Welcome to this last Sunday of 2021, as we look forward to and make plans for 2022. My message starting point is Acts 20:22… and you may be thinking, I see what you’ve done there… 2022, anyway, let’s look at what Dr. Luke writes. Paul is addressing the Ephesians elders in this chapter…
Acts 20:22 – And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
Just as Paul wrote these words 2000 years ago, we are also setting out on a journey into 2022, not knowing what is in store, other than we continue to be a part of a world that doesn’t care much about the God we serve or want him to be found anywhere in the public square. Christians are prime targets for negative press, especially after there has been some sort of public failure done by some mega-church or a high-profile popular pastor. Sometimes the church gets a black eye because of how church people behave. I pray every day for my integrity and Christian witness to match my personal faith.
For much of the world, the gospel still is illegal or brings significant persecution in many parts of the world. According to Open Doors USA, their World Watch List for 2021 has information on the top 50 countries where it is difficult to follow Jesus. Most of the persecution comes from communist oppression, local clan oppression, and Islamic oppression.
So, to put this into context, Paul set his priority to go to Jerusalem in spite of what awaited him there. But for most of us, we just want to be a faithful witness for the Lord making a difference in our circles of influence. Basically, we want to bloom where we are planted. I have said it before, but it bears repeating, we will never make a difference in our culture if we don’t embrace the mission of Jesus with intentionality.
The Great Commission and the Great Commandment will not manifest itself in our lives by accident. So, in this week of making resolutions, what commitments are we willing and ready to make for the cause of Christ, and to demonstrate our faith in Christ?
Paul writes these words and includes what I call a mission statement. Perhaps you have chosen a Bible verse to reflect your desire to live life on mission with God.
- Some people have chosen Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- Others might choose Matthew 6:33 – But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- For me personally, I have chosen Acts 20:24 – But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
At the end of all things in this life, may people remember that I chased after God with my whole heart and took seriously the calling he has on my life to faithfully testify to the gospel of God’s grace.
What about you? I challenge you to find a verse that sums up your desire to follow Christ with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Here we are at the very end of 2021, so, what changes can we make for 2022? I’m going to help you consider adding a few things to your New Year’s resolutions, or at least modify your life-priorities list. And yes, there’s an acrostic… F.A.I.T.H.
I have chosen this acrostic because faith appears to be an important part of the Christian experience. For example…
- And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Notice the word, “impossible” to please him.
- Or how about Second Corinthians 5:7, that says, for we walk by faith, not by sight.
So, with my acrostic FAITH, let me suggest five ways we can set priorities for 2022.
Faith in God
I think most of us would like to be remembered as a person of great faith. A couple of times in the New Testament, Jesus was amazed at the faith of the people.
One time Jesus was entering Capernaum and was approached by a centurion whose servant was lying paralyzed at home and racked with pain (Matthew 8:5-10). Jesus tells him that he will come and heal him, only to hear the Roman officer tell him that he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his home, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed because he had not seen such great faith in all the land of Israel. He tells him to go home because what he believed has happened. Jesus marveled at this man’s faith. I want to be that guy, that Jesus would say, “of all the people following me, that Chafee guy has great faith. He believes what is written in that book we call the Bible. He trusts me with his life, his future, his salvation, and his daily decisions.”
But, there was also another time when Jesus was amazed at people’s faith. It was also in Galilee, in his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6). He was teaching in the synagogue and the people were astonished, saying, “where did he get these things, his wisdom and the miracles? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” At the end of this story, Mark tells us that Jesus was amazed (or he marveled or wondered) at their unbelief. It appears that familiarity really does breed contempt. They were so familiar with Jesus and his earthy family that they couldn’t see him for who he was, the Savior of the world, the Messiah, the promised Deliverer.
Great faith was found in a Roman centurion Gentile while among the chosen people of God, the Jews, there was a deafening lack of faith that even prevented Jesus from doing many miracles in their midst.
