Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Revisiting my words for the year, halfway through

My words for the year are:

or, alternately,

I use them interchangeably.  Admittedly, faith and trust may have more nuances of difference than gratitude and thanksgiving, but I'm not hung up about it.

You trust the object of your faith.  Perhaps faith is the inner condition that results in trust.  Faith is a noun, but trust can be either a noun or a verb.  When trust is used as a noun, I think it is essentially the same as faith.  However, when it is used as a verb, it becomes more in-the-moment and specific, as opposed to all-encompassing.

Maybe I can explain it this way:

When I have faith in God, I believe that there is a God, and that He has made many beautiful promises, which He will absolutely keep.  I believe that He has sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for sin, so I can be forgiven and have fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit now, and so I can have eternal life in the unveiled presence of God in all His glory in the age to come.

When I trust God, I trust Him to keep His promises.  Often when I use this word, the word trust, I mean that I am trusting in a specific promise at a specific time.  I trust Him to meet my needs, take care of me, be near me always, listen to my prayers, watch over the world, and bring His good will to pass.  I trust Him with my fears, my disappointments, my pain.  I trust Him to forgive me and clean me up after I've found myself sinning again.

Lately, I have been trusting in the goodness of God.  Goodness is not so much one of His promises as it is one of His attributes, but I believe that we can trust in God's attributes as well as His promises.

God is good.  Sometimes it is hard to remember this, when we see all that is wrong in the world.  But God is good.  Because He is good, He has a plan to fix everything, all the brokenness that sin has precipitated around us.  His goodness results in forgiveness, healing and restoration.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His love by dying for us while we were still captive to the blinding forces of sin, while we were blind and unappreciative.  He died so we could be forgiven, but now He takes His time before unveiling His full glory, so the many can be gathered in.  Pain runs rampant during the waiting, but we can bear it because He is with us.  He strengthens us.  He has good plans for us, and He gives us sure hope for a glorious inheritance in eternity.

Trusting in the goodness of God enables me to to be thankful for what He is going to do, before He does it.  This is something I've learned this year, and it's a big deal to me:  Faith is being thankful to God for what He will do, trusting that He will do the right thing, and the best thing, every time, because He is good, righteous, loving, wise and omniscient.

Let me try to boil it down:

Faith is being thankful in advance for what God will do, 
based on what we know of the character of God.

Additionally, thankfulness is the key to joyfulness.  Philippians 4:6 shows us this connection when it encourages us to rejoice in the Lord, praying and presenting our requests to Him with hearts full of thanksgiving.  In other words, thank Him as you ask Him, knowing that He hears, cares and knows exactly how to respond.  When we learn to bring things to the Lord this way, He fills us with confidence and joy. 

Here is something that I've been praying this year:

Thank you, Lord God, that I can trust You, 
because You are faithful and good.

What better to be thankful for, than a God who is faithful and good?  What better source of joy, than knowing that the Almighty Designer and Creator of the Universe is my own good Lord, who gave His life to save me from the consequences of sin, who faithfully promises to forgive me, to purify me, to be present with me always, to strengthen and uphold me, to anticipate my needs even before I ask, to bring me safely home to glory in heaven?

What a relief, that God is in control, and He knows exactly what to do.  I don't have to come up with a plan for Him to follow!  He's had all the plans figured out from eternity past!  What a relief, that all I have to do is surrender to Him and trust that He will do the right thing, and He always does the right thing, so it will be okay.  Everything is going to be okay, because God is God. Hallelujah!

I can pray, from the Lord's Prayer, "Your will be done," and I can rest in confidence and joy that He will do His will.  He says, "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please," (Isaiah 46:10).

Thank you, Lord God, that I can trust You, 
because You are faithful and good.
Your will be done.

That's enough.  That's all I need to pray.  I don't need an agenda.  I need to surrender, in faith and gratitude.  Trusting.  Giving thanks.

And that, I've been surprised to learn, is where I find the joy.

Generally, partway through a year, my word(s) for the year morph into other words.

In 2015, I started out with the word Peace, and halfway through it changed to Hope.

In 2016, I started out with Restoration, and halfway through it changed to Goodness, Mercy and Unfailing Love.

This year, 2017, I started out with Faith and Gratitude.  I wouldn't say they've changed, but they've grown to envelope the word Joy, which is a gift I never anticipated--more evidence of the stunning goodness of the Lord.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving me joy.

Joy goes hand in hand with gratitude, with thanksgiving.  But another word has been surfacing regularly, and this one goes with faith.  The word is Power.  I've been so thankful for the almighty power of God.  He is not only good, He is able to make good on all His goodness, because He is almighty, omnipotent, perfect in power.  He is trustworthy in every sense and from every direction, every perspective.  He is not only willing to do good, He is able to do good.  He can do it.  He can do anything.  He has the power.

Thank you, Lord God, that I can trust You, 
because You are faithful and good.
I look forward to seeing Your glory displayed as You handle my concerns.
Your will be done.
For Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

(I also pray the Lord's Prayer a lot.  I pray it slow, from my heart.  I've been astounded to realize how complete it is, how it covers everything I need to bring to God.  I learn more about it all the time.  Someday I might share what I've discovered about, "Give us this day our daily bread.")

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