The first week of 2015 started fresh with a freer schedule, high household goals, child-rearing/teaching ambitions, hopes of a flourishing vegetable garden, and a slew of other resolutions to make me love God more through my callings as a wife, mother, and follower of Christ.
And there I was one morning, standing at the coffee pot awaiting the full brew when something strange occurred. All too familiarly, my nose stung down to the bottom of my empty stomach. Before I knew it, I was more queasy than I’d been in a long time. Actually, since fall of 2013 to be exact. You see, when coffee tastes or smells bad to this human being, it only means one thing: pregnant!
So here I am, 11 weeks pregnant and 37 days into 2015. My resolutions have certainly had a bumpy start. This nausea keeps me pleading for grace and a transformed mind during the day. I need a few ways to keep me trusting in God.
Five Ways to Press On in 2015
1. Make Hope in God the Undergirding of Each Goal
I have found that if I want to do well at anything, it is solely hope in God that will sustain me. The evils of self-reliance fester quickly in the human heart. I need constant biblical reminding of my identity in Christ, and HIS all-sufficiency. Scripture details this best of all.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” (Psalm 62:5)
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faithful forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146:5-7)
“Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
“but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6)
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:17-20a)
“For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:5-6)
2.Include a Bible Reading Plan in Your Resolutions
A Bible reading plan will provide a Christ-centered framework, and a steer when our hearts’ affections ebb and flow…because they will.
I am often reminded of the golden calf in Exodus 32, and how similar we are to the Israelites. The people lost hope in God as they sensed that Moses delayed in coming to them (verse 1), and they proceeded to implore Aaron to make them gods. When confronted by Moses on this great abomination to the Lord, Aaron replies, “So I said to them,’Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” (verse 24)
Out came this calf.
Idolatry. It is a constant battle in the human heart. Rather than allowing self-reliance to fester in our hearts through obtaining our goals this year, hope in God. Search the Bible for solid, Christ-saving, no-work-of-our-own truths. The Bible in its entirety is the greatest text our eyes could ever see and the appetite of our hearts ever feast upon. We will be satisfied, if we look.
Proof: Our church started 2015 with reading through the Bible chronologically. As a community, we are able to encourage one another to press on as we continue reading each week. It is also beneficial to us that our sermons each Sunday are texts from our Bible reading plan. Small group discussions are based on our Bible reading, which then provide a more intimate setting to discuss difficult Old Testament passages. Chronological reading can be intimidating as one isn’t getting the New Testament intake for awhile, so I’ve incorporated a study through the book of Philippians and how encouraging it is!
For four years now, Josh has led me through Bible reading plans, and this is of no boasting in ourselves. It’s been hard! We started when I was still in my last semester at Dallas Baptist juggling a 3rd shift job forty hours a week, and I thought I was busy then. Well, life has shifted tremendously in various ways but hasn’t necessarily slowed down. It’s changed each year with God adding children to our lives and working through each phase with them. Life is hard, and there’s no getting around it. We instead have resolved to look for God’s promises in scripture to sustain us through it and provide all strength to glory in Jesus for redeeming us. What we have found most beautiful about using a Bible reading plan is that God’s word is faithful to nourish our souls and draw us back to Himself.
Even when I am chapters and chapters behind my husband, I’m reminded that simply doing something will not sustain me but actual communion with God through his word and prayer will. If that means skipping ahead to bring me current when I’ve had another child or have simply been in a rut then I do it, because there just isn’t enough space in our hearts for guilt and shame when God has freed us from that altogether. He’s after our hearts, not our behavioral modifications. With that being said, a Bible reading plan doesn’t necessarily have to be reading through the entire Bible in a year. You can spread it out over two, or whatever will work best for your family to have actual intake and reflection.
Also, audio-Bibles are wonderful! Josh and I often sit in the living room after we have the children in bed and listen while reading along. I listen to my bible while doing chores during nap times. A word of advice for mothers of young ones out there- it’s never worked well for me in the past to listen to the audio-Bible while the children were awake. Maybe that’s a no-brainer; however, the multi-tasker in me just had to keep trying…and failing.