Which guy do you want to be? In 2022, will you grow into a person of great faith, or will Jesus be unable to do anything through you because of unbelief?
Remember that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). So, our first priority in 2022 is to develop into a person of strong faith. But faith cannot stand on its own. Faith must be acted upon, or it is simply a belief. So, here is our next priority…
Action for God
James is very specific when it comes to faith and action. In James 1:22, he tells us, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. Did you catch that? Faith must be proven, and it is proven through actions. He goes on to write in James 2:17-18, Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith WITHOUT the works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.”
On a practical level, faith that is not proven is not really faith. Think about it. I may have faith that this chair will hold me up but unless I am willing to sit down on it, there is no faith, there is only belief.
I’m sure you have heard this story at some point in your life but there was this high-wire walker who stretched his wire across Niagara Falls and walked from one side to the other, and back again. The crowd was amazed at what this guy could do. He then told the crowd he would do it again, but this time pushing a wheelbarrow, all the way across, and back again. He then asked a question of his raving fans, “Do you believe I can go one more time with someone sitting in the wheelbarrow?” and they all cheered that he could. Then came the tough question that separates faith from simple belief, “Who will get in this wheelbarrow and go with me?”
This next year, how will you grow your faith and step forward in action? What is God asking you to do by saying, “Just trust me. Have faith. Walk in obedience and let me take care of you.” This action step will move you from simply believing the right stuff about Jesus, to trusting him with your life and future. Let’s grow in 2022.
The next priority helps us to develop credibility among the people in our circles of influence. Nothing will honor God more than his people BEING the disciple we are called to be, rather than just CLAIMING to be his disciples. This involves living for God and walking in obedience even no one is looking. It’s about walking in integrity with God…
Integrity with God
How often do we slide into sin simply because we know that no one else is watching? This is about a businessman traveling in a strange city and knowing that no one will ever know what he might be doing after hours. It’s about the movies we stream or the images we see on our smartphone that no one will ever know about. It’s about flirting with someone not your spouse knowing that your work life and personal life will never intersect with church people.
I’m reminded about the story of David who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and made the wrong decision. We read about this episode in King David’s life in 2 Samuel 11. The king was not where he was supposed to be, off at war with his troops. He was at home, on his rooftop, and discovered a beautiful woman next door. After a series of poor choices, this “man after God’s own heart” walks down the path of lust, adultery, and eventually conspiracy and murder.
Remember that no one ever starts out to destroy their life or family or marriage, but like David, we make a series of poor choices and lack the necessary accountability to someone else, that essential relationship we need to keep ourselves on the narrow path of God’s will.
Why am I such an advocate of men’s ministry? Because deep inside every one of us is the potential to compromise our beliefs. There is strength and safety in numbers. Why would I not do everything in my power to keep myself on the right path?
And this is not just about men’s ministry, because our women get together on Tuesday morning and Tuesday evenings (as well as at other times through the year) to grow in faith, support one another, pray for one another, love on one another, and to bear one another’s burdens.
- Here is a great verse that supports personal accountability, Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. The Men of Steel embrace this verse and want to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Sharp knives don’t happen by accident, it takes work.
- Remember that this godliness doesn’t happen by accident. Check out the foundation of our Noble Man Group, Isaiah 32:8 – But the noble man devises noble plans; And by noble plans he stands.
So, do you desire to stand when all those around you fall? It’s about being intentional with your spiritual growth. This passage tells us to devise a PLAN. And how can we devise a plan without using good material? That’s where the Bible comes in. We walk with Jesus by allowing his Word into our heart; we must embrace teaching about God.
Teaching About God
The Bible is our only source for faith and practice, so how effective can we expect to be when we don’t get into God’s Word? Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the Bible. When I stand before a holy God, I’m not sure that saying, “I never knew” will be a good excuse.
We have more access to God’s Word than any previous generation. We have multiple copies of God Word in our homes. We have access to dozens of different translations in the palm of our hands. The YouVersion Bible app has been installed on over 500 million devices worldwide – and it’s totally free (as of November 2021).
