In spite of what you have read on social media, 2016 is not killing people. Granted, many of us could look at 2016 and see all of the difficult things that happened. I could look at my own life in 2016 and see the difficulty. When the year started, I had pneumonia. As the year ends I am recovering from a stomach bug. Our family experienced a tragedy involving our youngest daughter that I would never want someone to go through. Our church went through a lot of changes. We were told that our property, which we purchased five years ago, because we had outgrown the movie theater was being taken from us by the NCDOT. The theater we were meeting in was renovated, making it even smaller and forcing us to move. One of my best friends, who moved with us to plant the church, was led by God to move from being our Shepherding Pastor to being a Senior Pastor in Michigan. I am sure there is more, but those are the things that stand out.
A few weeks ago during a dinner I was at with some trusted friends, a wise lady shared that we can find a blessing in anything so, we should always look for the blessing. I wanted to share a few blessings I have seen in 2016.
1. God will never leave you or forsake you.
One of the things I love about the gospel of Matthew is how it both starts and ends. In Matthew 1:23 we are told that Jesus will be God with us. In Matthew 28:20 at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises that He will be with us always. God’s presence is continually promised throughout scripture (Heb 13:5). No matter what happens God is with you and will never leave you or forget about you. I know that in our darkest times God has never forsaken us.
2. Nothing happens outside of God’s control.
No matter how bad the tragedy God never looks down in surprise and thinks, “I never saw that one coming.” I remember when we were preaching through the book of Acts as a church and our Shepherding Pastor preached about Stephen’s stoning. After the service I talking to one of our other leaders he said. “Isn’t it crazy that even when Paul was rebelling against God, God was using Him?” It was one of those moments for me when God’s sovereignty became very personal, powerful and reassuring. God is always in control even when it seems things couldn’t get any worse.
3. God is working ALL things together for His glory and your good.
God took the worst moment in human history, the murder of His own Son and used it for His own glory and your greatest good in providing you salvation. If God can do that, there is no situation in your life He can’t use for your good and His own glory. Think about the guy in John 9 who was born blind. Jesus disciples asked him who had sinned that this man was blind, the man himself or his parents. Jesus responded and told them that this difficulty in this man’s life was for God’s glory. I believe God used the situation with my daughter for our families good (although it was hard) and I believe He brought Himself glory through it. (Romans 8:28)
4. Our plan is rarely God’s, but God’s plan is always better.
Rarely does life go as we had planned. However, we have a good, good Father and He only gives good gifts. When we launched our church, I preached a message from Ephesians 3:20-21 entitled: My God is So Big So Strong and So Mighty There is Nothing My God Cannot Do. God has done some amazing things I would have never imagined, but rarely have those things come about in the ways I would have planned. I would have never planned for our property to be taken this year, but I am trusting God is going to do something I would have never imagined through that situation too. God has a plan and it is rarely the same as mine (Prov 3:5-6).
5. All the bad stuff reminds us this is not our home and things are not as they should be.
It is easy to get comfortable and forget this place is not our home. The pain we suffer here should cause us to long for a better place promised by the God who has never broken a promise.
Revelation 21:3-5 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
What has 2016 been like for you? Can you find the blessings in the difficulty you have faced?