Have you noticed there have been a few things we’ve experienced in 2020? Okay, this may have been a rhetorical question, but we have all have had to experience life in a totally different way. As we look back over 2020 and look forward to 2021, let’s talk about some of the lessons we have learned and how God constantly reveals Himself in our tough times. And if we are willing to listen to His still, small voice, He will lead us forward with a new perspective.
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.Hebrews 13:8
What a year! No one expected 2020 to be anything like it has been. Here are just some of the challenges we faced. In just the last eight months we have experienced a pandemic, multiple protests, record unemployment, a fiercely contested election, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, drought and as a world we have had to say goodbye to our loved ones in ways we have never imagined. It has been a lot.
But we have also seen incredible acts of compassion and love. We’ve seen our First Responders display commitment, love, courage and give their all to be there for our loved ones when we could not. People all over the world have mobilized to defeat COVID. Communities and local governments are having meaningful discussions to improve life for all. Families and friends have discovered new ways to stay connected.
What we have experienced this year will change us forever, but we get to choose if what we’ve experienced will make us better or make us bitter. Through the Bible there are examples of how people are in a tough situations but God reveals the opportunity in the midst of the adversity. The challenge for us is to adjust our focus.
What Do You See?
“But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid.
Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation
He will provide for you today;
for the Egyptians you see today,
you will never see again.”
Did you know you don’t find 100% of the things you don’t look for?
Years ago Regyna and I were helping a pastor open a new church about an hour away from us. One of the things I looked forward to on the drive was seeing the cruise ship that was docked in the Baltimore harbor. It always amazed me to see this huge man-made steel construct that could sail the seas.
One morning we were having a heated discussion as I was driving. We both ran out of steam and were quiet. In that moment I mentioned to Regyna that it was odd that the ship wasn’t at the dock. Regyna got this strange look on her face and said, “what are you talking about? The ship was there.” I was adamant with her that she was wrong, the ship wasn’t there. She assured me the ship was right where it was every Sunday.
I realized the ship was there but I didn’t see it! What happened? What happened was I wasn’t looking for the ship. Between driving and our passionate discussion, my focus was on other things. Because of this I missed what I really wanted to see. I understood my mind registered that the ship was there, but it wasn’t as important to me as driving safely and talking.
The same thing has happened to many of us. Because of all the things that are happening around us, we have changed our focus.
Paul told the Colossians to set their minds on things above. He knew as new Christians they faced a lot of persecution and challenges, but Paul also knew God constantly challenges us to live life from His perspective.
In Exodus 14 God led the Israelites into a tough situation. The greatest army at that time was bearing down on them and they were stuck between a mountain range and the sea. But God made a way. We have to keep our minds open to the idea that no matter how bad it looks, God always will make or reveal the way.
If all we focus on is the problem and the pain, then that’s all we will see.
As we enter into the holiday season and new year, don’t spend precious time thinking about things you can’t change or control. Stop wasting time having conversations or consuming information that doesn’t encourage or empower us.
It’s time to get clear and get after the opportunities God will reveal to us — if we are looking for them.
James R. Cooper is the Senior Pastor of Restoration International Christian Ministries, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Maxser Consulting Group, LLC, Board President of Inspirit Counseling Services and Chief Sales Officer of Legacy Trust Consortium INC. Originally from Long Island, NY, James lives in Maryland with his wife Regyna and their son Andrew.