Walk a New Path in 2018
Three Questions for What Lies Behind and Three Challenges for What Lies Ahead
With only five days left in 2017, I would like to share with you two thoughts. The end of the year always brings us to a vantage point from which we can look back over the twelve months we have traversed and ahead to the new year that lies in front of us. It’s important to take time this week for both looking back and looking ahead.
Start by imagining you are standing on the rock outcropping where you can look back over the long, winding path that tells the story of your life this past year. You can see the places where the path was wide, the grade was easy and the views were pleasant. You can see the places where the path grew steep and narrow, where the view ahead provided little inspiration, and there seemed to be danger on every side. You can see the places where you wandered off the path, got lost in the woods for a while, and finally found your way back. You can remember the places where you slipped and fell, possibly even rolling down the mountain a ways. The cuts and bruises, the scars and pain are still strong in your memory.
Looking down on the path behind you will also bring to mind the places where you needed help. You can see the spots where others came to help you along; perhaps balancing you as you crossed a log spanning swift water, perhaps picking you up when you fell, or perhaps at one of those key moments when the right person pointed you in the right direction after you had gotten lost. All these experiences mark the trail that is your 2017 journey.
An important aspect of looking back is identifying where you have grown. My prayer is that you have grown more faithful as a steward of life. If so, I hope you will see that some of the fear, worry, stress and anxiety that weighed you down like heavy chains have fallen off and now lay discarded at the side of the road. Now that you have reached this viewpoint, I pray that you’re able to see and understand a little better all the ways in which those chains have made this path more difficult.
Our attitude toward the path behind us is critical. I would encourage you to consider that God asks three things of us at these times of looking back.
First, he asks us to learn. As you consider this trail behind you, pray that God will grant you the wisdom to learn the lessons he planned for you along the way. Not one moment of our past life is wasted. God uses all our experiences to help us become the people he created us to be. There are lessons to be learned on every leg, perspectives gained in the pain, and wisdom to be had even from the seemingly senseless times of our journey. Don’t let one step of your past life be lost. Seek God’s guidance for what he would teach you, remembering that he was walking beside you every step of the way.
Second, God asks us to look back on our lives with a deep sense of gratitude. Do you see God’s amazing hand of love, grace, provision and favor in your life? Even in the hard, lost and loneliest times, do you see how he always brought you back to a place of safety and hope? When we consider God’s amazing presence and provision for us along our life’s journey, it should cultivate in us a deep sense of gratitude and thanksgiving that should carry us well on the journey ahead.
Finally, in this looking back, God asks us to leave behind what should be left behind. Your journey as a faithful steward includes experiencing the amazing freedom that God has for his people. You’ve felt chains fall, you’ve set aside old attitudes and perspectives that weighed you down, you’ve quit listening to the enemy and the lies that used to bind you. Now is the time to take that newfound freedom and move ahead with a clear conscience. This will require rejecting any feelings of regret. It means quieting the voices that want to pull you back into your past where all those chains lie waiting to be picked up and worn again. That is not the life God has for you. As you prepare to look ahead, you must let the past be the past, only taking with you the lessons that will help you in the future, and a deep sense of gratitude for the God who never left your side.
Now turn from this viewpoint and gaze at the path that lies ahead. It may seem just as steep and narrow as the one behind. You know it will take you through deep forests where the trail might be hard to follow. You know there will be times when you will need people beside you to pick you up when you fall, to steady you as you wade through fast-moving water, and to encourage you when the path seems too steep. You also know there will be days of trekking through open meadows strewn with wildflowers with the warm sun shining down. There will be places of breathtaking beauty, and sections where you can see the path as far as the horizon with clarity and hope.
I believe that, just as in our looking back, there are three things that God wants of us as we consider the path that lies ahead.
First, just as he desires for us to have a heart of gratitude in looking back, so he expects us to start the journey ahead with that same heart. We can start 2018 with a heart that anticipates the good things that God is already doing. Do you believe that God has prepared the path ahead? Do you trust that he is leading you into experiences meant for your good? Do you trust your God? And if so can you already today praise and thank him for all the steps that will mark your journey from this day forward? Starting this new journey with a heart of gratitude is a way of acknowledging God’s absolute sovereignty over every moment of your life. It is your Declaration of Independence from worry and stress and fear that come from believing that somehow in the future God will be less present, less gracious, less trustworthy than he was in the past. Commit today to start the new year with a heart of thankfulness in anticipation of the amazing things that God is about to do in your life.
Second, surround yourself with great walking companions. Give them permission to speak with authority into your life every time they see you stooping down to pick up a chain. Ask them to remind you of how heavy the weight was when you carried it all those years. Find fellow travelers who can provide you with encouragement, challenge you in love, and help you to laugh a lot along the way.
Finally, walk through 2018 with a very light pack. As a steward, you shed the chains of the old owner mindset. Live your life nimbly with an agility that allows you the freedom to find others who are struggling along the way and come to their side. Every day you will walk with people who bear the chains that you have shed. God will provide you with an unlimited number of opportunities to help the people around you with prayer and encouragement that they would know the freedom of the faithful steward. Ask God for eyes to see them, for a heart to love them, for opportunities to encounter them, for courage to speak to them, for wisdom to guide them, and to the power of the Holy Spirit to work through you as his agent of freedom.
2018 is almost upon us. My prayer is that when you reach the next great outcropping from where you can look back over the trail behind, you will see a different, more joyful and fulfilling journey than at any other point in your life. Embrace the journey, claim the freedom, and be ready for the awesome life that God is about to unfold in front of you.
• A clear vision to continue to discern God’s leading for the year ahead
• Praise for the twelve cohort members who are finishing the Becoming a Steward Leader Experience: Jim, Jeff, Byron, Julie, Cindy, Ann, Larry, Jeffrey, Marty, Dave, Bobby and Kevin