“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NLT)
Happy new month to you all!!! New month already? Really!!! 2020 is flying by! It’s hard to believe that with all of the Giants we have faced together in 2019, we are moving through another year together! As I reflect back at the start of 2019, I can tell you with full transparency that when I wrote “Great Expectations” last January, I could not begin to predict what the journey would entail, nor the richness of the lessons learned.
I may be limping into 2020, with some battle wounds and bruises on my aging body, but the irony is that while my body has felt the impact of 2019, my mind, soul, and spirit are more content than ever before! There is confidence where there once was confusion, and there is peace where there once was the need for perfection. All throughout 2019, this story—The Story of Old Testament Joseph—has carried me through the burdens to the breakthroughs. Whether you are moving through 2020 on a mountaintop or are barely crawling into the New Year, here are the first 10 of 20 lessons that we can use to live our best year yet!
The First Five = Growing Pains Are Normal:
I hate to start this piece with what may seem to be Negative Nellie notes, yet I’ve found that the first five lessons learned from Joseph’s story are the exact things that have prepared me for whatever may come. In the upcoming year, everyone needs to know that:
- Vision Precedes Victories
- Boasting Blocks Blessings
- Not Everyone Will Love You; Some Will Plot Against You
- Everyone Hits the Pit At Some Point
- Time in the Trials Builds Your Character
If you are not familiar with Old Testament Joseph, then let me enlighten you. He was his father’s favorite, and his inexperienced and exuberant youth often led him to overshare the Vision and Dreams to people who were not able to understand. I guess you could say Joseph, in his youth, lacked the discernment and self-control needed that later would serve his greater purpose. In any case, Joseph gets a fancy coat from his father, and he rushes off to show it to his brothers.
As you could imagine, Joseph’s brothers were anything but excited to see the coat and to hear the visions of people bowing down to Joseph. Joseph’s very existence caused one of his brothers to want to kill him! Luckily, another brother convinces the others to simply stage Joseph’s death, and they push him into a pit until he could be sold as a slave.
So, what do we learn about life from this part of Joseph’s life? We learn that God will often show you the future LONG BEFORE you are ready to handle it. The New Year is an endurance race, not a sprint. The first part of Joseph’s life also shows us that the road to the Promised Land is paved with problems and pain. You see, every time God gives you a Promise, the temptations of Pride and Self-centeredness will rear their head! If that weren’t enough, you will be tested along the path to your Promises. Predicaments, disappointments, discouragement, disillusionment, and despair can hit with such a force that before you realize it, you have been sold into the slavery of Doubt and Disbelief. There may be a season in life where it doesn’t look like, sound like, or feel like your initial dream. You may even feel like it is impossible! The Good News is that:
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible.
But with God everything is possible.”
Matthew 19:26 (NLT, emphasis mine)
I learned lessons 1-5 in a time period that I call my “Trial By Fire” season. In June 2018, my house flooded and, from that moment on, trial after trial ensued. From car issues to appliance issues to physical pain to relational pain to parenting pain to work challenges and even the death of my aunt, the rest of 2018 and ALL of 2019 was like going through a gauntlet getting hit from all sides! My immaturity, need for control, fear, and desire for comfort surfaced, and I was faced with my own set of decisions to make regarding God and His goals for me. Would I accept the pain of predicaments and the duties of disappointments long enough to allow purpose to appear, or would I shrink back in fear and give up before the development was done? Would I doubt God’s Goodness and Character so much so that I allowed the lies to take over my mind and my actions? Would I use the skills gained in the grapple or would I skip over the skill sets for cynicism?
