Does anyone else like to get a cozy drink, turn on a cheesy movie and work on a jigsaw puzzle over the holiday season? If you don’t relate that’s totally ok. After all, this year I haven’t gotten past the border pieces of my puzzle, and I keep getting distracted. But the puzzle pieces all over my dining room table (Sorry, family!) keep reminding me of an amazing analogy that our good friend Jonathan shared with us this past month. It’s stuck with me in a way that can only be the Holy Spirit. I share it with you here in the hopes that it helps you frame and shape how you look upon the year ahead.
Imagine a father picking out a beautiful puzzle for his son. He hopes that he and his son can work on the puzzle together so that they can reveal the beautiful final product to his son. But when He gives it to the son, the son immediately takes the puzzle over in the corner and starts to work on the puzzle alone. The father says, “Son! I got a difficult puzzle because I planned on working on it with you! It will be beautiful when it is finished, but first, you must let me help you!” But the son says no. The son wants to do it “all by himself!”
The son continues to try to put the puzzle pieces together but after a while, he gets tired of waiting on the picture to be revealed and goes to grab a pair of scissors. The son takes the scissors and tries to cut the pieces so that they will fit together, he ends up making a huge mess, losing bits of the puzzle and he ends up in tears before the Father.
I related to this story quickly! As a perpetual doer myself, I can easily fall into the character of the son in my relationship with the Heavenly Father. How often, out of my pride, have I wanted to show God and others that I can do it myself?!
How often are my motivations based on what others will think of me? And how often is what the world considers “success” the motivation for the choices I make? How often does my drive for “completing a task” cause me to cut corners and do less than the best because I just want to check the block?
If there is anything that I want to succeed in this year, it is that I want to be with my Father. I want to succeed at making my Father happy. So what does that look like? What will make my Father in Heaven happy, you ask? These are a few of the things I believe the Lord is asking of me as I head into 2022.
Be Obedient to the Father
The Lord delights in our obedience. The verses on this topic are prolific, to put it mildly. “Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” 1 or “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only….” 2 or what about, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” 3 Yes, and I’m sure more are coming to your mind, as well.
But what does that look like, exactly? What happens when the Lord says, “Come follow me.” but He doesn’t seem to be saying it to any of your friends? What if you’re the only one called out on a crazy mission eating locusts and wild honey? What if you have to say “No.” to a dream? Or risk your pride? What if it means you have to lose friends? Or family? 4
Obedience is costly and our Heavenly Father desires it from us. As I head into this new year, I am asking the Lord what He wants of me, and in the same breath, I’m asking for His help to be obedient. There are so, so many things I could say “Yes” to in ministry, for my kids, with my friends… but I don’t want to just fill up my schedule with activities because they seem good, I want to listen to the Holy Spirit and do what He says. For me, I know that the Lord has asked me to prayer walk in my neighborhood weekly this year. That small and simple task must be prioritized. It may seem ordinary and far from flashy but even our smallest act of obedience can be just the beginning. This brings me to the second thing….
Be Faithful to the Father
I can be oh-so-faithful on the first day of the year. But our faithfulness throughout our seasons is where the rubber meets the road. When I think about how the Lord has asked me to prayer walk more this coming year, I am struck by the verse, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” 5 What if the Lord only asks me to do little things? Do I scoff and say they are not worth my time and energy? What if my whole life is spent just being faithful in serving my family, and loving the people around me with the Gospel of Jesus? Will that not be a mighty gift? One of my favorite verses that helps me stay focused on being faithful is, “But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you..” 6 I say this because often I can think, “I’m sure this “Little humble thing You’ve asked me to do with my time, will turn into something wildly successful and the Kingdom will rejoice!”
But what if it doesn’t? What if it’s a massive failure? Or what if whatever He has asked us to do gets hard and discouraging? Or seems unfruitful? Oh, may the Lord help us to still be faithful even then!
Our very lives should be a drink offering poured out before the Lord, never to be scooped up again.
All Honor to the Father
Ah yes, He desires our honor. He also deserves our honor. As we head into our new year, may we be obedient in how we scrub toilets and serve our neighbors, may we be faithful in how we show up day in and day out hoping for no glory, because ultimately our lives should be in a perpetual John-the-Baptist-State-of-Being: “He must increase and I must decrease.” 7
One of our greatest mentors, who’d probably not like to be named, is always such an incredible example of this. He’s got 40 years of ministry experience under his belt and every time we are with him and we ask him questions he just points us to Jesus. Over and over again. Sometimes you’re frustrated. “Just give me a straight answer!” but then again, isn’t he? The straightest of answers is going to The Source. Isn’t the best answer we could ever receive to see what Jesus did? Instead of taking some glory, telling some incredible ministry story, and giving us a wise answer that would send us home marveling at his success in ministry, he instead humbly points back to The Source.
Giving the Lord honor through our obedience and our faithfulness is important, but also giving Him honor by decreasing beyond recognition is also a delight! May all of us decrease and may the Lord of Host’s increase in us. May all that we say and do fade, but the Words of Truth and the acts of Love we do in His Name stand in their place.
I believe if we can focus on these things with the Father in this year ahead we will see the puzzle pieces come together to form a beautiful picture one day- Hopefully one day soon.