It’s the most wonderful time of the year! However, for most of us, ‘’wonderful” isn’t the first word that comes to mind for 2020. The holiday season is usually when we reflect on the past, give thanks for our many blessings, rejoice in the hope of our Savior, and anticipate what is to come. But let’s just be honest, that’s easier said than done this year.
2020 has been hard for everyone. So how can we look to the holidays with that typical festive hallmark outlook? For me, the answer to that question can be summed up in one word Refocus! In this season, I’m choosing to focus on Romans 12:12, which states:
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
In this short and simple scripture, the Lord offers us three powerful ways to help shift our perspective, even in the toughest of times. Let’s look at each of them more closely.
1. Rejoice in Hope
I don’t know about you but, for me, rejoicing isn’t the word that comes to mind when reflecting on 2020. However, it is important that we, as Christ-followers, do have a reason to rejoice! We have great hope in Christ and whether we are on the highest mountain top or the deepest valley we must choose to celebrate and find comfort in the Hope of our salvation.
As Christ-followers we obviously know that we have such an amazing hope in Christ but does that mean it is always easy to remember? Absolutely not! Rejoicing in the hope we have in Christ is something that we must choose. It is far too easy to look at the world and focus on the situations we are in; however, when we choose to look at the Hope we have in Him everything changes. Our hearts and minds are reminded once again that we serve a God who is in control and knows our future. We are comforted by remembering that we have a hope that reaches far beyond the state of our world, our country, or who is or is not the president. With this new perspective, we begin to declare firmly once again, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6) And it is then, having been reminded of all the promises of our great God and the incredible hope we have in Him, that we are able to choose to rejoice in it!
2. Be patient
Let’s be honest; no one likes to be told to be patient, especially in the day and age that we live. Everything is instant or a click away. Patience is no longer a virtue; it’s a sign of weakness or incompetency. However, I believe that being told to be patient is a great reminder that God is in control. You see, when we are impatient, we’re looking for things to be in our timing and in our control. But what would happen if we shifted our thinking and instead of looking at patience as a punishment we saw it as an opportunity to trust God?? What if we saw the call to “wait patiently on the Lord” found in Psalm 27:14 as a blessing and not a curse - a reminder that we need to trust God’s timing and His provision.
When things seem out of control or frustrating, I challenge you to be patient and remember that He holds your future and knows what is best for you, even when we can’t see it.
“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action: rather it is “timing”. It waits on the right time to act - for the right principles and in the right way.” – Fulton J. Sheen
3. Pray, pray, pray
Who, like me, has ever said something like “I wish I could do more but all I can do is pray.”? I would venture to say we can all admit to having said, or at least thought, something similar more than once in our lifetimes. As Christians we know, have seen, and have experienced the power of prayer first hand. So why is it that we tend to approach it, many times, as a last resort? Because many times it’s easier for us to run to our own solutions - tangible things that we can control - rather than running to prayer where we are having to surrender that control to the Lord.
So while we are running around trying to fix all of the things and solve all of life’s problems the Lord’s direction to us is so simple….Pray. I love how the ESV says to stay “constant” in prayer. Staying constant in our prayer life doesn’t mean pray once we’ve exhausted our own options. It means to consistently be in communication with our heavenly Father. When your road rage is getting the better of you, Pray. When you aren’t sure if you should jump in and accept that new ministry or job opportunity, Pray. When you feel like you are failing as a father, husband, Pastor, and friend, PRAY! Be. In. Constant Prayer.
I love the story of Daniel in the lions’ den. Scripture tells us that when Daniel heard of the law that was passed that no one was to worship any other than the earthly King, his response was to return home, open the windows toward the city, and pray, just as he had done three times a day. I am challenged by the fact that this response to hit his knees in prayer was not out of fear or desperation because of a tragic situation. This routine of constant daily prayer was his normal, everyday routine that carried him through the good days and the bad and nothing was going to break his routine of communicating with God. Even knowing what it would cost him, he stayed connected to his priority of being “constant in prayer”, no matter the cost.
As I begin to wrap this up I want to challenge you to take a moment to shut off the distractions, go to a quiet place, and ask yourself these questions. And once you’ve asked yourself, ask the Lord to search your heart (Psalm 139:23), so that nothing is left hidden.
Are you running to the Father to voice your complaint or concern before running to Facebook?
Are you running to the Father to vent about that frustrating co-worker before running to a bent ear?
Are you running to the Father to thank Him for your success before searching for outward celebration or approval from others?
Are you running to the Father to search your heart and asking Him to change YOU before you running to blame others?
This holiday season, let’s all take time to reflect, remember, and refocus. Ask the Lord to help you to once again REJOICE in the Hope of your salvation, to patiently wait on HIS will and HIS timing, learning to trust Him more, and to pray without ceasing, knowing that He should always be our first and most important line of communication. 2020 has been crazy, to say the least, but God is still in control. No matter what we face and no matter what the government or the powers that be tell us, we can still choose to rejoice in Him, trust Him, and patiently wait on Him. And as we stay in consistent connection with Him, He will lead us into a new season.
Psalm 29:10-11 “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.”