There are many reasons to come up with for not reading the Bible frequently. I often make those excuses; however, even in our lowest states of apathy, depression, busybody-ness, etc., God desires communion with us. And oh how desperate we are for it once we begin to have it! We get that through reading the Bible. His word directs our hearts in prayer. It changes our dispositions in life altogether. It truly is living water to our thirsting souls.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
3. Resolve to Pray
I often have the tendency to plan and act prior to being still and praying. I believe that reversing this practice would do astronomical work in our hearts, having full trust in the One that holds all affairs rather than acting out of self-reliance, fear, or anxiety.
While we were engaged, Josh got us into reading George Mueller- pastor, evangelist, and so much more. Having prayed for every penny needed for the orphanages he established, Mueller lived an unshakably, hopeful life, making prayer mingle with his work because to him, the two could not be separated.
“We should begin the thing in a right way, i.e. aim after the right state of heart; begin inwardly instead of outwardly. If otherwise, it will not last. We shall look back or even get into a worse state than we were before. But oh! how different if joy in God leads us to any little act of self denial. How gladly do we do it then!” – George Mueller
4. Be Strategic
“Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant prayer life is not so much that we don’t want t, but that we don’t plan to.”…”We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer you must plan to see it.”- John Piper
It’s illogical to think we will reach our goals without planning and structure. It would be like saying you were going to run a marathon but never really having a schedule for how you would build up to doing that. Example: Last year, I shared a 2014 booklist with a slew of books that I have been dying to dive into for ages. I wrote that at the end of December. I was pregnant with Owen at the time. Maybe it was the infamous pregnancy brain, but my highly ambitious reading list began to frustrate me when I reached July and noticed that I was halfway through and hadn’t even completed some of the books that I had started reading off the list. I should have looked at my life circumstances prior to forming that list. Thankfully, my book reading resolution for this year merely extended that booklist out over the next three years. :) I am now totally fine with the slow and steady route, especially since I get to have plenty of fun reading times throughout the day that include places like Neverland and Narnia.
Spontaneity is neat and fun, and works for certain things. But flourishing in goals, especially if they are spiritual disciplines, isn’t one of them. Make a plan. A realistic one.
Two practical ways to be strategic:
Write down your goals.
I’ve always been a journaling fan. Expressing myself through the written word is part of who I am. When it comes to yearly goals, I simply write a list in my journal and begin chronicling how those goals are working…or not working. Simple enough, huh? Well, journaling isn’t for everyone, or at least journaling at great lengths. Josh is much more to the point when it comes to writing. He writes down a list and revisits visually as a reminder. Either way, write it down. Hang it somewhere.
Make them known.
It’s such a downer to set a goal and keep it internalized. Days/weeks/months pass with struggling through obtaining it and then we simply quit. Even if we can white-knuckle it and succeed for a substantial amount of time, it’s good and healthy to be encouraged by individuals in our lives that God has given us. Tell your spouse, close friends, parents, or children about them. Maybe even give them a copy. It’s nice to have that accountability. Also, it’s simply true that we needy humans need words to keep us pressing on. People want to let us know that we are doing a great job, or maybe they’ve noticed that we’re struggling. Either way, we need to hear both.
5. Don’t quit because you’ve failed once or twice…or more.
Some are great at self-determination and others are not. Some require more encouraging than others. Some need to be down-righted dragged into commitment. All are okay because we are all wired differently by a sovereign God that knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. Differing gifts, various weaknesses. They’re all present among us. What’s not okay is to have a goal that is God glorifying and quit because you have failed.
Seek joy results rather than number the days you’ve succeeded at the task.
A great heart-question to ask ourselves as believers is if we are bearing fruit and being transformed from one degree of glory to the next. Do we love God more through maintaining these goals? If the answer is yes, then even in the midst of failure, we can continue on. That’s where we can find perseverance to press on in making life-changes.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12)