By now, most people have given up making resolutions. Several years ago, resolutions began to be replaced by the simplicity of a single word. I’ve had a “one word” for quite a few years now and I know many of you have adopted this as well. Being given a word by God and then reflecting on it throughout the year helps me focus on one thing and sets the tone and direction for growth in grace and knowledge.
This year God gave me the word unfazed. It jumped out at me as I was reading Romans 8:37-39 in The Message: “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
Life took some unexpected turns for me last year and I’m certain this coming year will also hold some surprises. By remembering my word, I hope to ride the waves in the love and strength of Jesus, and not let any of it faze me. I’m going to hold onto the fact that nothing can separate me from his love, even the rough stuff.
One of the most well-known and popular verses quoted by Christians is Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (NLT). This verse is encouraging for us, especially in the midst of trials and problems. I keep a little card with this verse near my bathroom sink, to remind me who helps me through each day.
Another verse is just as important to remember and one that should probably get equal time: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NLT) (emphasis mine).
We can do all things through Christ while we are in him, with his lifeblood flowing through us as we stay attached to the vine. And while Jesus never meant his warning to drive us into legalism, he does want us to be cognizant of and mindful about staying attached. It is possible to wither and dry up and then it won’t be possible to do anything. Staying close to Jesus does require some effort, specifically practicing his presence and the spiritual disciplines. Nothing can separate us from his love, which means as long as we stick to the vine, we won’t have to worry about being “apart from” him.
Apart from Christ we can do nothing, but in him and in his strength, we can do all things.
When the Bible says God is love, many of us believe it’s true, but. Is that because his love seems too good to be true? Or is it because we are convinced we aren’t worthy or deserving of his love? Some like to say he loves us in spite of ourselves, in spite of the sin and darkness in our hearts. Is that the way God looks at us?
One of the myths surrounding God and his perspective on humanity is that because of the egregiousness of our sin, God can’t even look at us. His standards of holiness and righteousness won’t allow him to have anything to do with us, unless and until we repent and accept Jesus as our savior. This is difficult to reconcile with 1 John and other verses that talk about how much God loves us.
The truth is God loves us so much he sent his son to become one of us, sharing our humanity in all respects. He not only looked at us in our sin, he loved us while we were sinners and enemies, taking our sin upon himself, in all its ugliness. He loves us, not in spite of, but because of ourselves – because he made us out of his love, in his love and to be loved. This is the right perspective and the right response is to love him back, with gratitude and joy.
I grew up thinking God isn’t very busy. After all, he finished creating everything a long time ago and the world seems to keep going on its own, so what’s left for him to do? What does he do all day? Maybe he sits at a desk waiting for prayers to be submitted and then decides which ones he’ll answer. Or maybe he manages the angels, telling them where to go and who to protect. Some think his anger meter just keeps going up and one day he’ll blow his top because of the sin and evil in the world.
I’m being silly of course. God doesn’t do any of those things. But he is busy, and he is not bored. God is active in the life of every believer. He’s active in the lives of those who don’t yet believe, even though they pay little to no attention to him.
As the meditation of St. Patrick indicates, “Christ behind me. Christ before me. Christ beside me. Christ between us. Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ within me.” He is always with us and as we learn to walk in his rhythms of grace, moving in tandem with the Holy Spirit, we will see all the ways he is involved in everything we do. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
As my husband, my mom and I have prepared to move to another state, I’ve prayed for him to move in our lives in all the ways listed in St. Patrick’s prayer. And I’ve experienced God doing just that, as I have my whole life. I’m so thankful he isn’t sitting on his hands. God is busy creating, transforming, arranging, rearranging, blessing and working in our lives.