Just before the New Year, I was reading about Joshua, when he spoke on behalf of God, challenging the children of Israel to “choose today whom you will serve.” He proclaimed,
“As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NLT)
I decided to make this my “key verse” for the year 2020 and to answer God’s challenge personally, declaring each morning, “Today, I choose to serve the Lord.” A good friend gave me a canvas print to hang on my wall that says “choose today …” as a reminder of my decision.
As I began to state this desire every day, I found that it was easier to say it in the morning than actually do it during the day. In the morning, at that moment, I didn’t know what the day would bring and I soon came to realize that it was in the many choice-points during my day that I would actually choose whether to serve the Lord or not. God has given us the mental capacity to make plans, and indeed we should look forward and prepare for things. We should be prudent in keeping food in the house, having gas in the car, saving money, etc. But although “we can make our own plans, the Lord gives the right answer.” (Proverbs 16:1, NLT) If nothing else, our experience with the COVID-19 virus has shown us how fragile certainty is in this world. Only “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8, NLT)
My struggle to accomplish my morning declaration reminded me of a time in the past where my desire to love God with all my heart and serve him was planted and began to sprout. When my son was 12, I found myself as a single mom (not by choice). Amidst the confused feelings of shock, sadness, fear, worry, and anger, I lamented that my life, as I knew it, was over.
On my spiritual journey, I had made the 1st major choice –
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, NLT)
Where I found myself didn’t change my belief in God – but I sure had a lot of questions! Mostly “Why?” … “What’s next?” … And the continual refrain: “I thought I did everything right.” I felt as if the lights had gone out and I was making my way alone in the dark.
Light in My Darkness
A shaft of light broke through as I listened to a sermon by Pastor Grout (FAC’s Lead Pastor at the time) explaining one of the names of God that helps us understand who he is: Abba Father – translated Daddy. Our Abba Father wants us to run to Him and say, “Daddy, Daddy, I had so much fun today!” or “Daddy, Daddy, I fell and hurt my knee – kiss it better.” I went home that night and “cried on his shoulder,” voicing all my thoughts and feelings, fears and worries, pain and yes, even anger with him. I will never forget that moment … It was like I could actually feel his arms wrapped around me.
The light got brighter from another sermon, by a guest pastor, entitled “When the Music Stops the Dance Begins.” This was exactly how I felt. The music had stopped – life wasn’t going to be joyful or melodic anymore. But this concept seemed counter-intuitive … What was this dance he was talking about? It was an intimate, personal, close relationship with God. In that moment, I made the 2nd biggest choice of my life – to trust him completely, to cling to him, to pursue him, and learn all I could about him. I wanted to know more about him and his promises – not just know them in my mind, but trust them in my heart, and act on them in my life. I found out that I could indeed “dance with him” and no one could hear the music but the 2 of us. This was the beginning of what I look back on and call “my intimacy adventure” – an adventure I am still on and will be on for all eternity.
In God’s time, he used these 2 pastors’ sermons, God’s Word, prayer (both talking and listening), Christian books, mentors, and teachers to help me on my journey. I learned that the Father wants to provide love, protection, provision, purpose, and so much more. Jesus offers companionship and communication, and wants to be my Saviour, example, friend, brother, and so much more. The Spirit is my comforter, counsellor, advocate, guide, interpreter, teacher, and so much more. The Triune God is majestic and powerful. The Bible says,
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (Isaiah 55:8, NLT)
But, it also says,
“He delights in every detail of [our] lives.” (Ps 37:23, NLT)
He is a big God but wants a close relationship with each of his adopted children. I wasn’t alone! What an amazing family I had the privilege to be part of.
I was also directed to an age-old spiritual discipline described in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Christian. He said that he practiced a simple and natural method. He merely turned his attention to the Divine Presence available at all times during any activity. He recognized that he was as fully present with God while washing dishes in the kitchen as he was when partaking of the sacrament in worship. This and other spiritual disciplines helped me change the way I was thinking.
How did remembering these things help me in my resolve to choose to serve the Lord everyday? It reminded me that he is always with me. Although I don’t know at the beginning of the day what it will bring, he knows exactly what my day will contain and he will be my GPS. I simply put in my destination of choice (Serve the Lord) and ask him to guide me there. Through the pathway of my reactions to my senses, emotions, and thoughts the Holy Spirit reminds me to ask for his help and then to listen to his direction – before I start a task, when I have a problem with a task, when I see something beautiful in nature, when someone says something that makes me angry or sad, when resources are low, when I enjoy eating something I like … He will guide me to acknowledge his provision; to admire his creation; to thank him for my senses and the pleasures that he wants me to enjoy with them but not be controlled by them; to give him my feelings of guilt, worry, fear, anxiety, grief, and anger; and to stop striving in my own strength. This is a practice/discipline which implies repetition, success and failure, and trying again.
Every night I can look back over my day and reflect on where I served him, experienced his help, enjoyed his creation, or learned something about myself or him, and I can thank him. I can also remember the moments where I missed the opportunity to invite him in, to really see, hear, taste, touch, and smell all of his blessings. He doesn’t want me to feel condemned or discouraged by this, but to move forward, motivated by the Holy Spirit. I am so glad that
“his mercies begin afresh every morning” (Lamentations 3:23, NLT)
because every day gives me a new opportunity to
“trust in the Lord with all my heart and not depend on my own understanding, to seek his will in all I do and have him show me which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6, NLT, personalized)
Choosing an Abundant Life
Spiritual maturity is not measured by how long you have been a Christian but how closely you walk with Jesus. Life apart from this wonderful relationship is exhausting and stressful. Life lived listening to, trusting, and obeying God connects us to his unlimited love, grace, wisdom, creativity, and direction. However, it’s not a life without problems. Jesus said,
“In this world you will have trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)
His overcoming offers us an abundant life as long as we choose to stay connected to him.
This is what God wants for me. This is what God wants for you. In I John 2:27 it says,
“You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true.”
Ultimately, this is right, and has been my experience, but I appreciated so much the people he used to help me find my way to the truth, to help me understand and then actually experience how the Holy Spirit works in and through me, and to give me practical tools to help me on my way.
If these thoughts have produced questions in your mind, a longing in your heart, a need in your life, or a desire for refreshing, I would be honoured to be one of the people he uses to help you on your journey. I invite you to attend one of the Soul Care Introduction classes beginning next week. In this time of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with God, and make space for his love to heal your soul – body, emotions, mind, will, and spirit.
Anne Freeman serves as part of FAC’s staff team, supporting the Family Life and Congregational Care ministries and providing leadership through many Soul Care opportunities … Learn more!
The Soul Care Introduction classes will walk you through 4 key spiritual disciplines that help you learn God’s truths, so you can find freedom from shame, guilt, depression, fear, worry, anxiety, striving, or any other obstacle that keeps you from living the hope-filled life God planned for you. No cost. Register online. 2 options to choose from: