This is the time of year when people often reflect back upon the past year and look forward to the upcoming year. I’m choosing not to dwell on the past year. I’ve had worse years but 2012 certainly doesn’t rank among my best. I’ve had some personal disappointments, some financial frustrations, and one of my cats even had to have surgery that cost me over $2000 because she ate a thread that got stuck and caused her intestines to rupture. Nevertheless, God is still good and I’m choosing not to complain.
I have decreed the year of 2013 as a year of jubilee in my life. God gave the Israelites an order to celebrate a jubilee every 50 years and while I still have a ways to go to reach that milestone I have decided to make 2013 a year of celebration.
I partly got this idea from a friend of mine (who incidentally I’m working on a web project with so you might be hearing him soon.) Every year he would decree the forthcoming year as “the year of …” as an indication of what he expected or what he hoped to work on for the year. Past themes for my friend were the year of breaking free, the year of accomplishment, and the year of transition.
I have declared 2013 to be the year of jubilee partly based on plan and partly based on premonition. I have a ton of projects that I plan on rolling out in 2013 that I’m really excited about. I always have projects in the works but I believe that a couple of these projects could end up being the biggest since I first started my website over a decade ago. So I’m really excited about that and I’m praying that God would bless those projects beyond my wildest imagination. And of course I’d appreciate your prayers as well.
The other reason I have declared 2013 to be the year of jubilee is because I really believe that God is going to bless the year for me. As I have endured some frustrations over the past year I’ve been reminded repeatedly that God would reward my endurance. I don’t want to make it sound as if God owes me anything because I’ve had a less than stellar year. God owes me nothing and this isn’t a matter of correcting a cosmic balance sheet that is out of balance.
Instead, this is a matter of holding onto the promises that God has made. God has plans for each of our lives. It’s not a guarantee that we won’t get sick and it is no promise that we’ll be wealthy. What I’m confident about however is that God isn’t through with me. This means that I have work to do and God has more work to do through me.
So that’s what this year jubilee is really about. I’m asking that God would bless what He yet has in store for me. I’m asking for wisdom to know how best to use the gifts that He’s already given me. And I’m asking for empowerment to use those gifts in great and wonderful ways to touch people in ways that I haven’t even thought of yet. And since I’m confident that God will do these things, I can already begin to celebrate what I know God will accomplish in 2013.
It hasn’t been quite as long as it would appear since I last posted. I actually had a post in May discussing how difficult it is to actually apply the theology we know to be true when we encounter the worst that life gives us. Unfortunately that post was lost because of problems I had with the site. **Scratch all of that, thanks to Google’s cache system, I was able to retrieve my lost post.** Fortunately that was all that was lost because I saved my old backup. I also used this as an opportunity to update the look of this section. Eventually the entire Spreadinglight site will look like this but at the rate I’m going it might take another year.
This has been a rough year as I had alluded to in my now lost post. It hasn’t gotten any better in the last three months. Like all times there have been peaks and valleys but this year has been more valleys than peaks. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure if I can even recall a peak from this year.
Last week was the worst punch to the gut yet. It was completely unrelated to any of the other difficulties this past year but it was personal in a way the other problems weren’t. It left me angry and depressed and probably feeling a range of other negative emotions.
Now, before I get any further into this post and start to make you depressed or you think that this is a “woe is me” post, it’s not. The point of this is just the opposite. We’ve probably all been at a point in our life where we just didn’t want to hear any sympathy from anyone else, even if it was well intentioned and Biblical. Well, what do you do if you have a friend who is going through such a problem? You have to pray. The only thing that you can possibly do is pray.
I’m not going to say that I was at a place where I wasn’t going to listen to anyone. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t feel like I needed to listen to anyone. As a pastor I know all of the “answers.” God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. God has a plan for even this setback. Everything is according to God’s timetable. I don’t believe that I even wavered in my belief of any of those things but frankly there are times when those thoughts just don’t resonate with where you are at. In those times, all you can do is wait for God to lift you back up.
Fortunately I know that I have a lot of people praying for me. This past week, I don’t think that it was by coincidence that I spoke on spiritual warfare and the targets that all Christians, but especially pastors, have on their backs. I won’t pretend to be over the hurt that I experienced last week in particular but I know that I am feeling better only because of prayer. But I also know that things are looking better right now than they did a week ago.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I won’t pretend that I’ve reached the level that Paul did and am capable of being content in all circumstances. But I do believe that there were probably times in Paul’s life that he struggled with frustration from people not listening to him or while he sat in jail. And I have to believe that part of Paul’s secret of contentment was knowing that when no other words would help him, God would still lift him up on his darkest days.
At the end of 1 Thessalonians Paul offers some final words of instruction for the church. 5:17 say that they are to pray continually. This is bookended by “be joyful always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.”
So does always mean always? Yes, it does, but we must understand that it doesn’t mean that every second of the day is devoted to these things. To pray continually mean that we should be in an attitude of prayer at all times. We have a narrow and incorrect view of what prayer means. When we have prayer time at church 95% of it is devoted to asking for things. This isn’t saying that we ask for selfish things as most of the time it is not even on our behalf but still the concept of prayer for many people is about asking God to answer a request.
This isn’t all that prayer is about however. Prayer is communication with God. Consider how you communicate with your friends and family members. You talk about your day. You say what makes you happy or sad or angry. The same goes for having an attitude of prayer and praying continually. Obviously we don’t need to tell God about what we had for lunch or how some equipment broke down at work. But we can express our frustration with the way someone speaks to us. We can ask for love and understanding toward that person. Or we can ask that God would help them change their attitude.
Praying continually doesn’t mean that we focus on praying that it distracts us from something else. We need to keep our focus on the road while we drive but we can still think about God along the way. We can thank God for a beautiful view, pray for safety when the sun is glaring, or even sing a song of praise as we drive. This is praying continually.