The start of a new year brings a fresh perspective. After taking stock of what happened last year, I am deeply concerned with my state of affairs. I cannot recall any growth opportunities that caused me to stretch my faith muscles. That’s not good. I never want to be the same at the end of a year as I was at the beginning. For this year, I want opportunities for growth. But do I really understand what I am asking?
The Passion Conference happened over the last few days. Levi Lesko was the closing speaker this year. His message for the young ones gathered at the Georgia Dome was to chase their destinies. He said that we are all destined for impact; we are to shake the gates of hell! He talked about endurance and fragrance. Endurance means to stay under. Fragrance only happens when something is pressed down. The only way to destiny is through pain and struggle.
Pastor Levi reminded the group that the apostle Paul thought it was an honor to be trusted with pain. God used Paul’s pain to bring a greater message. God never wastes painful trials. He is always glorified when we come through the trial. However, Satan also uses pain to turn us away from God. He will start to suggest that God doesn’t see our pain; that God has forgotten us. He will lie to us and tell us all kinds of things to destroy our faith. It’s our choice who we believe.
John Piper started Tuesday morning with the message on the essence of evil. He said that the only way to understand the glory of God; understand the price Jesus paid and the glory of our lives is to understand the essence of evil. We have to see the total picture of who God is and who we are without Him. Thanks to Adam and Eve, we are born with this sin nature. But it wasn’t the eating of the fruit that caused the sin, but they desired something more than God. Dr. Piper took us to Jeremiah 2:10-13 to show us how we exchange God for worthless things (idols). Israel had forsaken God to run after other gods and we do the same thing.
We desire things that are good and pleasing to the eye; we will not be denied even if it denies God. I was reminded in a teaching by Randy Frazee that God is a jealous God. He doesn’t like to share. I believe we have brought God down to our level. We no longer have a reverent fear of God. We casually toss out His name as “Oh, my God” or “Jesus Christ” as ways of expressing surprise or a curse depending on the circumstances. But do we realize what we are actually saying? The Israelites trembled at the sound of His thunderous voice. They knew that God could strike them dead because of their great sins, and they wanted all communication to go through Moses.
At Passion, Francis Chan began his message with an opening prayer, which found him on his knees in great wonder about coming into the presence of the God of the universe. We should not take His presence lightly. He should not bring God down to our level. I know God is full of love, grace and mercy. But He also has the right to judge us; His wrath is saved for the day of total destruction. He deserves our reverence. He is the One who spoke everything into existence. He is the One who formed us in our mother’s womb and breathed life into us. He knows us intimately. Our desire should be to know Him as well.
What delights God is our desire for Him. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37) – your total being should desire God above all things. Faith in Him pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). Satan’s number one goal is to go after our faith. Dr. Piper reminded us that the ultimate triumph of the cross was to bring us back to God. Because of Adam, the relationship with God was broken. But Jesus restored the relationship by the way of the cross.
As I contemplate these messages and my desire for this year ahead, I am reminded that I need to embrace the cross. Jesus paid for my sins so that I can have a deeper relationship with the God of the universe; the great I AM. If it takes pain and suffering to know God intimately then I need to embrace whatever cross I need to bear in order to deepen my love for Him. If I want to grow, reading books isn’t going to do the trick. It’s living out of faith. It’s taking the next step wherever it leads. It’s trusting God’s Word over what I think. Although I am no longer 25, there is still a destiny I need to chase. It’s still out there waiting on me to discover and pursue with abandon. If you are still breathing, yours is out there too. Let’s make this the best year ever – chasing God’s desires – no matter what!
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT)