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Three Essentials For Our Journey Into 2023
Happy New Year! 2023 might be the year you decide to finally do something that you have always wanted to do – travel to that far country you have always wanted to travel to, learn that language you have been putting off, take that course you have been wanting to take, start that business you have been too scared to start, lose that weight you know you need to lose, be more intentional with friends and relationships, the list goes on. No matter what the goal is, everything starts with some essential preparation and that first step forward.
I’ll never forget that time I hiked The King’s Throne in Yukon, Canada with a few friends. We did our best to prepare for something we had never embarked on before. We got our hiking poles, snacks, layers of clothing, mosquito netting, water, hiking shoes, sun glasses, sunscreen, and bear spray. The adventure was afoot and we were so excited! To be honest, I had never hiked a path so steep, so windy, so beautiful and with loose rock! Over the course of 6-7 hours, our team of 5 ladies, went down to 2 ladies as we journeyed on. Sadly, we never made it to the peak, though we came close to it. In retrospect, it was clear that we ventured into something we were not prepared for, especially in skill and ability. This became apparent when we saw several hikers wiz by us on our way up and down the mountain.
Are we prepared to accomplish our goals for 2023? This past weekend Pastor Dave preached on the importance of having eternal goals, and not just temporary ones (you can watch this by clicking here). The world has much to say about the essential preparation needed for many things, but what essentials are needed for the more eternal things, like our walk with God, which affects every aspect of our lives? 2023 will surely be full of ups and downs, achievements and lessons, happy and unexpected surprises etc, much of which we may not have control over. However, we do have control over our mindset as we journey on with the Lord.
In Moses’ final days before the Israelites entered the promised land, God told him to speak to the people His words of wisdom plainly, that they would listen, obey, and be blessed. God’s people had some knowledge of what awaited them in the days ahead, but it would be new for them, especially because Moses would no longer be with them, rather, Joshua would take over as their leader. Moses’ words seem fitting for us today, as we journey together into a new year full of unknowns:
19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19,20 NKJV)
Moses reminds the Israelites that God is their life and their length of days, not the land of promise they were about to enter, not the surrounding nations they would encounter, not their special diet, customs, personal efforts or wisdom, not even their own family. Their ability to successfully dwell in the land God promised to them would depend on these three essentials: love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. So it is with us today in 2023, God is our life and the length of our days. Our ability to succeed and bring God glory through our lives will require the same three essentials: love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him.
1. Love the Lord your God
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. (Matthew 22:37,38 MSG)
Loving God first and most is the filter for all our decisions, our priorities, our hopes, our fears, and our plans. Does this decision align with my love for God? Does this priority bring honour to God and what He has blessed me with? Can I continue to have this hope or fear, while loving God wholeheartedly? Does this plan bring glory to God? Choosing to love God first and most will keep us from having wandering hearts, minds and eyes – leading us away from Him and His will for our lives.
2. Obey His Voice
Jesus said: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27 NLT)
A desire to obey God’s voice is a desire to listen to Him and to know Him. We are not necessarily expecting God to speak audibly to us as we take time to pray each day. We know that His Word, found in the Bible is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12), and so we come to God’s Word daily with expectation to listen to His voice and do what He says. This is a discipline that I know many, including myself, can struggle with. However, purpose each day to be in God’s Word and take time to listen to Him. A few Bible-reading tips:
- Follow a reading plan that takes you through the whole Bible
- Avoid spending too much time reading commentaries, but rather, write down your own questions (you will find many of your questions being answered as you continue to read the Bible)
- Take time to understand the context of any passage you are reading (book introductions and reading what comes before/after a passage helps with this)
- Focus on reading to know God more, and avoid trying to apply what you are reading right away, application will come as you invite the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading
3. Cling to Him
David wrote while in the wilderness of Judah: I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. (Psalm 63:6-8 NLT)
Have you ever clung to anything for dear life? We might do this when we feel afraid. Or we might cling to something or someone that we know will help us in a challenging situation. As a quick illustration, I remember clinging onto a floatation device at a camp one time. A speed boat was pulling us and everyone on the device had the propensity to fly off into the water, but knowing my fear of deep water and what I couldn’t see beneath the surface, I refused to let go. I held on so hard that my arms became sore when the ride was over. In a similar but different way, David knew he needed the Lord’s help to be able to go through the challenges he was facing, and so clinging to God became essential. We also need the Lord’s help to go through the challenges that lie ahead in 2023. Only God can give us the wisdom we need, the strength we need, the guidance we need, and the joy we need. Let us cling to Him every day by turning to Him first in prayer or by praying with others instead of being overcome with worry.
Whether you have clear goals for 2023 or maybe you are still figuring out what this year will look like. Let’s be sure to remember these three essentials: Love the Lord your God, Obey His Voice, and Cling to Him. Just like the people of Israel who were entering into a new phase of their journey with God, filled with hopes and fears, we may not know all that will happen in 2023, but we can trust the Lord who is faithful and who’s love for us never fails.