January 6, 2021, will go down as a dark day in United States history. Sadly, religious public figures like Eric Metaxas, Al Mohler, and John MacArthur have dragged the Evangelical Church right along with the insurrectionists. And while Aaron Earls gently posts that we need to consider why Jesus Saves signs are present in the hands of violent terrorists, I already know the answer. It’s because they were invited there by Church leaders along with the President himself.
I chose the word Thrive for my one word 2021. God gave me Ezekiel 17 to focus on as part of my study on how to Thrive this year.
In Ezekiel 17 God prepares the Israelites for the coming failures of the kings’ who will rule their land. God gives the prophet an allegory to tell the people so they will remember that regardless of who holds power over the land, he is still in control.The end of Ezekiel 17 says:
“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. “‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’”Ezekiel 17:22-24 (NIV)
Kings will always fail at some point. Even King David failed. We were never created to worship an earthly ruler and when we transfer the worship God deserves to anyone or anything we fail. Idol worship is always sinful even when religious leaders guide it.
Days like January 6th, 2021 are ones that can leave us feeling hopeless if we allow the darkness to overcome the light.
Thankfully, our Creator is much bigger than any earthly king. He is powerful enough to lead us as we learn what it looks like to rest securely in God alone. David wrote about this in Psalm 16:9-11
“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
It’s clear that many who claim to follow God have placed their hope in earthly power rather than trusting the one they claim is their Savior. Of course, their justification for their choices are endless and ever-changing and this is why we must remember we cannot legislate the heart. We must focus on our Savior for ourselves, even in dark days.
How to Spiritually Thrive Even in Dark Days
Focus on God First
Our ability to thrive in dark days is directly tied to our willingness to worship God rather than idols. Worship music always helps me connect my heart and head to God. However, it is the practice of Adoration that truly brings me to my knees. Adoration keeps God in his rightful place as my Lord. Adoration is the practice of praising God for who he is and for his character.
Study God’s Word
You may think this is redundant, however, when we’re afraid or upset we may try to control a situation. Have you ever tried to control a situation by praying Jeremiah 29:11? “‘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.'” While this is a wonderful and hopeful promise, it’s important to read it in context.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”Jeremiah 29:10-14
Jeremiah was telling the Israelites they were going to live in captivity for 70 years and they could trust that God wasn’t forgetting about them. This was important considering the 400 years of captivity in the Israelites history. After the 70 years God says the Israelites will take actions. Seek him, find him, and when that happens they will leave exile. If you are expecting God to answer your prayers quickly when you’re reminding him about Jeremiah 29:11 you might be contradicting yourself!
I love Priscilla Shire’s 5 P’s method for study.
Find an Accountability Partner or Mentor
We are created to move through life together. It’s vital that we endure the difficult seasons together. We will hold each other accountable to learn the word and share the gospel when we’re face to face with someone who is encouraging us to grow. Luke 10:1-3 NIV says:
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”Luke 10:1-3 NIV
Pursue the Truth
Spiritual attacks come in many different forms. When we begin the intentional work of thriving in dark days we may face increased attacks. Satan doesn’t concern himself with the apathetic. Rather he focuses on distracting people who are seeking the Lord with intentionality. Helen Calder explains that some past memories cause soul damage. Remembering these experiences can reignite trauma as if it was the first time.
Soul damaging experiences are identified by another name. Spiritual abuse. We combat this when we pursue the truth rather than leaning into lies regardless of how comforting they may seem.
Thriving in dark days isn’t easy, however it’s possible because Romans 8:26-30 tells us so:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.Romans 8:26-30 NIV