For many years now, it has been my habit to set ‘themes’ for the New Year. Usually one-word, or short phrase motivational & spiritual themes, based on scripture. I set resolutions also, as I see need to, but more often my resolutions are really goals for whatever I hope to accomplish in the year ahead.
These can obviously be set at any time of the year, and I often do, but the New Year is just a good time that lends itself for goal setting, especially spiritual growth goals. Many people choose to read their Bible’s through in the year ahead, or be more consistent with their devotions, or build a better prayer life, etc.
My one-word, or short phrase goals have been things like “Abide” where I wanted to work at abiding in Christ on a daily basis, or “Seek,” (Like in Wise Men Still Seek Him) or “Be Still and Know that I am God”… things like that. One year, my word was “Life,” because the previous year had been a year of sadness and grief in many ways. We had given birth to our stillborn daughter the previous January, and were also dealing with a prodigal daughter as well as many other sad and grievous events. So “LIFE” was my theme for the following year, and I sought to see God’s beauty and life in all that was around me.
Well, this year, as I asked God to give me my ‘theme’ for the coming year, I entered 2018 without any clear direction. But as I was doing my devotions on January 1st, I was in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, and read this verse: “and that you study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” -1 Thess. 4:11
The Holy Spirit let me know… this was my verse and theme for the year.
Now, you have to know, that I have seen this verse before, and truth be told… I have generally raced over it because… it scared me. 🙂
I know, there are much ‘scarier’ verses in the Bible than this one, but this one has always made me worry. Literally since I was a teenager in youth group.
I am not a ‘quiet’ person. I almost always have an opinion, a joke or a quip, or a comment about things. The funny thing is, I am basically very shy. I have always much preferred being in the background than the foreground. Public speaking has always been my greatest fear. At least to adults. I have always said, I could teach a room of 500 kids, and not be scared, but if you put one adult in there…. I am a basket case. Still, the impromptu comment or joke comes to me easily, even if I’m in a room full of people.
A paradox I’ve never quite understood about myself… but there it is.
So since I was a teenager, I (falsely) thought maybe my basic personality wasn’t quite ‘right’ with God. He wanted me to work on being quiet more. Or something. So I’ve habitually ignored this verse.
Here it is, 2018, and that verse is now my theme for the year. Go figure!
I think what hit me so about that verse, and where I am at this point in my life, and where the world seems to be right now, is that everyone has an opinion, and they think their opinion should be everyone’s opinion. We are seeing it in our society right now. Such division over opinions. We are seeing it in our churches too. My husband and I have definitely faced it, where no matter how we had lived our lives, walking with God visibly, consistently, & sincerely in front of everybody, when our going got tough in our family circumstances, (2 prodigal children over the course of about 10 years) everybody had an opinion as to how we were doing it wrong.
What was jaw-dropping to us, was that when we prayed about things, God kept confirming we were doing it right. And our ‘right’ (In Christ) turned out to be the thing that eventually fixed the situation. But to this day, there are people that still think we did it wrong, because we wouldn’t listen to their opinion.
Sorry, but its only God’s opinion that matters! That is the one I am seeking, that is the one I give credence to, and that is the one I strive to follow!
So, here I am, thinking how does this verse apply to me? Well, I’m sure I am guilty too about giving my own opinion when it wasn’t asked for or helpful or encouraging. I hope I have not added to anyone’s pain, as people did to ours, but probably…. I have. I have asked God’s forgiveness for this, and that He would make me more aware so I wouldn’t do it again. That is what this theme verse means to me.
Basically, I take it to mean… “Shut up! Mind your own business. Do the work before you that I’ve given you to do.”
I broke this resolution on the very first day. To my husband of all people. I said something and saw the light go out of his eyes momentarily. God convicted me immediately and that has helped to cement this as my much needed theme verse for the year.
Now, although I have the proneness to give my opinion about nearly everything… this verse is coming to mind very quickly and I am responding quicker already. I’ve got a ways to go. But its a year thing, so, I’m counting on improving, with God’s constant prodding of course.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t ever give my thoughts or opinions on something.. but I am trying to hold back unless those thoughts & opinions are asked for. (obvious, right!) Beyond that, I am praying for God to develop in me a more listening spirit, so I can really encourage those I encounter in the path towards God, relying on the Holy Spirit to prompt me when to speak in love, and when to simply listen and committedly pray.
Do you know what else what I’ve discovered? Its not just about saying the opinion out loud that matters. Its about the first thoughts in my head. I don’t know all the circumstances, or events behind something, so why does my head instantly dish out an opinion. Crazy, I know. But this verse has begun to help me with that too. The thought might come… but the verse comes next. Study to be quiet. And more and more I am finding I stop entertaining that random, and most likely false opinion.
Continuing on with the verse, the “do your own business” part backs up the “study to be quiet” part, telling us to mind our own business, and don’t be busybodies in other peoples lives. And then the “work with your own hands” part tells me I have enough in front of me to do than to worry about other people’s work and lives, in a controlling, opinion-giving sort of way.
Another verse of scripture that I have many times quoted to myself backs this up. After Jesus restored Peter telling him to “feed my sheep” Jesus goes on to tell Peter glimpses of how he [Peter] is going to die. Peter looks at John, and asks Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus responds, “… what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” (which was also a theme of mine in a previous year, and helped me to stop comparing myself with others, or worrying what others thought of me, when I was going through a very vulnerable time.)
I find comfort in these verses that God has a path that is right for me, and others’ paths are right for them. If not, God is not incapable of letting them know, and unless He specifically tells me to, it is not my job to give my advice & opinion, unless it is asked for, and then only with prayerful consideration. I need to study to be quiet and not worry about the path God has my neighbor on, but do my own business and work with my own hands the task God has for me to do, letting God do the speaking in both of our lives.
My sincere goal in life is to point others to Jesus through my words (hopefully always an echo of His words) and my example.
Sometimes the best words I can give are silence, built on love.
Have you picked a theme or verse for your year? It is a wonderful tool & simple way for allowing God to grow and develop your life in Christ. I have found that if I ask, God always is faithful to give me a specific idea, zeroing in on something I need to work on in my life. I encourage you to try something like this to spotlight a specific area of needed or desired growth in your Christian walk. I usually print out a small poster and bookmark with my word/phrase/verse on it, that I put on my fridge, and in my Bible, to give me constant visible reminders. Its amazing how that visible thing keeps me focused on the theme for the year.
By the way… anytime of year is a good time to begin. It doesn’t have to be January 1st.
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