Here we are just starting into a brand new year. Most people aren’t very happy with the way the last year went for a whole slew of reasons and aren’t very hopeful that 2021 is going to be any better. In fact, many are fearful that the worst may be yet to come.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the things that are out of our control. Overwhelmed and perhaps frustrated or downright angry about some of the injustices and unrighteous things happening around us. However, we have a choice.
We can choose to focus on these uncontrollable things and become imbittered by them or we can fix our eyes on Christ and see better things; what He is doing through these challenges. We can choose to see the chaos and craziness which occurred last year or we can choose to see the countless blessings God granted us in the midst of them.
Aren’t you glad that we get to see better things, eternal things beyond and even in the midst of the temporary? Aren’t you so thankful that the things of this world are not all that we have to live for?
Throughout God’s word, we find His people living in and through many seasons including ones even worse than the ones we find ourselves in now. As Jesus said, “it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Some of the greatest miracles that God has ever performed have been done in the backdrop of awful and impossible circumstances.
Consider the miracles experienced and revelation given to people like Daniel who was removed from his home and forced to live with and to serve ungodly people. Because he kept His focus on God and sought out what He wanted to do in and through his life in the darkest of circumstances, Daniel saw the mighty hand of God move and save not only himself, but even lead an unrighteous nation to repentance.
The early church lead countless thousands to place their faith in Jesus even when it could cost them their freedom, the confiscation of their property, and even their very lives all by making the choice to follow Jesus. God is not limited by the impossibilities or unfairness of the world around us, in fact, His promises shine that much brighter in the darkness of them.
Jesus still heals the sick and diseased in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Jesus still provides when our employment and unemployment comes to an end. Jesus still feeds the hungry even when shelves are bare. Jesus still sets the captives free even when opportunities for bondage lie all around us. Jesus restores even when the loss is tremendous. Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords and His reign has not, nor will it ever, cease!
We may live in the realm of the living, but we are also seated in heavenly places. We may be citizens of this country, but we are also citizens of Heaven, the eternal kingdom with no end!
These days, people are used to hearing bad news. So why not choose to share some good news with them? Why not give them some hope? Why not freely share all that God has freely given us? Why not remind them of His awesome promises that He will be faithful to fulfill at just the right time?
There is wisdom gained in discerning what is within my control and is therefore my responsibility to do something about and also what is beyond my control. When we discern what is beyond our control, then to those things only my chosen response to it is my responsibility. My attitude toward and my chosen response to our life circumstances, no matter how unfair and unjust they may be, is my responsibility before God.
In fact, that quote of Jesus that it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous is found in the midst of a challenging teaching of His challenging how we should respond when we are treated unjustly:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus is always doing good, always setting things right, always keeping faith in humanity, always hoping in the best for us, and never ceasing to love us. Jesus is always on the move in the lives of those who choose to allow Him to. And… Therein lies the challenge – that we permit Jesus to do His work in and through our lives.
We can’t be perfect like our Heavenly Father on our own. The only way that I can be perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect is by me surrendering my life to Him and allowing Him to raise me up to new life and allow Him to shape and form me into the new creation that He intends me to become. It is not me, but only Christ living in and through me that can be perfect.
God calls us to do some pretty hard things. However, He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He has not already done, Himself, in the same flesh that we live in. He also never asks us to do anything that we are not able to do through His empowerment and equipping in our lives. He desires to give us life and life abundantly and He gave His ALL in order to offer it to us.
This morning, God is asking, “Are you all in?”
Jesus was all in for you, are you all in for Him? Are you fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit dwelling within? Or are there parts of your life that you would rather surrender to sin and death than to blessing and life? If we’re honest, we all have parts of our lives that we have not surrendered yet. There’s one little word that we struggle with…
In the land of Oracle databases, you can make all sorts of changes. I could change your social security number, deposit $1 trillion into your account, empty your account into mine, or outright delete you altogether. However, all of those changes are seen only by myself, all of those changes have no real impact outside of myself, until I type a one little word command. That word?
It’s the same little word used in the GIT world of software change control. I can make all kinds of good or malicious changes to source code. I can even delete it altogether and the only person to see any of those changes are myself until I use that same one little world command.
This little word is just as impactful and carries the same meaning in our lives as it does in these two software worlds. That little, big word? COMMIT
Are you fully committed to Jesus or do you have commitment issues?
It’s easy to have commitment issues in this unreliable and uncertain world that we live in. We consider it to be wise to test drive a car before we buy it. Even after test driving it, we want warranties and guarantees that if something goes wrong with the car, that it will be made right. We all love that phone call informing us that our car’s extended warranty has expired, right? 🙂
We find wisdom in the old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” With the future so uncertain, we see value in diversifying. We transfer retirement funds out of 401(k)s and into more secure and reliable sources of income like bonds and CDs and even physical security like silver or gold.
We always want a backup plan as if though we just expect our first plan to fail. We want safety nets, training wheels, helmet and pads before biking. We want seat belts, air bags, and high crash safety ratings before driving. We want to run credit reports and background checks and call references and have three interviews before hiring. We carefully choose home owner’s insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, pharmacy benefits, dental insurance, pet insurance, and vision insurance. We want to live together, have five kids, and stay together for at least ten years before getting married.
We struggle to be all in and to commit in just about every area of our lives! We’re such sissies!
What ever happened to living life to its full, taking risks, and the thrill of the unknown? What happened to people like the apostle Paul who was so reckless about sharing his faith that the Holy Spirit had to stop him from going to places to share it?
