I made my fair share of mistakes in 2015.
I learned from some of them. Some of them made me tougher. And some, I’d prefer to never relive again.
2015 was also filled with several wins.
Many of them I’m proud of. Some, I’d even like to go back and relive.
But 2015 is now in my rearview mirror. Both my mistakes and my wins.
In the same manner that I choose not to dwell on what didn’t go as planned in these previous 12 months, so I’m choosing not to live in victories of yester-months. 2016 offers me 12 new months of new opportunities, potential wins, and possible mistakes I will learn from.
I’m eagerly looking forward to marching and storming (bum rushing) into the New Year. I’m doing so because through all my experiences in the last 12 months, I finally began to understand just how God causes all things (even things I had no say in) to work together for my good and His glory. I’m not sure when this big idea began to form in my mind, but at some point, it became HD clear that:
GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER EVERY START AND STOP IN MY LIFE!
Singer/songwriter, Aaron Keyes captures this sentiment best when he says in his song, Sovereign Over Us, "Even what the enemy means for evil, you [God] turn it for our good. Even in the valley, you are faithful, you're working for our good and for your glory. Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us. You're with us in the fire and the flood. You're faithful forever, perfect in love. You are sovereign over us." *** Rushing off to Youtube to watch the music video for the 16th time! ***
While my personal experience in the last 12 months give evidence to this Biblical truth, it was a story in scripture that drove this point home for me, a reminder that God will indeed see through what He has begun in my life (no matter how hard my foolishness tries to derail it). It’s a story you may be familiar with, the earlier account of Moses’ life in the book of Exodus.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the first thing you should know is that baby Moses was born at the worst time possible! He was born as a Hebrew baby in Egypt at a time when Hebrews (Jews) were slaves under an oppressive Egyptian regime. To make matters worse, Moses was born shortly after Pharaoh ordered the genocide of all Hebrew babies.
The small glimmer of hope in his beginnings, however, is that Moses’ mother was a very resourceful woman. She took some precautions in preserving her newborn son’s life by placing him at a strategic location where Pharaoh’s daughter would see him and take pity on him. Through a series of providential events, Pharaoh’s daughter finds baby Moses, adopts him, and then seeks out a Hebrew woman to help raise Moses until he’s old enough to be trained to lead in the palace. Lo and behold, who does the princess find as a babysitter? Moses’ own mother! And get this; Mama-Moses actually gets paid a weekly wage to watch her own kid! Talk about God causing all things to work together for your good!
Knowing that her son would someday serve in the palace of Pharaoh, imagine what Mama-Moses would have regularly whispered in her son's ear and instilled in him. I’d imagine words like this continually poured from her heart to her young son, “Moses, listen up. God has destined you for a purpose, for great things. Someday you will be a leader of men and will be able to free us. God has chosen you.”
Moses, no doubt grew up with a sense of great expectation. In fact, this early inclination towards a focused calling, along with a sense of great expectation, is often times part of the heart-shaping preparation that God instills in those He will use later in life. You may have experienced some of this in your life. You, perhaps have an innate awareness that God has His hand on your life for a purpose or a mission. You may have first been inclined towards this destiny as a result of an event (or series of events) in your past. It may even be a direct promise from God you received, either through a sermon you heard, something you read in the Bible, or a prophetic word spoken into your life. Though the details aren't clear, you suspect that God has His hand on you for something special.
This sense of destiny is something I'm convinced Moses grew up with. It’s also what I believe leads him to do what he does when he gets older and turns 40. At some point as an adult, Moses clearly becomes restless about the living conditions of his kinsmen, fellow Hebrews. From the luxury of the palace, he has observed day in and day out just how brutal the Egyptian authorities have been to his people. Remember, Moses is a child of two cultures (Hebrew and Egyptian), a third culture kid (TCK), if you will. For all we know, he probably even tried to initiate some sort of political reform to lighten the load of the Hebrews, but to no avail.
What we do know, however, is that one day, Moses decides he is going to give his destiny a little push by expediting what he perceived as his sense of destiny. In a moment of impulsivity, he kills an Egyptian slave master mistreating a slave. This is clearly the wrong thing to do. Chances are, Moses suspected that his Hebrew-bros would rise up in support of his brashness and start a revolution.
But the opposite happens.
The next day, the very people he thought he was trying to rescue chide him about his murderous brashness. To make matters worse, word reaches the palace about his crime and Pharaoh orders his execution. This then results in Moses having to flee for his life into the Midian desert.
I’d say that’s a really bad day!
This, by the way, is a similar state of condition many of us put ourselves in when we try to force God’s hand in bringing about His will for our lives. It's that moment when many of us don’t take the time out to seek God’s will, or saturate our plans in prayer, but rather, preempt God by acting on His behalf. We wrongly assume that God's promise in our lives is supposed to come to fruition by 7:00 pm on the same day we first hear about it. In so doing, we forget that between the promises of God and the payoff to that promise, there is often a long process where God breaks, shapes, sharpens, molds, and remolds us, ultimately preparing and readying us to thrive when He brings us into said-promise.
