With all the frantic rushing around in this season, there’s often not as much time as we’d like to reflect on the year that has gone by. But it’s something we have started to do a little bit over the last few weeks, and thought we would share something of that with you.
Often at this time of year, we start thinking about a little baby in a manger, but for us the picture that God has reminded us to reflect on is actually one of a different man in scripture that He made a promise to. He is somebody that we have taken inspiration and encouragement from over the last few months as we have learned from his life and example.
He was in fact similar to Jesus in some ways – he would have described himself as a shepherd (although a different kind) and lived a fairly nomadic existence, leaving his father’s house and responding to the call to go to a new land in order that God could re-establish a covenant with His people.
He was a man called Abram, married to Sarai. Their story with God was an incredible adventure that took them on a journey of changing their identity, their destiny and ultimately the course of history. As a fairly wealthy man growing up in a predominantly poly-theistic Bronze Age culture, it would have taken incredible courage to trust the voice of this “One God” (Genesis 19:14) who was speaking to him and telling him to leave behind what he knew and move to a land that “I will show you”.
As we know – Abram and Sarai made a few mistakes along the way too! They struggled to believe God’s promise that He would make them in to a great nation, as it seemed to hinge on something impossible – their ability to have a son. And we know that at points they gave in to fear and tried to ‘fix’ it for themselves, looking for an easy solution or compromise. But in the end, this promise brought about enough faith and conviction to allow them to walk in obedience to God. As mentioned earlier, this obedience changed them (even their names) and the world around them.
Our reflection on this year is that we have often been faced with a decision of whether or not we trust God. Do we trust in His promises, His goodness, His faithfulness, His provision, His power, His plans, and His character? Or not? Choices in the kingdom are often simple ones. Not necessarily easy, but simple.
Here’s a few things that Abraham (“father of nations” – as we now remember him) and his life of faith has taught us this year:
Obedience – Hebrews 11 reminds us that by faith, Abraham OBEYED. But we also know that there were moments of “nervous laughter” (Genesis 17:17) at what God had said! The promise of God was impossible to fulfil with human endeavour. God has taught us more about how to live in this place of nervous laughter and faithful trust. Trust that however big the challenge or journey looks like, we can remind each other how faithful He is and that He will do it. That gives us to the courage to take the next simple step of obedience together.
Perseverance – from family disputes, to battles, plagues, and famines, there were all sorts of ups and downs for Abraham and his family. This year, we have also experienced so many “how?”, “why?”, “what if?”, “really?!” kind of moments! It’s been quite an adventure, but through all of it we’ve learned a bit more about how to be faithful, persevere, and ‘keep on keeping on’. One scripture that has really helped us to do this has been 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus”
We’ve been encouraging each other to remain full of joy (not just flaky emotions, but appreciation of who God is and what He has done), not to stop praying, and to embrace the daily discipline of thankfulness. As we have done this, it has empowered us to persevere together more.
Sacrifice – a pivotal moment in Abraham’s story is where we find him kneeling at the altar with his son Isaac, preparing to offer him as a sacrifice. Could he give back the very thing that God had promised him and that he had waited so long for? As we have journeyed through this year, we have had to learn the importance of constantly laying down our vision and call before Him on the altar, saying that ultimately everything we have is His and that He can do what He wants with it. Holding this lightly has allowed God to use us more effectively in this same vision and call.
That’s just a little of what we’ve been thinking about. How about you? As you look back, what is the word or message that God has interwoven in to your life this year?
What impact has it had on you and your community?
Happy Christmas from all of us at 3DM Europe 🙂