Day 1 Follow Where God Leads James 4:13-15
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” NIV
Do you wake up each day wondering what God has in store for you? I know I like to wake up, create my “To Do List,” and be in control of my day, but God has taught me (and continues to teach me every day) that what I think I need to do and what God thinks I need to do can be remarkably different. Years ago, a colleague shared with me his morning prayer, he said, “I ask God to give me an open mind to be able to hear from God what I should do and with whom I should connect today.” That simple prayer has stuck with me over the years and has become part of my prayer life as well. As a result I have encountered people and opportunities that I never had considered before.
Building the future offers us opportunities to witness to our faith every day. It is not hard. If we share our story and allow God to do the rest, amazing life-change can and will occur.
Reflection: Are you open to the leading of God and what God’s plan is for you? Or do you go your own way, in your own power, remaining focused on what you hope to achieve?
Prayer: Gracious God, help me to place my “To Do List” in your hands. Give me the courage to share my story with others, to your glory not mine. In Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.
Day 2 Perseverance 1 Timothy 6:11-12
“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” NIV
Sometimes our past or a part of our past is something we would like to forget. But our story is incomplete if we do not include the good, the bad, and the ugly. No one has a perfect past. We all have sinned, and thus have fallen short of the glory of God. This is why God sent God’s Son Jesus to serve as the unblemished sacrifice for each of us who believe.
Because of this truth, as we receive Christ as our Lord and savior we can know with all assurance that sins are forgiven, past, present, and future. This assurance ought to give us the desire to persevere regardless of what we are going through. Even when things seem dire, persevere by holding on to the promise and truth of Scripture. The Apostle Paul tells us, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me.”
The ultimate end for our lives ought to be living as true disciples of Jesus, so much so we will follow Jesus through anything. We need to accept our past without regret and learn to lean into God’s grace for the future. We need to quit beating ourselves up and allow the Holy Spirit to heal our hearts. As we build the future, God does not want us to focus on our past in an unhealthy way. Rather, God wants us to learn from our past, and then let God reconcile our past by redeeming it. “Fight the good fight,” Paul says, and focus on the gift and reward of eternal life.
Reflection: Are there things from your past for which you need to seek forgiveness? Are you willing to turn any guilt and shame over to the Lord so that you can move forward to build a strong future?
Prayer: Almighty One, I know I have fallen short of your glory and ask to be forgiven. Use me, Lord, as your disciple to build a future focused on you. In your precious name I pray. Amen.
Day 3 Embrace the Basic Things 1 Corinthians 13:13
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” NIV
Growing up, I really only knew one grandparent, my mother’s mother. My father’s parents died before I was born and my mother’s father was an alcoholic who pretty much stuck to himself in the basement. My grandmother, whom I have come to admire over the years, was a woman of basic means. My grandmother never learned to drive and I am not sure she ever even wanted to learn. She grew most of her food in her large gardens, and she walked to the small store just up the hill from her house to get other needed items.
Whenever we would visit my grandmother, she always had a smile on her face and a kind word to say (even when we broke her flowers). When she worked in the garden she would hum her favorite hymns and talk to her flowers like they were friends. Of course as a young boy, I thought she was crazy. But as I look back on her life I have come to appreciate how my grandmother really appreciated the basic things in life. In reality, she embraced faith, hope, and love in all she said and did.
Conversely, many have made life today overly complicated and complex. We do not seem to appreciate the basic things as we once did. As a result we can tend to push God out of our lives easily. Other “more important” activities have taken priority away from our relationship with God: sports, sleeping in, work, and even family.
As we think about building the future, it all hinges on where we place God on our priority list. If God is not number one on our list, our future cannot be all that God wants it to be. We must embrace the basic things of life: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.
Reflection: We are bombarded daily with things from this world that keep us from focusing on God. Do not allow your life to become unnecessarily complicated. Keep it basic and keep God first in your life. Live by faith, embrace hope, and witness to God’s love.
Prayer: Lord God, have I managed to push you off the top of my list? Forgive me, and help me to return to the basics of life. Empower me to reprioritize what it is I give my attention to, so that you are number one. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
Day 4 Inspiration Hebrews 12:1-2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NIV
As a pastor I have attended or officiated many funerals over the years. After some of the funerals I have said to myself, “I never knew that about the person” or, “I wish I had known them better.” I get great inspiration from those who have lived the faith and have now gone on to be with the Lord. The stories of our ancestors can serve to inspire and encourage us as we navigate life’s journeys to build a faithful future.
