As I’ve scrolled through my social media feeds these past few days, I haven’t been surprised to see one celebrity pastor after the next declaring nothing but great things for you (whoever you are) in the New Year. They do this madness every year. But, honestly, this year their shenanigans actually triggered my earnest indignation, as I know first-hand that what they “declare and decree” each year is totally off base with what the Lord has already promised His children.
If you would indulge me in a moment of testimony time: 2018 was a pretty rough year for me. It was a culmination of a series of events that began to unravel in 2016, the year T.D. Jakes told me (and a few thousand others under the sound of his voice at my former church’s New Year’s Revival) would be MY year. After “prophesying” random gobbledy goodness here and there, he asked us to sow a seed to essentially seal the declaration. So, one by one, many of us made our way to the altar to slap down checks and cash in various increments, but mainly in the amounts of $2,016, $216, $20.16 or $2.16 if we were serious about getting that 2016 breakthrough! Whatever we could afford to give was enough, but it was intimated that we couldn’t afford to not give. And so, with great expectation, I sowed my best seed of $20.16. Indeed, I dared not expect anything at the $216 or $2,016 giving levels, but I was definitely expecting something!
Stepping into 2016 Like, “Harvest, Where?”
Yet, my harvest didn’t quite yield what I expected…not even $20.16 worth. Amongst the many great things Jakes told us to anticipate, he prophesied lucrative business opportunities and strategies, opened doors, and the like. But in 2016, I began losing out on contracting opportunities and projects; the projects I did secure didn’t pay me for months for one reason or another; and once I tried to return to the 9-to-5 grind, I couldn’t land a full-time job to save my life. Nothing I thought to do worked, and I KNOW God didn’t make me an idiot. I may be a lot of things, but stupid I’m not. Things legit just weren’t going the way I wanted them to go! They’d gotten so out of hand, by the end of that year I’d fully depleted all of my savings and I could no longer afford my mortgage payments.
Yet, I stepped into 2017 like, “This is going to be a better year!” But, no. I would spend ALL of that year chasing job leads to nowhere; working odd jobs and retail gigs to make ends meet; and going back and forth with the bank to save my home (which by then was in pre-foreclosure). By the last week of that year, my car was repossessed and I received a formal notice of foreclosure sale. It was a great way to step into 2018.
Stepping into 2018 Like, “I Tripped and Fell!”
There’s a New Year’s meme that circulates the internet each year illustrating a young lady stepping up into a more positive, successful life and leaving bags of negativity and failure from the prior year behind her . Yet, I entered the year not even stepping down. Instead I was falling (at rapid speed) down those darn stairs, with my worldly failures in tow! Everything I was and had worked to become in the last decade was literally gone or useless to me. My businesses? Closed. My masters degrees? Useless. My home? Foreclosed. My finances? Depleted. My credit? Whew chyle...the ghetto! My pride? Broken, stripped, ripped apart, fried, dyed and laid to the side! My personal identity? Dead!
Losing it all to gain: God’s PLAN
But my spiritual maturity? I’ve put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11). My relationship with God? We’re not only family, I’m part of His chosen, holy nation (John 1:12; 1 Peter 2:9). My faith in Christ? Rooted! (Colossians 2:7). My identity? Being transformed into the image of Christ! (2 Corinthians 3:18). My discernment? I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). My peace? It surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). My joy? Full! (John 15:11).
Good Lord, God is GOOD!
The Lord has helped me see that all He’s been doing in my life these past two years is ridding me of “rubbish”. He was killing my flesh, drawing me closer to Him, saving my wretched soul that, when left to its own devices, loved and craved the things of the world. He was pruning me and refining me. He was working all of those things together for my good. He blessed me with fiery trials that peace would have her perfect work (1 Peter 4:12-13). And though He allowed me to experience what I’ve always feared and had worked to avoid, He was loving enough to give me peace and grace through it all. And best of all, He didn’t ask nor need my permission, “my” money or my declarations and decrees to do it. God knows me better than that. He knows us better than that. Thus, He’s kind enough to take these matters into His own hands. He’s kind enough to prune us to make us fruitful! I even noticed how though as I was underemployed, He made me rich in the Gospel and He kept me working to share it. I don’t count it a coincidence that I always had the opportunity to openly share the Gospel at all of those random jobs - with customers, with co-workers, with my twenty-something year old managers, with the security guards, while I was on my lunch break…the Lord did this! Blessed be His name!
Tell Ya Neighbah, “Your Trouble is On the Way!”
