I have a habit of juggling lots of balls. All at the same time. It’s the way I am wired. I get very excited about picking up new hobbies, projects and even people. I have just completed my latest book – Breakout (but shhh, don’t tell anyone yet as it hasn’t been released). Anyway, with that preamble you can understand how challenging it is for me to put things down. And with the start of a New Year, there’s the temptation to pick up something new. Instead I seemed to hear God asking me what I was going to put down.
Now I am not referring to things like spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible study and fasting which are always great things to pick up and maintain; or a healthy eating programme which is good for our physical wellbeing. These are all obviously beneficial things that we are encouraged to do. Many times though, we are so comfortable with the status quo that while we ask God what He would like us to take up, we don’t often ask Him what He would like us to lay down. I find that it is often easier to pick things up than to lay them down. Acquiring physical things is often easier than giving them away. Like the baby who grabs a colourful toy we are loath to give up anything we have held for a period.
I could pick up a set of weights and they will help develop my muscles and keep me fit. But if I don’t put them down at some point, they will hamper my movement. As we go into the New Year, I sense it is going to be crucial that we lay things that have the potential to hamper us, down. Our obedience to do this will help determine the fruit we bear this year.
I don’t know what 2017 was like for you. And I don’t know what 2018 will be like. But one thing seems clear. This verse is going to be more and more important for each one of us:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Sometimes it is not the obvious things that we see as sin that God is calling us to put down. Many times it is the good or average that is the enemy of His best for us that we need to put down. It’s the things that distract us from going after Him relentlessly; from reaching for His best rather than our best; the things that keep us stuck in the past rather than living in the present or stretching to the future. I don’t know what those things are for you, but chances are, you probably do. I know what they are for me.
I know I have to put down the disappointment of past failures or unanswered prayers. I know I have to put down unrealistic expectations of people. And I know I have to say no to some opportunities I would normally jump at. I also know its not going to be easy. That’s where God’s abundant grace comes in. Grace is the ability to succeed at something I would not ordinarily be able to succeed at given my talents and abilities. It’s the reason we rely on the working of Holy Spirit to obey God’s every word.
What is God asking you to lay down in 2018? Doubt? Complaining? Unhelpful relationships? Ministry obligations? Jobs? Attitudes? Whatever those things are, if he is asking you to put the down you can be sure you’ll be better off without them. God wants the best for us but he will not force that best on us. He has given us the ability to choose. So what will it be – the average, the good or God’s very best?