My Theme in 2022

Every year the Lord gives me a theme.  Some years there is more than one.  Coming into 2022, I decided to pick a word and verse to represent what I feel the Lord is highlighting for me. My theme this year is joy.  But then, so is loving the Lord with all my strength.  They depend on each other.  

In Mark 12, a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is.  Jesus answered that it is to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Love, or agapaō, means to welcome, entertain or love a person dearly. To love a thing would be to be well pleased or content with it. To love God this way, with all of our strength, means with all of our ability, force and might. 

What does dearly loving God with all of my ability, force, and might really look like… do I love Him in this way? Am I well pleased and content with Him and Him alone?  

Several years ago, I read a Beth Moore book called Audacious. When I put the book down, I told God five things.  

  1. I love you. 
  1. I need to love you more. 
  1. I love people. 
  1. I need to love people more. 
  1. I don’t know how to love more than I do. I need you to increase my heart.  

Like the father who asked Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus asked him if he believed… he answered, “I believe. Help my unbelief,” I began praying, “I love you. Help me love you more.”   

In Matthew 11:11-12, Jesus was teaching and he said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force,” (ASV).  

This passage has a sort of shock value, doesn’t it? What does it mean that the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force? Well, the word “suffers violence” is biazō, and it means “to force, i.e. (reflexively) to crowd oneself (into), or (passively) to be seized:—press, suffer violence.”

So violent men who take the kingdom by force are people who use all their strength to force or crowd themselves into the kingdom, claiming it eagerly for themselves. They earnestly desire God and to be part of His kingdom. They zealously believe. I guess this is a good kind of violence. It is part of loving God with all our strength. This mindset says, “I’m all in.” 

Do I have this kind of strength? How do I get it?  

Peter wrote to the churches in what is modern day Turkey, who were suffering growing persecution in their day, telling them: 

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9, ESV 

These people were suffering for the love of Jesus, whom they had never met, because they believed their salvation was found in Him. They had joy because they knew that they had received salvation. And, providing them (and us) with this salvation was Christ’s joy (Hebrews 12).  Joy that is so great they could not even fully express it, it was so full of glory.

Nehemiah said, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, ESV). This word, strength, means place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold. 

If you were standing at the edge of a cliff with the ground crumbling beneath your feet, what would you do? I think most of us would use all of our strength to hold on for life. Desperately grasping at safety, crowding ourselves back onto solid ground. And how we would rejoice when we knew we were safe!! 

To be honest, we may never know what we’re made of until we go through a trial. We may not know the force with which we can love God until we understand and are reminded of how much we need Him and how much He loves us. After all, strength training is all about resistance. After several years of asking God to help me love Him more, the worst experience of my life showed me that I love Him more than I have thought was possible. Without the trial, I would probably still be feeling like what I had to offer was not enough. Today I am more bold, though I still pray that the Lord will keep me faithful.  

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

That is my theme in 2022. No matter what happens, I will seek to hold onto the one who is my stronghold with all of my strength, knowing that He is holding onto me, and I will be full of joy.

What theme is God giving you for this year?

1 https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g971/esv/mgnt/0-1/

2 https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h4581/kjv/wlc/0-1/

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