Of course, I don’t wish ill on anyone. But you guys need to know that you, too, will and MUST endure trials on this walk, assuming you belong to the Lord (Hebrews 12:6; John 15:2). Thus I wish you Christ’s peace and joy that you endure and suffer well when they come. Christ has guaranteed us that in this life we will have tribulation (John 16:33). Moreover, all who desire to lead holy lives in Christ are encouraged in advance that persecution is guaranteed us (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet, even as our afflictions are many, the Lord delivers us from them all (Psalm 34:19). This “deliverance” means that God will keep us (strengthen us) through them - that He is our refuge and our present help in the time of trouble (Psalm 46:1-2). Yet, it doesn’t mean that He’ll necessarily take the afflictions away. I lost my whole house. A bag of money to pay it off didn’t fall out of the sky before the foreclosure sale, and the bank has made no attempts to return it to me due to a clerical error. (Though I secretly prayed for such mechanisms to help me save it. Ha!) It’s gone…and, glory be to God, I’m 100% okay. After all, Paul’s thorn remained in his flesh, but the Lord’s grace was sufficient even still (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Amen!
I Said All of This to Say….
Ultimately, my point is Believers must come to understand that suffering is part and parcel of what it means to follow Christ, and suffering well is part and parcel of what it means to glorify God. It’s okay to hope for the best and it’s not wrong to want to enjoy good times. It also glorifies the Lord when we enjoy the sun He sends us. But the reality is, it’s got to rain at some point. God sends that, too. In His common grace upon all mankind, the Lord sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). But His favor for His children promises us shade from the heat of the day and protection during the storm and rain (Isaiah 4:6; Psalm 91:2). So no matter what goals, dreams or aspirations you may be believing God for in the upcoming year, please leave room to also pray and believe Him for spiritual fortitude. Pray for the will to nourish yourself in His Word that you actually do grow and are strengthened in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Pray for contentment even if the Lord doesn’t see fit to give you what you’re requesting: Marriage? A baby? A new job? A new home? Edges? What if you don’t receive those things? Do you have enough faith in God to know that He IS and He is able, even if He doesn’t answer your prayers in the affirmative? Do you trust God’s wisdom in a delay or a denial? Are you prepared to experience hardship and not curse God and die, like our faithful brother Job? If the answer to either of these questions is “no”, please begin to pray for spiritual maturity. The Lord will give that to you that, as it is according to His will (1 John 5:14; 1 Peter 2:1-3).
January 1st may mark a new year on our earthly calendars, but the Lord is not on our timetable. Tomorrow has its own troubles and while we shouldn’t worry about them, the advanced heads up of their coming is necessary that we aren’t caught off guard and can remain in Christ’s perfect peace, day after day, even when they hit. And if you must resolve to do anything in this new year, resolve to consider the Lord’s will in all that you plan to do. Declaring and decreeing and naming and claiming a thing is merely another way of boasting about tomorrow - it’s being presumptuous with the Lord, and that’s a no go (Deuteronomy 18:22). Your life is a vapor. You are merely dust. You have no clue what the Lord, in His sovereignty, has planned for you next year (let alone later today) - neither does T.D. Jakes, Paula White, John Gray, Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, Sarah Jakes-Roberts or any of those other heretics. Don’t listen to them. Instead, abide in Christ’s Word and pray according to the Lord’s will. He will hear that. Make your supplications known to God. He’s a good Father. He will certainly give you what you need and will respond to what you want according to His wisdom for your good.
And for those wondering how I’m presently fairing, I’m grateful that I can share the following praise report…
Praise the Lord, I have a cute new place that my dog and I truly enjoy. My church helped me reclaim my car out of repossession (God bless them, they volunteered the aid) and I was later able to purchase another vehicle to get to and from work. Yes, WORK! I’m finally working again and I am grateful that I enjoy what I do. And by God’s grace I somehow wound up in what I’d call the “critically acclaimed” documentary, American Gospel: Christ Alone, which exposes the false prosperity gospel/ word of faith movement. It’s an amazing, well-produced film that presents the Gospel quite clearly and comprehensively. I’d hope you’d resolve to go check it out and share it with those you love in the New Year.
With that said, I’m stepping into 2019 like, “Lord, thank You for your faithfulness in the midst of my troubles and triumphs. Thank You for the strength to endure and follow You. Thank you for your chastisement. Please continue to keep me until the end. Your will be done today, tomorrow and forever. Amen!”
Happy New Year, y’all!
P.S.: Over the years, some of you have asked me for worship music recommendations, but I can’t say I had much to offer before this year. Yet, in 2018 I updated my playlist to include more Christ-centered praise and worship, and I’ve embedded two of my favorites below. Blessed be Your Name (written by Matt Redman) and All I have is Christ (written by Pastor Jordan Kauflin) were the soundtracks to my life this year, and will be going forward! I pray you enjoy them as much as I do. God bless.