Will this be the year that you get involved in a small group? There’s nothing like getting together to open the Bible and discuss what it means and how it applies to life. Spiritual truth is so relevant to life.
A lot of people generally avoid Bible study because they don’t know much about that mysterious book, but I submit to you… does that argument make any sense? If you DON’T know that much about the Bible, why would you NOT get involved in a small group.
It’s almost like saying, “I’m not going to college because I don’t know much about my chosen major.” Students go to college to learn. They’re not there because they’re an expert. Same thing about being a disciple of Jesus. The word disciple literally means pupil, learner, student, not master or expert.
The point of our life in Christ is to conform to the image of Jesus over a lifetime. That’s what we call, the process of sanctification. If we say YES to Jesus, get baptized, and join the church, and the only thing we do from that point is sit on a pew a couple of times a month (or for some, a couple of times a year) we are missing the point of being a Christian.
Christianity is not just a belief system but it’s embracing another worldview. Now that our faith is in Christ, how we view the world comes from what we read in the Bible. It’s called having a biblical worldview. We take everything we learn from the world and hold it up to the teachings found in the Bible. And with a biblical worldview, we trust what the Bible says over what our present culture teaches. God’s truth does not go out of style; he doesn’t change with the times. We don’t make God into OUR image; we are made in HIS image.
Teaching from God happens best in the context of a small group of believers who are on the same journey in life, together. We read, learn, discuss, and seek to apply the teaching we receive from God’s Word. If you’re not a part of a small group, you are not in a position to be all that you can be as a follower of Christ. Maybe this is the year when you surrender to God’s will and get involved in a small group.
If you’re already involved in a small group, maybe your next step is to teach others about God. It is an interesting fact that when you teach others, God opens up your mind and heart to learn so much more than you could ever teach to your class. It really is a blessing to teach others, a privilege, and a responsibility.
Hey, none of us is an expert on the Bible, but every time I open this book, I put myself into a position to hear from God through his Word and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Which leads us to the final priority for 2022…
Hearing from God
The Scripture is full of language like, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 15, 16), “He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2-3), and “For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes; Otherwise they might see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.”’ (Acts 28:27).
It is totally possible to have a keen sense of hearing and still not hear from God. Often times we are just satisfied to live on the fringe of God’s influence and involvement in our lives. If heard it said, “If you can live without revival in your life or church, you will.” How much time do we spend on chasing after God? Like, if we don’t hear from him, we are ruined?
Sometimes we settle for a casual glance in God’s direction and feel that is all God wants from us. But there is so much more if we would only chase after him. And he’s NOT playing some cosmic hide-and-seek game because his Word tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.”
Not everybody gets it. When you hear from God, you know it. People around you may never understand you stepping out in faith, but from God’s perspective, you will be a success in the kingdom of God, even if those around you can’t see it. God wants our faithfulness, so we leave the definition of success up to him.
So, how will we be successful in 2022? Perhaps setting a few priorities will help us journey toward exercising greater faith… have…
- Faith IN God
- Action FOR God
- Integrity with God
- Teaching ABOUT God, and
- Hearing FROM God
What area do you need to grow in faith right now? How can your church family help you? What commitments are you ready to make right now? Let’s talk to God about it…
PRAY: Lord Jesus, this time is yours. You know our hearts, motivation, and attitudes. You know where we fall short better than we know ourselves. As we enter this new year, may we rekindle our passion for you, your Word, and the mission you have in our lives. Help us to live a life of significance. Help us to know your will and your ways and give us the courage to stand up for the cause of Christ.
Thank you for being a part of this online service. If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us through the church website (kgbc.us/more). If you live in the Virginia Beach area, we invite you to stop by for a visit on Sundays at 9am or 11am or join us for midweek activities on Wednesday evenings (kgbc.us/midweek). Until next time, thanks for joining us. We hope to see you soon.