For several years now I have chosen a word to focus on throughout the year. I have found this practice to be very helpful and I have recommended it to many other people. We have also adopted this tradition in our church and I think it helps us pay more attention to the things that God is doing in and around us.
Last year our word was “ready”. The idea was that God was getting us ready for something, preparing us in someway, keeping us mindful that His return is very near. Our new word is “engage”. (This is even one of the reasons I’m even writing about this to be honest.) Since our focus last year was to be ready, the question was then: for what? I came to the conclusion that God wanted us to be ready to engage Him and our community and one another much better.
Some may wonder why pick just one word? I think because of the simplicity and focus that it brings. By choosing one word we can more readily see how that word is being taught to us or displayed in us. We can also see the opposite much more clearly: when that word is not being demonstrated in our lives or not valued, it is easily seen.
The apostle Paul talks about pressing forward to the mark of the prize of the high calling of God (Philippians 3:13-14). By choosing a word or a value to focus on throughout the year, I believe it is very helpful in making progress to becoming more like Christ. You probably remember this guiding principle from your childhood before crossing the road: stop look and listen. I think it’s a very helpful reminder when crossing into a new year. I will use this to help guide you in making your decision about a word for the year.
Stop. Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still. To stop. To quiet our hearts and minds. To know God. When choosing a word for the year it is important to stop for a period of time. Maybe an hour or two over a few days. Maybe even take a retreat if you are able. I know not everyone has the luxury to do that but most of us can find some time to block off and pray. For effective prayer, we really do need to stop. It’s hard to hear from God in a constant flood of activity.
In prayer, be watchful. So block off some time. Grab and pen and paper. Pray and open your heart and mind to Holy Spirit. Open your Bible to some passages you’ve been reading and ask God to reveal a concept or phrase, an idea that He wants you to grow in over the year. Peruse some highlighted passages from the last year. Read through your journal. Write down some meaningful words to you. This will become a list of possibilities.
Look. One of my favorite verses especially when I’m making plans is Jeremiah 6:16. This is a time of evaluation. It is important to evaluate what God has been doing previously and how you sense God moving in your life. I believe God is always working, although sometimes we are not aware of it. But is our lack of awareness simply because we haven’t stopped to notice? Maybe we haven’t taken a look around our own lives to see what He is doing? If you look at the end of Jeremiah 6:16, it reads: “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” Don’t be like this! Don’t ask God to show you a word or concept He wants to work in your life and then ignore it.
Take the list of possible words and pray over them. Look intently at that list and consider your heart, verses the seem to jump off the page, or even worship songs or sermons that seemed to hit you hardest over the last few weeks.
Look for a while. Look at your desk, your bedroom, living room, etc. What does the attention given (or lack) to your house detail about your life and living right now? Notice your job, work space, schedule. What does it reveal about how you are living currently?
Look at your bank account. What does it reveal about what you’re doing with what God has given? What does it reveal about your values, your trust in God and eternity?
Take a hard look at these areas of your life. Ask some hard questions and pray over them. Let God’s Spirit guide you and lead you to some resolution on what He values and wants you to adopt and adapt. Then begin to consider how or what taking that word and applying it to your life would look like. How would adopting that word cause you to have to adapt to a different lifestyle? It’s easy to say we are going to do something but the follow through is what counts! Once you sense God leading you to a word, allow God to confirm it by listening.
Listen. The hard part about listening isn’t the hearing. We all hear when we actually take time to stop and look. The listening part is actually obeying what we have been told to do or work on. It’s the listening that leads to transformative living. Once God has shown you an area of life He wants you to work on with you, then it is vitally important that we not ignore or disobey. We can’t ask God to answer our prayers and reveal something if we plan to disobey. Listening to God implies that we are going to love and obey Him (John 14:15).
Listening may mean paying attention to something someone else has said in your life. It may mean asking another for some insight or perhaps even getting some counseling in order to achieve that word/concept or to reach that goal.
As you take the time to stop and look, I feel confident that God will reveal some aspect, word, value that He wants to hone in on this year. I believe He will give you a concept or idea of the path He wants you to press on in to reach the prize of the high calling of God. But that means we must be willing to stop, look and listen.
My personal word for this year is “dare”. It’s like I need to be more daring and courageous. I feel like God has been calling me to be more “out there” because that’s where He is. I’m not always bold in sharing or faithful in writing…but I’m making a much greater effort this year (which is another reason I’ve even written this blog post). And so with that, I’m daring you to share what God is doing in your life. What word, phrase, concept is He bringing to your attention for 2022? Share it in the comments and let’s press forward to the prize of Christ’s high calling together!