A new year is upon us, and advice for next year’s journey is widespread. There is no shortage of recommendations on how we can make our lives better during the next twelve months. While preparing to write the blog this week, I wondered what in the world I could add to the already overflowing treasure chest of potential goals filling many of our minds.
· I will lose 20 pounds.
· I will start exercising.
· I will give up sugar.
· I will read my Bible.
· I will increase my prayer time.
· I will have a positive attitude about work.
· I will try and get along with my co-worker.
· I will be more patient.
I’m sure you have some unique targets you could add to this list. There will always be something we can improve upon, and it seems careless or lazy to not have at least one goal for the new year.
To be honest, I haven’t given the new year much thought; my house has been full of family for the holidays. However, I have recently been able to carve out some quiet time early in the morning before the clan awakes. This week I revisited a story I have read many times before. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the short account of Jesus calming the storm. It is found in three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). I will give a very quick summary here, but I would encourage you to read it yourself in all three Gospels.
Jesus and His disciples had been ministering to the multitudes during the day. In the evening, Jesus instructed the disciples to get in the boat with him to retreat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee where there were fewer people. It was obvious that Jesus, fully man and fully God, was exhausted. Mark explains Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat when a storm suddenly appeared. The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by mountains and often yields windstorms. However, this wasn’t just any storm. The Amplified Bible describes the storm as “fierce” and notes the boat was “swamped” with waves. Despite the storm, Jesus remained sound asleep.
The disciples, on the other hand, stayed alert. They were in such a frenzy that they woke Jesus and accused him of not caring. They actually said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to die?” Jesus responded immediately. He rebuked the wind (“Hush, be still”) and then rebuked the disciples (“Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith and confidence in me?”). The wind and waves obeyed Jesus, and the disciples were astonished once again (“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”). Mark 4:34-41.
Early in the morning as I sat in my dimly lit living room, I thought deeply about this event. I wondered how the disciples could so quickly assume Jesus didn’t care and that He was oblivious to their need. They had seen Him work many miracles. They knew what Jesus was capable of, but when the storm came, their faith faltered. Their focus was on their circumstances, not their faith. How many times have we all done that? Probably too many to count! I honestly felt the Holy Spirit whispering my goal for 2020: faith and focus.
No matter the circumstance, I don’t want Jesus to say, “Do you still have no faith and confidence in me?”. It is easy to have faith in the good times, but true faith reveals itself during the storms of life. It is during those times we have to remember God’s faithfulness in our past and trust His faithfulness for our future.
Because of the LORD's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 2:22-23.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6
While faith is the foundation of our relationship with Christ, focusing on our faith is equally critical. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself focusing on the insignificant. Our mind is a truly amazing gift from God, but it can play tricks on us when we take our focus off of our faith in God’s Word and place our focus on our circumstances. It is so important for me to remember that God is sovereign. Everything we experience or encounter has passed through Him first. I am quite certain Jesus knew a storm was brewing when he laid down to rest that evening. He knew the storm would test the faith of the disciples, and He knew the storm was an opportunity for God to prove Himself faithful. Our focus must always be on our faithful God and not on our circumstances.
My goal for 2020 is to grow in my faith—no matter the circumstances—and to keep my focus on God and His Word. I will have to be purposeful. The enemy of our souls is masterful at creating distractions and making us feel like God doesn’t really care. If it happened to the disciples, it can happen to us!
As educators, we know without a goal or an objective, we can’t measure growth. What will be your focus for 2020? Claim it. Write it down. Monitor your progress. Celebrate your successes!
When Jesus calmed the storm, the Bible says the disciples were filled with great fear and astonishment. All they could say was, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey Him?” I’m praying that 2020 will be your best year yet! May you be able to complete this sentence many times over with your own revelation: “Who then is this, that even…”
Happy New Year!