First published on IFA.org
2020 held a great deal of challenge, there is no question about that. However, if we look deeper it was also plentiful in opportunities to learn spiritual lessons. Lessons, that if embraced, will undoubtedly produce godly and lasting fruit.
Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
While we cannot always change circumstances or avoid sufferings, we can change how we respond to them. We can choose to act according to the Word of God rather than react to the challenges.
The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity for growth. 2020 held a plethora of opportunity for growth.
Recently I reflected on what 2020 taught me.
Challenges are funny things – they can make you or break you. We can be assured God doesn’t allow them to come our way to destroy us. Quite the contrary. The truth is challenging times can make us better or bitter – the choice is up to us.
Here are some ways that 2020 made me better.
The Importance of Staying Prepared
At the beginning of 2020 God began to speak one thing to me. Over and over, He charged me to prepare. It seemed every few days He was speaking to me saying, “Prepare, prepare.”
Of course, I could not have imagined what was coming our way. Sadly, I didn’t fervently pray into what He was saying. I thought He was urging me to prepare spiritually for something ahead – which I did. Little did I know, He was not only telling me to prepare my heart spiritually, but to prepare in the natural as well.
Had I prayed into that word and heeded it completely, I could have avoided all the chaos when grocery shelves became empty. Since that time, I have stayed prepared. Spiritually and physically. I keep myself built up in faith. I do my best to not allow anything to shake me. To do this, I avoid the news media and instead keep my ear turned to God. I also keep my shelves filled with enough supply to last a few weeks if need be. It was a hard lesson but one I am thankful for. There is a great peace in staying prepared for whatever may come our way.
Just last week, without my foreknowledge wintery weather came our way. I woke up to snow and ice, which prevented me from getting out of my driveway. I smiled as I realized I was already prepared. There was nothing I needed or wanted. I had learned to stay ready at all times.
Be ready in season and out of season 2 Timothy 4:2
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8
The Importance of Words
One of the most shocking things during 2020 was hearing some of the words that came out of the mouths of people. Especially Christians.
I have witnessed many people speaking fear and negative outcomes and then watched those words come to pass in their lives. Our words are vital, the Bible tells us so. It tells us to guard our words. Our words produce life and death. Words have never been more important than right now as we walk through this grueling season. We eat the fruit of our words. It is up to us to speak life or death and whatever we choose – we will eat those words – we will live those words.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. Proverbs 13:3
The Importance of Faith in God and His Word
I love trees and how the Bible talks about them in relation to our faith.
When we go through challenging times, it is time to allow our roots to grow deeper into God. One of my favorite scriptures is found in Colossians 2:7 and says, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
In 2020, I learned how vital deep roots are and how important it is to truly trust God. To make sure our foundation is in Him and His word. To determine that our roots will continue to go deeper into Him. If our faith is in anything or anyone other than God, we will not only bend, we will likely break. For this reason, our firm foundation must be established in the Word of God.
In the midst of this trying year, God revealed areas of my life where I was certain I was trusting God when I was not. Many areas of my faith walk had to be repented of and changed during 2020.
Through it all, we must remember, God is faithful and has a good plan for us – we only need to believe it. God’s Word is the only truth. We must remain in God and His Word, for it will not return void. His Word is a light to our path and will show us the way to go, as we trust in Him. However, it is not a one-time thing. Choosing to continue in faith is cumulative, you must decide day after day that you trust in God alone.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
The Importance of Hearing God for Ourselves
I love prophetic voices. I honor prophetic words. However, I believe we need to cultivate a lifestyle where we hear God clearly for ourselves first and foremost.
I have learned in my life if I, personally, have a word from God, I can stand firm without wavering.
We cannot hang the entirety of our faith on prophetic words alone – we must hear from God for ourselves. When we hear a prophetic word, it should in some way confirm what we are hearing from God. I am concerned for people who place the entirety of their faith in prophetic words alone. Why? Because if that prophetic word fails to come to pass or is delayed, we become disappointed and lose hope. We fall off our stand of faith. Hence the importance of a firm foundation of God’s Word. That alone will cause us to stand firm.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
Call to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21
A Revealing of My Heart
The greatest lesson I encountered through 2020 was the revealing of my heart.
There are times in our life when God allows us to go through seasons for the sole purpose of knowing what is in our hearts. He already knows what’s in our heart, we are the ones who are unaware of its true content.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is desperately wicked…who can know it?”
I discovered during this season that I truly didn’t know my own heart. I thought I did. I believed I knew where my faith was anchored – I was wrong.
Pressure and challenges reveal things in us that come out no other way. The good news is when those things come to the surface, we can repent and turn from them. Those God loves, He chastens or corrects. We should be so thankful for this truth.
And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2
I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. Jeremiah 17:10
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2
John 16:33 Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Tribulation is defined as severe affliction and distresses of life.
Tribulations will come, we were forewarned by Jesus Himself. Many came in 2020. What did they produce in you? Perseverance? Character? Hope?
But we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-6
Challenges will push us to grow and encourage us to change, but they are never for our destruction but for an opportunity to grow in God. Whatever season we find ourselves in, may we continue to grow, firmly established in God and His Word. Allowing the seed of every adversity to create greater benefits in our life.