“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
As I thought more last night about my hopes and dreams for the new year, these verses popped into my head as well. Romans is such an incredible book, packed with so much. I have read through it at least 4 times fully, using it as a study book… and the first couple of times, I took copious notes!
But I realized as I was writing last night, there was no way I was going to be able to include these verses in that post. It was already getting too long.
Now we will see how well I can keep my train of thought with the kids playing nearby!
I am sure that you have experienced times when the love of someone has been insincere. The things they say sound so good, and for a while you believe them. But then eventually their true feelings show through in their actions. They do things to hurt you, to betray you, to manipulate you. And you are left damaged, hurt, confused and wondering what happened.
I find it so interesting that Paul couples love being sincere with hating what is evil, and instead clinging to what is good. If we cling to what is good, the things of God, we will find ourselves becoming more “in sync” with God, and loving others with His love.
So many times the bible talks about loving your brothers, being devoted to each other, honoring one another about yourselves. That is true love, sincere love.
I have experienced that this year. I have seen that sincere love extended to me from my church family, my bible study, my husband’s family, my family, my friends. I have seen that sincere brotherly love extended to others outside my church. Reaching out to people who are hurting, needing ministry and care that they just couldn’t provide for themselves and their families.
That is the love this year that I want to show to others. A love that reaches out to others, because I have been reached out to. I want to love others, deeply, from my heart. And I want my actions to bear that out. I want others to feel my love and know that I truly care about them. I don’t want to be influenced by the opinions and decisions of others. I want to be cautious so I don’t give my heart away too easily, but I also want to be open to loving those who are difficult to love, or who I might not always gravitate towards.
Another thing that I want is for God to help me keep alive the fire that He has rekindled in my heart for Him. I want that “spiritual fervor” that Paul talks about. I want to follow after God with all my heart. Only then will my love for others spill over… out of the love that God has shown me. I want the passions He has given me for Him, and for using the things He has given me to not just fade out as they have in the past. I want to stay close to His side and learn more from Him.
Even though our resources are limited right now, I want to be able to get to the point where we can give to others who have need. I want our house to be an open, hospitable, friendly, loving and safe environment for people to come into. I want people to feel welcome here, whether it is their first time in our home or not.
I want others to be able to feel at home with me as well. Not just when they come into my home, but when they are in my presence. That is a gift some people that I know really have. As soon as I am with them, I find myself relaxing and not worrying about appearances or anything else. Because I know that I am totally accepted by them, and again, sincerely loved by them.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
This was the verse though that spoke to me the most. It was a verse that I settled in on when I was looking for verses on Joy for my advent posts.
I want this year to be characterized by joyful hope. I want to come to the end of 2009 and be able to look back and see where I have been joyful. Maybe not happy, but joyful, and hopeful.
Joyful in hope.
Over this year, and especially this past month I have discovered and rediscovered, again and again that God is my source of joy. I can’t manufacture joy on my own. I can make myself happy for a little bit, but then it fades away. God’s joy never fades.
It is the same with hope. God is the source of our hope. I read today’s devotional from Proverbs 31 Ministries that talked about how someone was drawing hope from earthly things. When those earthly things disappointed, they were left feeling hopeless and helpless. Until God reminded them that He is the source of their hope. They were reminded that God’s hope never disappoints or fails, but always lifts up, renews and refreshes.
That type of hope produces real joy.
There is nothing like the hope and joy that comes from God.
I know that there are going to be things this year that are going to cause me difficulties and that will drag me down. I know that I am going to encounter situations in my life, relationships with people, struggles in my personal and emotional life that are going to hit me, and hit me hard. I know there are going to be things that will afflict me. But I also know that God provides the patience to endure the hard times.
The hard times I went through this past year were extremely painful, but through them I have learned anew that God will love me through it all. I have learned that He will bring me through. I have learned that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Nothing will change that. Nothing will rush what He is doing. It requires patience and extreme trust.
And difficult situations require faithfulness in prayer. There have been so many times that I have wanted to stop praying. Times when I didn’t have the words to pray anymore. It was crazy hard at times to even think straight. Especially when I could feel the pain in my own life, or the pain in the lives of my friends and family I was interceding for.
Being faithful in prayer… and admitting to God when I was ready to give up on praying for or about something… has been a growing and learning process but so rewarding.
I want this year to be characterized by love, clinging to God, providing for others and loving them without boundaries, joy, hope, patience and faithfulness.
I don’t want just this year to be characterized by these things. I want this year to continue the transforming process that God has begun. I want my life to be characterized by these things.
I want my life to be a reflection of God’s character.
I want to serve Him with a spiritual fervor for the rest of my life, so that when others look at me they will see and know that I serve the Lord God and Him alone.
Oh Lord, You know the desire of my heart is to be more like you in this coming year, and for the rest of my life. I want to live the way you would have me live. I ask that you would help me to cling to you and your word. Continue to give me an insatiable thirst for your word, and a deep desire to become more like you. Help me to grab on and cling to you with all that is within me. When I win I will praise you, and when I lose, I will praise you. In the good and the bad I will praise you. In the pain and in the joy I will praise you. In the lean and in the plenty I will praise you. In the times when I feel dead and dry, and in the times when I feel filled and full I will praise you. You alone are worthy of all my praise. May my life be exemplified by praise. Praising you the Living God. Make me more and more into a woman after your own heart, that I may reflect your love and life to everyone with whom I cross paths. Amen.