Transitions can be difficult; even those meant to facilitate positive movement in life or provide new opportunities can be traumatic. After all, transitioning or changing means adapting and getting used to new routines. It means accepting that old patterns are gone, and new, unfamiliar patterns will be prevalent in life. Again, even if these are good things, they are new and must be handled. Many times, we find that we are not equipped to handle even the things for which we may have prayed or asked God to send us, such as new career opportunities, larger houses, an expanded family, and new friendships.
At the holidays, the opportunities for transitions increase. In fact, we have many changes thrust upon us during this time of year. During the holidays, we are expected to interact with extended family, give back more generously to our communities, friends and family, and begin to think about how we might improve ourselves in the coming year. On top of it all, we are supposed to give thanks and think of others before we think of ourselves. In a way, these are transitions too, such as moving our thinking from our own little circle of family, work, and daily routine to others. It is worth noting, too, that most of the time we do find that we adapt to these changes every year, and we do come out better for it—whether we do so consciously or unconsciously.
During the holidays, it might be the perfect opportunity for all of us to think about additional transitions in life and make these changes and improvements permanent. How should we focus more on family? How could we improve on ourselves in the coming year? These are all details that often show up on our radar during this season. In order to be more successful, we need to actually think about how we might gradually make these changes so that they stick. If we incorporate a workout into our daily morning routine, make sure that the hours fit with our work schedule, and confirm we have a place to shower and get ready, then we have a plan that works and may stay a part of our daily routine moving forward. If we vow to eat right, pick a day of the week to plan our menu and shop for healthy foods and ingredients, and we keep that day open for such initiatives consistently, then we are on our way to becoming healthier. We can do the same when it comes to accepting the transitions that lead us closer to God.
In life, we move so fast that it can seem overwhelming to bring anything else into our daily lives. Praying for more time with our kids and our families can result in a desire to make it happen but no actual time to see it through to fruition. Vowing to give back to the community and getting more involved with ministries at church or activities at our kids’ schools can seem fulfilling and within our reach, but when we go to schedule our meetings and get involved, we find we can’t accommodate anymore giving or meeting in our schedules. In these areas—these frustrating, nothing more will fit, I am at the end of my rope, areas—we need to find our productive transitions. Sit back and reflect. Think to yourself, Where can I scale back and where do I need to give more? Do I need to pray more? Do I need give more thanks to God? Giving attention to how we might achieve this and sitting down to come up with our transition plans will make all the difference. The holidays have a different dynamic than the rest of the year. Let’s tap into that atmosphere for change and make some positive transitions during the holiday season.
2 Corinthians 4:15
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (NIV)
When we broke bread and celebrated with family in our respective Thanksgiving celebrations yesterday, we gave thanks for a lot of things. We always praise the food—from grandma’s pies to the perfectly juicy turkey—and we always show gratitude for family arriving safely from all over the country. We pray at the table together, and we ask God to bless everyone at that table. As stewards of His love, we truly wish, in those moments, that our loved ones feel what we do and believe what we do in terms of our faith and our commitment to God and His bounty.
I trust in my congregation and in their ability to wear the Armor of God and to advocate for Him constantly. I trust my congregation to keep the church doing the good that we do in the community through the contributions of time, money, and faith daily as we move forward into the end of this year and toward the beginning of next. My stewards of faith and fellowship are strong, and I encourage everyone to tap into that feeling of thanks and that strong sense of God and our commitment to Him. We felt it at the table when food was presented to us and when the comfort of family and friends surrounded us, and we can feel it again even when we feel put upon, called to action, or asked to step outside the box to help now and then. We can feel it when we pray on our own, in reflection of this blessed weekend, and while we worship among familiar faces. We can tap into our reserves, our sense of commitment, and our true need to give of ourselves this season and send that energy, that faith, and that love to others.
Some of us feel that we need to give monetarily to the church. Some of us feel like we need to see what the inside of a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter looks like. However, we all know that giving thanks starts at home—in our places of worship, our homes, and our communities. We are the stewards of God’s love. We have to be active in our show of thanks to Him and in our abilities to give His love and assistance to others.
Most of us have responsibilities in life outside of church. We have families and we have careers. We are enmeshed in activities and with groups that have nothing to do with church on a daily basis, but we still remain Christians in all aspects of life. We must realize that we need to advocate for our faith, reminding ourselves and others to put God first. We need to make sure Jesus is in our hearts—at work and at church—wherever life may take us.
