It was the middle of June, only half way through the year of JOY, when God gave me my word for 2015. I had a bit of a struggle embracing it. It isn't a happy word like joy. 2014, while having its share of challenges, (we live in a sin tainted world after all, and perfection will never be our portion until Jesus returns), was heavy on the JOY scale. The year began with our second born daughter having completed her first trimester of a miraculous surprise pregnancy. Mother's Day came and with it the birth of our grandson, five weeks premature, but healthy and perfect. Summer was an especially surprisingly sweet season for us in our ministry. Then the year drew to a close with the engagement of our youngest daughter and us happily making wedding plans. In between these happy highlights were lots of ordinary days, good days, hard days, mundane days, but through them all, I continued my five year long habit of looking for and recording my blessings. Through it all, God's abiding joy has been present.
6-12-14 is marked in the margin of my Amplified Bible next to Hebrews 10:35-36. "Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away, and enjoy to the full, what is promised."
I can still remember the way God spoke these familiar to me words to my heart sitting there in our Thursday night prayer meeting. They reverberated in my heart and spirit in a whole new way. They gripped me and wouldn't let me go.
Then over the course of the next six months, as I read various passages in my devotions, eleven more verses with the theme of endurance jumped out at me. Romans 5:3-4 told me that I can be full of joy even in times of hardship, because pressure and affliction produce endurance and endurance develops mature character, approved faith, and tried integrity. It goes on to say that mature character produces joyful and confident hope. Do you see the full circle there? Joy->Endurance->Mature Character->Joyful and confident Hope. Endurance wasn't just some random new word for the New Year. Endurance was the next step to complete the joy/hope cycle in my life. (Hope was my word for the year in 2011, the first time I ever chose a word for the year.)
Romans 8:25 instructed me to hope for what is still unseen by me with patience and perseverance, (endurance).
Again, through Romans 12:12, I read that joy, hope and steadfast endurance were all connected. Romans 15:4-5 encouraged me when I read that "...by our steadfast and patient endurance and the encouragement drawn from the Scriptures we might hold fast to and cherish hope. Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance, steadfastness, and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus." At this point I was still struggling to embrace the word endurance. I was just plain afraid to. I thought of it as meaning, "just grit your teeth, hold on, and don't let go" until you get through this coming year. I was even afraid to say that my word for 2015 was endurance or, in this case, write it for all the world to see. I know the devil can't read our thoughts but he can hear our words, and he must be able to read, since he loves to take God's Word and twist it and pervert it. I didn't want satan to be able to take the word God had given me and beat me up with it all year long. Yes, I almost rejected the word God was clearly speaking to me about due to evil foreboding and fear.
But, I knew from Proverbs 15:15 that a decision based on those feelings was not from God. I also knew that God wouldn't ask me to embrace something that didn't have a blessing from Him in it. The scriptures in Romans 15 encouraged me because I saw that endurance wasn't something God was expecting me to work up, but something He promised to give me the power and ability to do. I also loved that He promised to accompany that with encouragement. Lastly, He connected endurance to living in mutual harmony with each other and in accord with Jesus. If there's anything I desire, it's for our home and our church to be a place where we live in harmony with each other, and above all, with Jesus. If endurance was a key to this end result, then how could I say no?
God used 1 Corinthians 13:7 to remind me that endurance is a characteristic of love. Colossians 1:11 promised me that God would invigorate and strengthen me to exercise endurance. Hebrews 6:10-12 encouraged me that God does not overlook my labor in ministry, that He wants me to realize and enjoy the full assurance and development of my hope until the end, and that through patient endurance I will inherit the promises He has for me. Hebrews 12:1 admonished me to run my race with patient endurance. James 1:3-4 promised me that the proving of my faith would bring out endurance and that if I let endurance have full play and do a thorough work in me I would be perfectly and fully developed, lacking nothing. Then again, James 5:11 says that those who endure are blessed/happy and that, in the end, God's purpose is to bless me because He is full of pity and compassion and tenderness and mercy.
As if all of the previous verses weren't enough to convince me that God truly was, undeniably, asking me to embrace the word endurance as my word for 2015, He sealed the deal when He led me to Luke 21:19 on December 27th. In the Amplified Bible, (All verses quoted in this post are from the Amplified Bible. Photos are of my ESV journaling Bible.), it says, "By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls". This spoke to me in a very real and personal way because the renewing of the mind, (the soul is your mind, will and emotions), is my life message. It's the subject I most like to preach and teach because embracing the truth of it was so life changing to me personally. Truelife is the name of our church. God knows, that for a person with a sensitive spirit and tender heart like me, ministry has not only been a source of deep joy and satisfaction, but of devastating pain and loss. I have embraced the former and endured the latter for over three decades now. What has helped me to endure is God's strength and holding tight to the promises He has made to me that I haven't yet seen fulfilled. This verse was God's way of saying to me, "Don't quit now. With My help, keep on patiently enduring. Do my will and you will enjoy to the full what I have promised you." And so, full of hope and anticipation and overflowing with joy, I fully embrace this word that God so undeniably gave me for 2015.
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