Until we’re willing to accept some unknowns and take some risks, we will never be all in, never fully committed, and unfortunately, never experience the fullness and abundance of life that Jesus died and rose again to life to give us. You wanna talk about a risk and thrill ride, just think about the willingness of Jesus to give up His life; trusting that the Holy Spirit would raise Him up again to life and the Heavenly Father to bring Him back home?
In the end, isn’t that our only assurance, our only safety net? It’s that God will heal when we are hurt, provide when we are broke, and restore when we are stolen from? Jesus was all in for us, are we all in for Him? Jesus was fully committed to us, are we fully committed to Him? No plan B, no turning back, worth the risk, not counting the cost, all in and committed?
Do you have commitment issues?
Has this ever been you?
Here’s a few questions to consider to test for commitment issues:
How long does it take you to choose a movie or show to watch on TV?
Do you sometimes take longer to choose something to watch than how long you stay awake watching it?
Do you often regret your choices?
Often have buyer’s remorse?
Often worry that a better deal might come along after?
How quickly can you choose where you want to go out to eat at?
If one were to map out your trip around the store shopping, what would it look like?
How long does it take to choose an outfit and get ready in the morning?
How long do you stay at a job?
Keep a phone?
Stay in a relationship?
After all, what if something better comes along?
In this nation, we have so many freedoms and so many choices.
We’ll even let you identify as whatever you want to be. Male, female, why settle for who God created you to be when you can pick one! We’ll even pay you to have the surgery to make it permanent.
Now, hold up before you Amen this too quickly, there, Karen! God created you a brunette? What was He thinking? You look so much better as a blonde. Dye it! Wrinkles got you looking your actual age? Why settle for that? Botox for all! Not happy with your eye color, we’ve got a contact that will let you choose. Don’t like the shape of your face? Length of your eyelashes? Thickness of your lips? Cosmetics can change it all! Right? Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s Maybelline!
Unhappy with your age, gender, personality? Be whoever you want to be virtually online! Sixty year old man? Nope, now you’re a fourteen year old girl! Sexual orientation? Be with whoever, or even whatever, however you choose. We’ll call it good and even glorify and celebrate it in the name of diversity and acceptance! We’ll just keep adding letters from the alphabet to categorize it. LGBTQDEFG…
Why is it as humans that we are never satisfied with good? Think about it, right? God created everything and then called it what? GOOD!
We somehow think that we can beat God’s good and achieve greatness through some unnatural means. For example, we now think that we need to go and live on Mars. Apparently the planet Earth that God created and placed us on and called good isn’t good enough. Perhaps there is too much water and oxygen and food and plant life for some. The baren surface of Mars somehow now looks appealing enough to spend billions of dollars to inhabit. Having a person step foot on the surface of Mars will beat what God called good, it will be called greatness.
Oh, the depravity of the human mind and condition!
Oh how in need we are of the salvation of Jesus!
Oh what great gain we truly do receive through godliness and contentment! (1 Timothy 6:6)
Now I know that some of these hit a nerve and sting a little bit, but now let’s talk about the choice that really hits home and really stirs up some controversy; even dividing families: streaming options!
Right there is the challenge as we begin into a new year. What is really important? At the end of our lives, what really matters? Those are the things that we should prioritize and invest more in here and now.
If I spend 9 minutes choosing what to watch and then watch it for an hour, will I even remember that a month from now? Why prioritize what to entertain ourselves with when there are far greater things that we were created for? It’s not that there is anything wrong with entertainment or enjoying things this life, even these are from the very hands of God.
However, when they become our priority and we begin watching a new series instead of doing the laundry or studying or working or praying or worshipping, then we need to stop and reconsider their place. They are no longer adding to the value of our lives, they are actually stealing it away! They have become idols.
Being all in for Jesus, being fully committed to Jesus sometimes just means simplifying our lives. It’s cutting back on less important things in order to better prioritize the more valuable things in life.
It could be as simple as spending less time scrolling through social media observing the lives of others and more time texting them. It could mean sitting out that extra sports season of stressful commutes to practices and games. It could mean using the morning drive to work for devotions instead of dreading the day ahead.
If the challenges of 2020 have taught us anything, it is the previous value of simplicity and togetherness.
God is challenging us to be all in for Him this year. Together, we will pursue God’s plan for each of our lives and we will learn how to live the full and abundant life that God is calling us into.
What does being all in look like for you this year?
What are some things that you can simplify in order to prioritize better things?
No matter our circumstances, nothing can stop us from being all that God has called us to be and doing all that God has called us to do. When God brought His people into dark and challenging circumstances, His miraculous mighty hand met them there. His love never ceased toward them and His promises still stood firm even when they failed Him and rebelled against them. He still invited them to be all in for Him. Warning about these seasons, God said to the Israelites and to us today:
1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.
Being all in for Jesus is not too difficult, in fact, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Being all in for Jesus is not beyond our reach, in fact, it is who we were created to be. Love God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your strength, with ALL your mind. All in.
God gave us a whole lot of commands and decrees in the Book of the Law, but Jesus simplified them as this: love God and love others. All in.
As we commit ourselves to the Lord this year, as we choose to be all in for Jesus, let’s ask ourselves these simple questions:
What do I need to keep doing this year?
What do I need to stop doing this year?
What do I need to start doing this year?
We may not know the length of our life, but we can choose the depth of our character, the heights which we soar, and the width of our reach to serve others. We choose these things as we choose to be all in for Jesus! It’s so exciting to think of all of the possibilities that God is going to do here among His people as we commit ourselves to be all in!