You may very well be at this stage of life right now. You have tried to initiate God’s promises and possibly expedite things in your life, but it hasn’t gone like you envisioned and now you’re wondering if God has abandoned you or given up.
Remember what I said at the beginning about marching and storming into 2016 with the reassuring promise that GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER EVERY START AND STOP IN YOUR LIFE? As it turns out, Moses is a classic example of how God not only works together all things for our good, but even in our failures and even in what the enemy might intend for evil in our lives, God also causes it to work for our good and His glory. Watch what happens next.
On his first day in the desert, Moses runs into a group of women being harassed by desert shepherds. He decides to play rescuer again and fights them off. This time around, however, it pays off because his bravery and kindness lands him a dinner invitation, a wife named Zipporah, and a full time job as a sheepherder that lasts him another 40 years. (Incase you’re counting, that’s somewhere around 80 years that have passed. The first 40 years in the palace and the next 40 years in the desert).
Allow me a moment to talk about the “desert experience” because you may presently be in that stage of life. For our purposes, desert experience refers to those seasons of your life where you feel spiritually dehydrated. This is the period where (as a result of disobedience in your life) God feels far and quiet and there’s not much action in your life. It may not even be that heaven is quiet, it could just be that you haven't really felt like talking to God (possibly because you feel like he's muted the communication lines).
If that describes where you presently are, here’s an encouraging reminder to keep at the forefront of your mind. Sometimes, the desert experience in your life is all about creating space for God in your life (even if it was your own human error that put you there). Even though it was Moses’ recklessness that landed him in the desert, God is going to use his time there to shape his heart in profound ways. God is going to use his “desert experience” to complete his preparation and training to someday lead the nation of Israel.
If you think about it, Moses’ training for leadership actually began way back in the palaces of Egypt. According to Acts 7:22, we’re told, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.” In other words, in his first 40 years in the palace, Moses learned about leadership in the “Harvard” of the ancient world. He learned about philosophy, theology, law, economics, astronomy, and management. He learned about leading armies, about leading organizations, and leading people.
In the next 40 years of his life, (which he’s presently living in the Midian desert), Moses is going to learn to live like a nomad, a shepherd. He’s going to learn where to find food and where to find water. He’s going to learn how to navigate his way by the stars, and how to live in arid dry conditions. He’s going to learn how to watch for predators and how to patiently watch the animals under his care. Moses is going to have to learn to be at home in the desert because very shortly, God is going to call him to teach a whole nation of freed slaves how to live in that same desert!
See what God did there?
If the palace in Egypt was Moses’ undergraduate degree, then the desert experience was his PhD study! Every hardship Moses experienced in those 80 years has been all about sharpening him and molding him to become the leader God was ultimately going to use to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. This then tells us that there is no experience in our lives that ever goes to waste because God is in the recycling and restoration business! Consider this interesting detail: Part of Moses' training in the palaces of Egypt would have equipped him with a legal mind; a legal mind to which God would later speak the Ten Commandments (and all the laws)!
In fact, I'm convinced that our past pain is often an indication of our future calling. God could be allowing you to go through your unique set of trials now because you will be later called to serve people with those same difficulties! ***In the voice of a pentecostal preacher*** "WORRY NOT, child! Yo' God will restore to you those years that locusts have eaten!"
This was certainly the case with Moses. In fact, I am convinced that God had so humbled him through the desert experience that Moses had pretty much given up hope on ever being used to rescue a nation, much less himself. That is, until one evening when he goes out in the desert to do his regular sheepherding duties and he sees the strangest sight. Off in a distance, he spots a burning bush that really isn’t burning up. Moving closer to inquire, an even stranger thing happens. The bush speaks! The voice from the bush is the voice of God, who basically says to Moses, “Hey buddy, I have a mission for you!”
You know what I love the most about this account in Exodus 3? It’s the fact that when God calls Moses to go free the Israelites from Egypt, God is actually calling Moses to go do the very thing Moses desired to do in his 40s! Think about it, God has just awakened the sense of destiny that Moses carried as a young man. Essentially, God just said to him, “Hey Moses, remember that time when you wished you could free your kinsmen? Well, that plan is STILL ON! You see, it failed the first time because you tried to do it in your own strength. Good try, buddy! But this time, WE’RE GOING TO DO IT MY WAY!”
The rest is Biblical history (book of Exodus)!
As you can see, God isn’t slow in keeping His promises. Like my best friend, Aaron Keyes, pointed out in his song; God’s plans are still to prosper. He has not forgotten you. Through the fire and through the flood, He’s with you. God is forever faithful, perfect in love. Most importantly, GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER EVERY START AND STOP IN YOUR LIFE.
So, I invite you to march and storm into 2016 with this reassuring promise as a banner over your life. No matter what comes your way, know that God is for you (as in, His intentions for you are good) and He will finish the great stuff He began in you long ago!
May God make things awesomely-right between you and He in 2016!