Thanks to Joseph’s story, I was able to continue taking steps from the unexpected growing pains to the second set of lessons and let the dirt do the dirty work in my life. Simply stated…
The Second Five = Dirt Cultivates Life:
Sorry for the reality check again! Understanding the ebbs and flows of real life allows a person to live with eyes wide open and brings us to the second series of life events for Joseph and our next lessons to learn. Despite the dream of prospering, Joseph was sold to Potipher as a slave by his own brothers. I could only imagine the shock that Joseph felt when he was betrayed by those he loved. I wonder, have you ever experienced something truly painful in life that you can’t explain? I know that I have! Sometimes, life just flat out hurts, or is simply downright hard. Lessons six and seven teach us that…
6. People and Circumstances Will Let Us Down
7. Disappointments Are Inevitable, but there will be PURPOSE from it all
More encouragement to start off the New Year, right!?! So far, the lessons have all been in hardships. Does that mean that God is no longer with us? Or does it mean that God causes these bad things to happen? I say emphatically, “No!” In fact God tells us:
”Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” (1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT emphasis mine)
It simply reminds us that the things of this world are temporary. Sometimes bad things happen because of our own impulsive and selfish desires. There is no blame to anyone else. There is a learning moment built in to the natural consequences of life. Other times, our misfortune IS due to someone else’s actions. (Ask anyone who has been surprised by the served papers of a pending Divorce.) The hardship was not wanted, nor was it easy. Finally, some of the bad things that happen are a result of living in a fallen world where the enemy is here to steal, kill, and destroy anything good (John 10:10). I put Cancer, Heart Attacks, Lost Jobs, and Lost Loved Ones in this category. There is a temptation to live in a permanent state of misery when things that happen just don’t make sense.
So, what do we do with the knowledge that even our best year will be riddled with challenges? We hold onto the Truth and live with Purpose and Passion anyway! Joy and Conviction are our best weapons against darkness. No matter what we will face in 2020, the Truth is that:
8. God Never Leaves You Nor Forsakes You (Dueteronomy 31:6)
9. When You Do Your Best, Then God Will Do The Rest (Job 42:2)
10. Nothing is Wasted (Isaiah 61:3)
In Joseph’s case, despite being thrown in a pit and sold into slavery, he prospered. Joseph did NOT complain about his lot in life. He did not compare himself to someone else. Instead, Joseph used the skills that God had given him in humble service to those around him, and he prospered. In fact, Joseph prospered so much that he was put in charge of Potipher’s whole house! Even his slavery wasn’t wasted, and Joseph was blessed in the burden!
I can personally attest to this set of lessons. First of all, I learned that when we, or at least I, put people and circumstances in the place of Our Savior, then disaster soon follows. We are not strong enough, nor were we ever expected, to hold the pressures of the world on our own shoulders. That is what God already did when Jesus died on the cross for us. HE TOOK UP what we couldn’t. Lessons six and seven taught me to put God back in His rightful place, and take the pressures off of myself and off of others.
Lessons eight and nine taught me how to find God and His Purposes in the darkest moments. What I found was that when I trusted Him, despite my world looking like it was in opposition to the Promises given, God showed up. Every. Single. Time. When I was face down on my floor in despair, God was there. When I was on the side of the road with no idea how to solve a problem, God provided. Every time my body or mind gave up, God renewed me and strengthened me when I asked Him for help! Looking back, I KNOW that it was definitely NOT by my own power that I made it through the trials and disappointments. Instead, it was by God’s GREAT Love, Mercy, Protection, and Power that carried me through it all!
Finally, we come to lesson 10: Nothing Is Wasted. While it seemed like it was purposeless in the middle of the trials, I can now see how God melded everything into incredible purpose! By the end of 2019, it was like I was given a highlight reel of all the ways God used either me, or my circumstances, in the most beautiful ways. Whether God used my story as a snippet for a commercial, or I was used to speak to others on a Podcast or in a Conference, my hardships were used to encourage others. If that weren’t enough, I was given a new job doing my old job, this time going to school with my son! The relationship we now have is irreplaceable! The gratitude I have for both the corporate world and the education world is something I did not have in 2017. It had to be learned through experience and struggle. My renewed perspective and vigor for life, showed me how not a single moment was wasted. In fact, I can now see just how infinitely purposeful every struggle has been, and I am blessed by the opportunities (previously known as challenges) that provided skill sets that I didn’t start with.
So, as you grow into what 2020 has to offer, remember that Grappling is Good and Strength builds through Struggles. Remember that GOD HAS YOU COVERED and HIS GOOD PLANS for YOU need time to grow! If God has allowed it, then WITH HIM YOU CAN handle it. If He hasn’t given you something yet, then He is protecting you by giving you time to get the skills needed to handle what is to come.
Next week, we will dive into the Power of Perseverance This week remember to settle into the struggles, and maybe even enjoy them a little bit. Look for what is to come and how BIG our God is as you marinate in what M. Scott Peck says…
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
With that my friends, GO with confidence where God leads, and stare fear straight in the face! Conquer the challenges and know that YOU ARE A GIANT SLAYER with God by your side!!!
Go get ’em!