The Christian life is an endurance race, which includes many hills and valleys. But in the midst of this sometimes roller coaster ride, remembering the lives of those who have gone on before us can offer us inspiration and hope. The hope and promise of those who died in the faith is eternal salvation. Jesus opened the way to eternal salvation, and God’s new Covenant will never be superseded. God creates our faith by God’s grace through the Gospel and sacraments, and then the Holy Spirit brings us to the consummation of our salvation. As we cling to the memories of those who have gone on before us, may we build a better future so that all may come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Reflection: Are there people from your past who have died, yet continue to inspire you to this day? Are you living a life that can serve as an inspiration for those in your sphere of influence, or for those still to come?
Prayer: Lord, bring to my mind those individuals I know from my past who have had a tremendous impact on me. Remind me of how they lived so that I may be inspired to live a life that might inspire others. Amen.
Day 5 All In Philippians 3:12-14
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” NIV
One of the attributes that keeps us connected to the saints of the past, present, and future is our willingness to be all in for the Lord. In Paul’s encouraging word he speaks of “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” What this passage encourages is that Christians who go “all in” for the Lord, cultivate a discipline of:
- Focus on striving for the goal which Christ has set before us, until it is fulfilled, while not allowing the obstacles of this world to derail us.
- Making the decision to let go of past sins, and refusing to be paralyzed or rendered complacent by them.
- Following, by powerfully pursuing the calling of the Christian life, until the final victory has been won and the crown of glory is yours.
As powerful as the stories and witness of the past can be, we now have the opportunity to continue writing the story, a glorious story of Christ and Christ’s relationship with us. Most of what is handed down to us comes from story, and many of these stories serve to encourage us to “press on toward the goal.” As you consider your story, begin by going all in for the Lord and then allow your story to be counted among the many that will encourage generations to come.
Reflection: We all have a story, and it is part of God’s greater story. How has or can your story encourage others? Have you truly gone all in for the Lord or do you walk around the fringes of faith?
Prayer: Holy God, I want to go all in for your son Jesus. Empower me to let go of those things that keep me on the fringes of faith and lead me to an all in relationship with Christ. It is in Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
Day 6 Trust and Obey Psalm 84:11-12
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” NIV
Following Jesus into the future often requires recapturing the innocence of our childhood. When we were young, we accepted much of what we were taught at face value. And, in spite of a temper tantrum or two, we followed our parents and did what we were told to do, mostly without question. We had a level of trust in our parents.
As we march forward to building the future, we need to have that same level of trust, the trust of children, as we follow where God leads us, knowing that God will provide what we need and will show us the way forward. The first verse of the great hymn “Trust and Obey,” written by John H. Sammis, puts it like this:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Reflection: Have you placed your whole trust in the Lord? What do you continue to hold on to that prevents you from giving your whole self to “trust and obey?”
Prayer: God of the past, present, and future. Create in me a heart of trust and obedience so that I might serve you. Remove any doubt I may have about your abilities. Give me a steadfast faith so that I may be the servant you have called me to be. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Day 7 Vision of the Future Proverbs 29:18
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” KJV
Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has a purpose for each of us. The prophet writes, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (NIV). What is your personal vision of the future based on God’s purpose and calling on your life? As our Scripture reminds us, “Without vision the people perish.” Without direction it is hard to know where we are going. When I speak, especially to young adults, it is disheartening to hear how many of them have no idea what they are going to do with their lives. When I ask about spiritual giftedness or God’s calling on their lives, many give me a blank stare because they either do not know what I am talking about, or had not considered what God has gifted or called, them to do.
As disciples of Jesus Christ there is a call on our lives, a call that must be Spirit-led and Spirit-fed. A disciple’s commitment is more than words, it is active, and it is a way of life. Like the prophets and saints who have gone on before us, disciples have heard the voice of God asking: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And they have boldly responded: “Here I am—send me!”
Reflection: Have you heard or sensed the voice of God calling you (maybe nagging you) to go and do such and such? Have you turned away? What is your personal vision of your life? Is it in sync with your giftedness and God’s call?
Prayer: Lord, there are some days I just feel like I am going through the motions with no clear vision of where I am headed. Through your Spirit, please give me clarity of heart and mind, so that I might see clearly where you are pointing me to go. In the name of Jesus the Christ I pray. Amen.
 Philippians 4:13, ESV.
 1 Timothy 6:12, NIV.
 1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV.
 Philippians 3:13, NIV.
 Isaiah 6:8, NIV.