Pursuing the New We Already Possess: How to Overcome by Faith in 2022
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”2 Corinthians 5:17
Every year around this time I ask my husband if he has any goals for the coming year. And each year, in his low-pitched, silly voice he simply says, “My plans are to keep on keeping on”. I always know what he will say, but I still ask. It is comforting to me in many ways. He then says something like, “I will keep reading my Bible, practicing my guitar, swimming, and doing the things I need to do”. He tries to set rhythms for doing these things daily, but he rarely stresses about it; he just does the things he knows he needs to in order to get where he wants to be.
For him, he desires to be a healthy 50-something year old, so he makes time to go to the gym. He doesn’t overthink it. He reads about how to swim well and run properly, but none of that helps if he doesn’t apply the knowledge.
He knows He needs God’s Word to guide His life, so He sets an intention to read daily. He isn’t always as consistent as he wants and needs to be, but he keeps trying.
Church and community are priorities for our family. These life-giving habits take action–being doers of the Word and not just hearers.
From the 30 years that I have known Jason, I have witnessed his upward trajectory of faithfulness to walk with Christ. As he has made time for the things of God, the Spirit has grown and renewed his mind in immeasurable ways. He doesn’t struggle with the things he used to or with the pull they once held over his mind. His desire for church, Bible teaching, worship music, and Scripture has grown as he made the space for it, laying down old ways of thinking and moving through life.
I believe my husband would say the same for me. Thankfully, by God’s grace, we are not the people we were. God has renewed our tempers, our desires, and our self-centeredness and transformed us through abiding. As we seek Him, He is faithful to sustain and grow us. We love because He first loved us. Thankfully, we love one another better today than we did in the early years of our marriage.
Resting and Wrestling
I would say that I have struggled more than Jason to not feel trapped through the years with finding the right Bible reading plan, setting lofty expectations for my “spiritual life”, and trying to figure out how to please God. I haven’t always rested in Christ even as I sought to discipline my life to seek God’s holiness. I wasted a lot of time searching for human ways to find intimacy with God when He had given me everything for life, peace, and godliness through the Spirit’s presence and His resurrection power.
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.”2 Peter 1:3 NLT
I have grown to love reading Scripture. I wake up, lie down, and converse with Him all through my days. And I find encouragement and hope when I assemble with other brothers and sisters in Christ, building relationships that will last forever and providing opportunities to practice the “70 x 7” forgiveness of God. This is a work of God as it is hard to dwell with peace with others, even within the Church.
There is no magic formula required for maturing in our faith—time and space to behold the beautiful character of God leads to lasting transformation.
Both Jason and I have moments where we must ask for forgiveness and realign our hearts and minds with truth, as living in this world—in our flesh—distracts us from what is good, right, and holy. Frustration at life is common to us all, and we don’t always react or yield ourselves to holiness.
But we keep on keeping on. We press into Jesus when life doesn’t make sense to our human minds. We discipline ourselves to lay down our old natures to step into the new nature given through our faith in Christ. We look at the character of God and desire to be reflections of Him, because we know that this is the way to be loving people to one another. There is no way to do this on our own, as it is not a work of the flesh but of the Spirit. Our efforts allow the space for the supernatural work of God’s Spirit to transform, mold, and move us from glory to glory. It takes yielding our will for His daily.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
The greatest goal we can set for 2022 begins by asking, “Who do I want to look like tomorrow or next year?” If the answer is God, then what does God look like? What qualities does He possess? What areas of our lives lack these qualitites? Then begin to ask for help. “God, I don’t like this…I struggle with this…I know this displeases you…I can’t let go of this even though it never satisfies…Will you help me reflect your glory?” All the best God has for us—love, joy, peace, patience, hope—come from laying down our old ways and putting on the mind of Christ.
I can read more books than last year, get skinny, pursue my career goals, and finish reading the Bible in a year, but still miss out on the best things that come from drawing near to God. These are worthy goals as they help us stay healthy emotionally, physically, and mentally, but we don’t work towards them for our happiness alone. True happiness is derived from the joy that fills us when we glorify God and work for His glory in all things.
Scripture tells us to:
- make every effort to hear the Word of God, because it is in hearing that faith flourishes (Romans 10:17).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”Colossians 3:16
- make every effort to walk worthy of who we are in Christ, eager to live at peace with others in love.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:1-3
- make every effort to be quiet and talk to God.
” Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. “Psalm 37:7
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”Romans 12:12
- make every effort to be a part of the work of God in the world through His Church.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”1 Corinthians 15:58
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”Hebrews 10:25
If you don’t know where to begin, start with what He asks of us in the Scriptures above: make time to read the Bible (start with a Psalm a day or the book of John if new to reading it), get alone with God and talk to Him, and spend time with other believers, encouraging one another to mature in the faith.
He desires for us to walk in the new nature already given to us. He won’t force us, we must seek. But when we do, He promises we will find. It may take more time than we would like, but if we are showing up, He will grow us.
Ask God to renew every part of the old you. It has passed away, but we often try to bring it back, longing for what we thought was better–longing to satisfy ourselves apart from God. Keep moving forward with eyes on the eternal.
The World vs The Way
Our culture is saturated with the need to start the new year off with all things “new”. The world (anything opposed to God and His ways) longs for hope without knowing where to find it, so they pursue self. The secular seeks self-gratification, self-glorification, and self-indulgence. This is not the way of Christ. Our goal is not to better our lives for personal gain, rather, a Christian is to seek to glorify God. There are no guarantees that 2022 will be better than 2021. The only sure thing we have is Christ. When we have Him guiding our daily lives, we wake up each day He gives with a renewed mind and heart. Whether we lose the weight we desire, make it through our reading plans, check that to-do off a list, or have smooth sailing through the year, God’s Spirit resides within us. We are never alone.
Living at peace with God and others leads us to flourish in all areas of our lives. We will grow more generous, more desirous to take care of the temple of God, our bodies, and gain the capacity to fulfill the good plans God has for us. We will flee gluttony, selfishness, and any other sin that hurts the bodies God created for His purposes.
From a human standpoint, there is nothing magical about January 1st. While it feels like a blank slate, we move from December 31st to January 1 with the same issues and baggage as the day before. Outside of the new mercies of God, there is nothing new under the sun.
The things of 2021 are behind us but much of the hard will be carried over. Or a new type of hard will enter the picture. While we pray and hope for a virus-free, politically stable, peaceful world, the reality is that what we truly hope for is a new heaven and earth where Christ rules and reigns. That is the only way for these longings to become realities. Humans can never evolve to the perfection we seek without the perfection of God.
What has always been true for a Christ-follower is the reality of renewal—the possibility of transformation—and the title of overcomers. What a beautiful truth to hold on to!
What do we overcome? Battles with self, sin, and our enemy, Satan. We tear down strongholds and anything that pulls us away from the mind of Christ.
Through Christ, 2022 can be the year we thrive in the authority, presence, joy and peace that has always been promised to us.
As I read the Bible, I see that while we live in this world (we don’t hide away in a bubble), we do not fight against our sin as the world does.
- We do have the capacity for growing into the image of Christ.
- We do have the power to defeat sin.
- We don’t have excuses for allowing sin to reign in our bodies.
God gives us grace for our humanity and forgiveness for true repentance, but we should always be growing closer to His likeness. We can rest in knowing the Spirit makes it all possible as we make every effort to pursue The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”Philippians 2:13