Monday, January 13, 2020

The New Year

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…” -Phil. 3:13 Welcome to the New Year! It has come again. Regardless of how 2019 went down, 2020 has arrived. Every new year God is faithful and determined to impart Himself to us. We can run, but we cannot hide. As was true for 2019, 2020 is also a year of immense potential, if we choose to tap into it. Our home sits on two and a half acres of beautiful wooded land across the lake from Branson, Missouri. Our five-year-old Lab, Sammy, owns the backyard and has a dog door into our garage. She loves to explore. When we return home and the garage door rises, it opens up the potential of a wonderful adventure for her: either hang tight in the garage and receive a delicious dog biscuit for staying put or take off for the woods to its smells and varmints and fun. The truth is, it’s much easier to just stay put. The “garage option” is simple and consistent. It’s familiar and predictable and safe. Heading to the woods is risky. It’s unknown and new and unpredictable. But it’s also an adventure that has potential. In his classic book, Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson writes that “Chasing the Wild Goose is dangerous but is also a beautiful adventure.” Sammy headed to the woods is an adventure with so much potential for her. A few weeks ago, Sammy chose to go on that adventure into the woods. She returned home with the skeletal backbone and skull of a small deer, all in one piece. As she deposited her prize in the backyard, she was SO proud! She had mastered the woods! She had seized and conquered. The alterative was to play it safe, hang in the garage and snarf down the dog biscuit. But she went for the prize in the woods! So, guess what? The garage door is up for each one of us! It’s 2020 and a blank slate lies ahead. Staying put in the garage is the safe and easy choice, but exploring the woods is the true adventure. All true adventures begin with going to God. He is the ultimate adventure guide and will lead us to amazing places. Opportunity awaits all of us, but only if we’re willing to risk and explore. Sure, some won’t like us leaving. But we can’t be found until we are a bit lost. Others will just have to adjust. Risk looks different for us all. It might mean we pursue a friendship with someone (risky); It might mean we change our major (risky); It might mean volunteering for a new organization this year (risky); It might mean we go on that mission trip at church (risky); It might mean we walk over to the neighbor’s yard and say hello (risky). The list is endless, and the opportunities only wait for the Lord’s leading. Let 2020 be a year of trust and prayer and risk. Let it be a year of failure and freedom, of dependence and success. Every truly successful person experiences a lot of failures. And it’s okay. They are not failures if God led the way. The score doesn’t determine the winner. The prize goes to the ones who give it all. Thank you, Wes Neal, for your words of wisdom years ago: “If, in the name of Jesus, we totally release our gifts and talents in what we do, we are winners every time, no matter the results.” My late boss, friend and mentor was a wonderful man named Richard Beach. He believed in me and coached me in ministry for nearly twenty-five years. I sure miss him. We were different in that he loved to take the risk. I loved to play it safe. He knew that true discipleship always includes risk taking- not on projects but on people. Actually, it involves both. People are a mess with no guarantees. Sometimes we’ll pour our lives into a Judas and he’ll sell us out. But we pour anyway. Why? Because love believes all things. Yes, it gets burned sometimes, but our Lord will accept the blow for us. May our loving God be our guide in 2020. May He will lead us to “places we never could have imagined going by ways we never knew existed,” IF (and a big “if”) we’re willing to go. People and projects really are an adventure. In this year, 2020, let’s be willing to risk… …and in the hands of God, we will always be a success. Eric Joseph Staples ©

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