Being advocates or stewards of our faith is a noble thing. It is not easy to insert into daily conversations that we are Christians and that everyone should heed God’s Plan in this time of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. Even beyond inserting our faith and our commitment to Jesus Christ into our daily conversations, we have to walk with the Lord and go about our business in the way that He would want us to. We have to remember to pray, and we have to constantly remind others that there is no room for harsh words or gossip during this season of love and giving, or at any other time of year for that matter. There is no room for exclusion and snobbery; there is only room for thanks, support, and blessings to others.
I know this is hard when we’re at work with people who aren’t always Christian in their behavior. I know it’s also hard when the bills or the emotions of the season get us down. But as Christians, we have to set aside that strength and do what we need to in order to make our faith clear and our stewardship of God’s Word a daily devotion. Only when we take our strong faith outside the church do we reach those who God may not have touched this season. Only when we are brave enough and secure enough in our own faith can we reach those who were previously unreachable. Let us all strive to become stewards far beyond the walls of our respective churches.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (NIV)
When we pray during this upcoming holiday season of hope and celebration, we focus a lot on giving thanks and asking God to bless us and those we love. We do this a lot communally during this season. This may be the only time of the year that we use the words “blessings,” “thanks,” “prosperity,” and “hope” so often, or repeat phrases like “the year ahead” and “the year behind us.” We are reflecting, and we are hopeful. We pray that the year before us is a good one, and we give thanks for good things and the lessons learned in the year behind us. Wearing our Armor of God, we march forth into what awaits us in the future. Polishing off the dents and affronts to that armor, we think over the past and what it meant for our lives and our futures.
As individuals, I’m not sure we are always able to confront what transpired in the year behind us. Maybe we are hesitant to think about the future as well. As a worshipful group, however, we can confront these impending futures and reflect on troubled and happy pasts. As a group, we are strong, and we are ready for the future. We can confront what we learned or should have learned from the past and make sure that our armor is ready for the year ahead. Some of our plans for success in life are pretty lofty. Some of our fears for achievement or repeating problems of past years are also pretty prevalent and even daunting. If we pay attention to the verse referenced here, if we commit our prayers entirely to the Lord, our plans will come to fruition in some way.
Sometimes, deep inside we don’t realize that when we ask for financial stability, for example, we are really asking for a comfortable life and a way to take care of our families. We don’t always see the connection between voicing our need, making it real, and taking steps in our professional and Christian lives to make it happen. We don’t see that we are the instruments of our own success, and we don’t see that the Lord is helping us because we are prepared and ready. When we ask for a relative to be healed from an illness, we don’t always see that what we are really asking is for Jesus to be with that person in his or her need and that, with the comfort of the Lord, we all handle the situation better, no matter the outcome.
Being stewards to our church and to our God is actually easy in many ways. We want to provide monetary means for the church to continue its work in our lives and in the lives of others, and we want to be physically and spiritually present so that we can reap the benefits of a Christian life lived in service to God, to our church, and to others. Only then can we find true happiness and success, as the Lord will reward those who seek to better themselves and to serve Him in every way.
As we are entering the season of celebration, many of us will be giving thanks with family over large meals, or spending time in the cooler, crisper air watching kids play football and soccer, or enjoying time with neighbors and friends outside before the real winter weather finally sets in. Others, however, will not be as lucky and will worry about finances and food, as well as lack of fellowship or support, and may begin to despair or allow sadness and desperation to creep into their consciousness. Those of us clothed in the Armor of God, however, will emerge triumphant from these thoughts or challenges and will stand ready to assist others.
Through the church and our involvement with different ministries, we do make a difference in the lives of many. We don’t always realize it, especially when we are caught up in the day-to-day delivering meals to people who need them, working to make our youth in the church involved and happy, and making sure the music, message, and fellowship is in place for the weekly worship, among many other tasks. However, if we do stop to think about it—maybe when we are checking to see if our own armor and protection is in place or when we think about our own families and their challenges or specific needs—we are responsive and giving. If we continue to move along at a pace that doesn’t allow for introspection, prayer, fellowship, or stewardship, we forget that it is the church that allows our giving ministries, and it is the church that provides our support so that we might do more good in the community.
In the Bible, 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms” (NIV). To me, this is a direct command to take what we have and give to those who need it. Stewardship can take many forms or appear as gifts to share from one individual to another. Do you have a skill to offer to another? Do you have a talent for cooking that might well serve the family dealing with a serious illness? Do you have financial freedom that can be shared with individuals or the church? Do you have time on your hands that could be used to support others? Our armor and our talents come to us and are used and worn by us in many ways. In this season of giving and support, we need to remember our role as stewards to help spread the Word of God and to help the church complete the work that needs to be done.