The Year of the Lord’s Favour

“If you are consumed with the tension between what is and what could be, if you find yourself emotionally involved… frustrated… broken-hearted… maybe even angry… about the way things are, and if you believe God is behind your anguish, then chances are you are on the brink of something divine.” – Andy Stanley, Visioneering

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 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

- Isaiah 61:1-4 (New International Version)

He has sent me.

He has sent you.

He has sent us.

This Isaiah passage has been on my heart lately. I have been dwelling on it and it seems to continue to surface even when I begin to become distracted with life again.

I regularly become broken-hearted for the state of this world. As Andy Stanely suggests, perhaps these feelings of empathy are designed to bring about divine action, if Christ is able to work through us as He wishes. Because here is my problem… at times I allow the weight of this world to crush me, rather than allow it to motivate me to act on behalf of those less fortunate than myself.

We are currently in term break and, having just celebrated Easter with family, friends, and church, I have taken the time for a personal Spiritual revival of heart. I realised I had allowed the busyness of my world to cut into my time with God and no-one in my sphere was likely to be the better for it. It had disabled me from giving my best to my family, my class and my church. Yet surely and slowly, God pulled me back to His side by using me for His purposes even when I didn’t feel equipped. I should have seen it coming really, but being so consumed with self-doubt often leaves you in the dark, unable to see the light that was perhaps behind you all along. It had been arranged that I would lead a table for the Alpha course at our church. Having led table groups at youth camps before this was not a new thing to me, but the state of my relationship with my God was not really at that “I’m setting a great example” phase. Well, I think God knew this and planned for me to grow through the journey of the Alpha course (and draw closer to Him through the experience) just as much as everyone else in the group did.

It was the session on reading the Bible that started it. I regretfully realised that I had not picked up my Bible to engage in God’s Word for a very long time. Sure, I had read devotions to my class, and blog posts and inspirational Christian testimonies, but I had not opened my Bible (let alone expected to hear from my Creator, my Heavenly Father, my loving, patiently waiting God) for far too long.

It’s interesting, because once I started, (once I got over the initial hurdle of creating a new habit) I couldn’t (and haven’t) put it down. I have been reading it, dwelling on it, reading it, journalling, reading other Christian books that bring me back to my Bible, and reading my Bible even more. I haven’t stopped engaging with the precious Word and tend to now leave it open around the house so I am just as likely to pick it up as I would my smartphone (which is obviously one of the greatest distractions of our time).

The thing is, God can’t speak to us if we don’t give Him the chance to and the chances of Him speaking to us are set pretty low if we won’t even open His love letter to us, His children.

One new benefit I can see in my family is that because I have been inspired to do this, so too have my children. Lately, I have strongly encouraged them to start their day by dwelling on God’s Word (opening their Bibles – even for 5 or 10 minutes), choosing a verse to journal and then writing down three things they are thankful for. While there are days they are keen, and then days I am sure they are only doing this to have some device time, at least it is forming a habit. Something that I pray they fall back to when they are adults and life becomes crazy. Because it does.

The other night my son mentioned he had been waking up at 5:30 am for the last few days and couldn’t understand why. I suggested that maybe God wanted him to pray about something and that either way, I found that prayer was always the best way to deal with being woken when you much preferred to be asleep. The next day, as I was finishing off Bobbie Houston’s book, The Sisterhood I stumbled upon the following quote:

“When God awakens you in the night, instead of being agitated because you can’t sleep, ask God if there is something or someone you should be praying for.” 

I showed my son this and he smiled. I later suggested he record it in his journal as something special to remember, which he did.

We have been sent.

Every one of us have different people to impact in our lives, different people to shine God’s light to, and we cannot forget our family in that equation. Sometimes I think I get caught up wanting to make the biggest impact, make the biggest change, when I forget I need to start by being obedient to God in the little things, like praying for my family and opening my Bible. If I can be obedient to God when he places a need on my heart, then perhaps He will begin to give me bigger things to work on. I often get so fixated on wanting to fix a huge problem in this world, only to realise I can’t do it in my own strength, so give up entirely (on the big and little things).

So what are the little (big) things in my world?

  • raising my children
  • investing in my marriage
  • teaching my class (which to be honest, feels like a huge thing at certain times of the year)
  • showing love and kindness to those within my sphere of influence
  • serving my church family
  • serving my biological family
  • praying
  • intentionally connecting with God’s Word (opening my Bible habitually)
  • writing for His glory

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I am sure there are more than what I have listed (but I do tend to find long, detailed lists more overwhelming than helpful at times) but for now, I suppose I identify these as my current priorities… the things that matter in my life right now in this moment. I have to trust God with the bigger things because I need to trust Him with my future. He knows the plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and unfortunately I don’t always know best.

I pray that this year, even though it has well and truly moved past the new year’s resolution phase, I pray that this year, is the year of the Lord’s favour as I dedicate my life to Him afresh. And I pray that every year from now on will be the year of the Lord’s favour in my life as Isaiah 61 boldly declares. I want to bind up the broken-hearted and bring comfort to those who mourn. I don’t just want to think about wanting it, though. I want to actually step out and act on my intentions. My prayer is that as I make this recommitment to my service to our King, that God will equip me where I am lacking. I know He speaks to me. Whether it be through His Word, a worship song, a beautiful aspect of His incredible creation, or just a flickering of the flame within my soul. I know He speaks. I just pray that from now on, I will be ready and waiting to listen.

About 6 years ago now, I was in a dark, helpless place where I was desperate to find God again, but the darkness had forced me to almost give up. It was in this moment, that God sent me a little bird to give me hope again. A little yellow robin landed on the garden path of my parent’s house as I walked up to load my bags in the car before coming back to collect my children. It sat there, without flinching looking at me intently. I had almost trodden on it as it seemed to have appeared from nowhere. I wondered if it was hurt as I carefully crouched down to examine it more closely. Still, it did not flinch. I ever so gently reached out my hand and to my utter surprise and wonder, I was able to stroke its back. It was in that moment that I felt God’s spirit fall upon me and comfort me. He was saying that He was with me.

Needless to say, this event has stayed with me ever since, and my parents occasionally see that little yellow robin come around (quite often at times where I have drawn comfort from its presence – whether I am there to physically witness it or not). It is moments like these we need to remember. Those moments God has spoken to you are precious. They are almost like signposts marking our way.

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Journalling is a wonderful way of recording important signposts. Because in a few months, or a few years, you may have forgotten the significance of a moment. You may have forgotten how God worked. We need to remember those moments so we can embrace and realise the fact that every year is the year of the Lord’s favour when we trust in Him and prioritise our relationship with Him.

I know as this term break draws to an end, my challenge will be to stay connected with my Saviour, to stay faithful in the little things, so that through me, His purposes will be achieved.

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