands and He blesses those who follow them.
“I hurried, not hesitating to keep Your commands. Though the ropes of the wicked were wrapped around me, I did not forget Your instruction.”Psalms 119:60-61 HCSB
“How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways!”Psalms 128:1 HCSB
“The one who follows instruction is on the path to life, but the one who rejects correction goes astray.”Proverbs 10:17 HCSB
Use the corrections of 2016 to better yourself in 2017. I keep hearing God say, "eliminate distractions, eliminate distractions, eliminate distractions." A lot of us entertained people and things in 2016 that delayed our development. Not again in 2017. There are things God has called you to do, places He has called you to go and deeper levels in Him that He has called you to reach that you cannot if you continue to allow distractions in. 2017 is about focus. It is the season where God wants to use all you've endured to push you further into what He predestined you for. 2017 requires hunger and determination...commitment and drive. No more passively serving God...it's time to passionately live for Him. As my First Lady once said, "your level of hunger either restricts your purpose or releases your purpose." - First Lady Lynch As I look back, I can also see how many times I allowed distractions in and wasted time that I could've spent on my development. Though I hate that I wasted time, I know that the God I serve can redeem any and everything so I'm taking the lessons of 2016 to help me flourish and prosper in 2017. 2015 was definitely a year of uprooting and seed planting for me. 2016 has been a season of rain/storms. 2017 will be my time of harvest. We can retweet all of the tweets about 2017 being prosperous...we can like all of the "new year, new me" resolution posts on Facebook and we can even raise our hands to receive the prophecy that "2017 is our year" but this year won't be prosperous, there will be no new year, new me and this won't be your year unless you do your part. In order to make 2017 successful and in order to obtain all that God has for us, we are required to do three things: 1. Be single minded in our desire to please God. We can't get all that God has for us if we keep running off after every distraction. Our desire must be focused on Him. 2. Obey God's rules. You can't receive the prize if you don't follow the rules. Disobedience is undeserving of reward. 3. Work hard as unto the Lord in everything you do. A slothful hand is not blessed. We can pray all we want but faith without works is dead. We need pray but we must have actions that follow suit and step out in faith on what we prayed for.
“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the recruiter. Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer ought to be the first to get a share of the crops.”2 Timothy 2:4-6 HCSB