The start of a new year is always a little daunting to me. New slate, new beginning, new… what? I really detest making goals. I detested it for my employers – because you know making goals never reflect in the raises we are given. It was always a budgeted amount regardless of what was stated on our reviews. I got a few promotions along the way because I was a good worker and did more than what was expected – but the raise was never given in proportion to the amount of effort put in and the goals that were attained. I did the work because I was given a job to do and I did it without much fanfare.
But I must tell you, through much of my life I have floated from one decision to another. I have led a quiet life. I don’t put things on a goal list or things I want to attain before I die. However, my Pastor challenged us today. He wants us to think of our funeral. I don’t like to think in those terms, but I see his point. God is a strategic God. And He wants us to be involved in His plan. His goals for our lives should be reflected in the way we live.
I have started reading through the Bible as my yearly endeavor. Right now, I am in Genesis – yep, just starting out. But I am reminded of a few things of significance – God has an order to things He creates; He puts things into place exactly at the right time and in the right order. He uses unlikely people for His purpose.
I am in the story of Jacob at this time. He’s an interesting character. Jacob’s name means deceiver and he lived up to his name. He stole his brother’s birthright and his blessing through deceptive means with the help of his mother. Jacob married a woman through deception – his future father-in-law switched wives on him and Jacob didn’t realize it until after the wedding night. Oops – married the first daughter and not the one he truly loved. Hate it when that happens!
But eventually He did marry his beloved Rachel. His first wife, Leah started having sons before his second wife Rachel. Jacob didn’t love Leah but yet she kept producing sons. Rachel was barren for many years then had Jacob’s favorite son Joseph and eventually Benjamin. He had twelve sons and one daughter through four different women – fascinating story; you’ll need to read it for yourself (Genesis 26-35).
It’s interesting to me that God didn’t use Jacob’s favorite wife to produce the heir to God’s Kingdom – His story is through the least favorite Leah and not through the favorite son but through one of Leah’s sons, Judah. Interesting, right? Jacob’s name is eventually changed to Israel and the blessing that was given to Jacob has been transferred from one generation to the next. The blessing given to Jacob (Israel) is that those who curse Israel will be cursed and those who bless Israel will be blessed (Genesis 27:29). God’s blessing is still reverberating through the centuries. God’s promises never fail.
As I contemplate God’s strategic plan, He has a place for me too. My Pastor told us we are to be intentional about our lives. We will never create a life of influence by accident. God has given us a vision for our lives – we are to bring Him glory in whatever we do. He has left it open to how He will use us, but He leaves nothing to chance. He uses it all for our good and for His purpose (Romans 8:28). When we go in the wrong direction, He uses it to build our character; for our future. But we are to surrender today and let God direct our steps for our future. He did this with Joseph, which means we will be exactly where God wants us to be at just the right time.
God gave Joseph a dream. The dream looked like nothing Joseph experienced along the way. However, Joseph stayed the course and chose to honor God in each and every situation until the dream was fulfilled. Joseph’s life wasn’t easy – first sold into slavery (by his brothers), then prison for something he did not do before he ever knew God was still working out the dream through him. The dream was fulfilled when Joseph rose to the second in command in Egypt. It was a road full of obstacles but one that finished at the right time and right place.
When I contemplate my own funeral, will it be a quiet affair with just a few friends and family in attendance? Will I have a life of significance? As long as I have breath in my lungs, I have an opportunity to live a life of purpose – glorifying God and letting Him lead me on a path with complete surrender of my own hopes and dreams. It’s His vision and dream that will be the most influential in all of history.
Can I be a part of His story? God’s Word tells me I can and you too. His Word also says to lay down our lives and take up the cross. That’s the life we’re meant to live – not a floater, but intentionally surrender every day. Not my will, but Yours be done; forever and ever. Amen.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)