THE YEAR OF JOY

2020. If we tried to sum up this year with a single word, TRIAL seems most fitting.  From a global pandemic and subsequent economic challenges to the loss of loved ones, riots, racial tensions boiling over and an election year marked by unprecedented vitriol and uncertainty, we have been bombarded with ample opportunities for discouragement.

But as sure as these trials have come, we have this precious light, God’s word that has and will always illuminate our path. Read this exhortation in the first chapter of James:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

I keep hearing this phrase rattle around in my spirit.

“DON’T WASTE A GOOD TRIAL.”

The year of 2020 has tried us. It has tried our nation. It has tried the church. It has tried our families and our businesses. It has tried our own hearts and resolve to keep the faith. And yet, in spite of what we may see or feel about 2020, I believe with conviction  that within this trial is an invitation to do some heavenly mathematics!

“COUNT it all joy…”

What a disruptive four words. If we are honest, we would prefer to count this year as a loss, as a failure, as an exposing of our own wounds and faulty foundations. How do we count something as JOY and be authentic with the sense of pain and loss that we feel?

The answer to this question lies a few words later in the verse.

“…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

But do we really know? What if this year wasn’t about what we lost? What if this giant trial was to test our faith? What if this entire year was to produce STEADFASTNESS in God’s people? What if we are training for the years to come?

I believe that with heaven’s perspective, the year of 2020 can be a source of great joy, celebration and victory for the Body of Christ. The world is unable to adopt this perspective because they do not have access to the heavenly places, to see our current situation from an elevated perspective. But we, as the Body of Christ, have been seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). One of the many blessings associated with this privileged seat is that we can view our lives from heaven’s vantage point. And this perspective is what allows us to count the many trials that we face AS JOY!

Why? Because we KNOW that the trial is not intended to harm us. We know that the trial is not intended to derail us! It is intended to give us endurance! It is intended to make us more resolved, more determined and more patient as we advance the kingdom of God on earth until He comes. And this steadfastness (according to God’s amazing Word!), works within us,  leaving us complete and perfect, lacking nothing!

Tucked away in our trials are hidden heavenly resources and nourishment that will fill in the gaps and incomplete places in our lives. When this is our perspective, we can begin to COUNT these various trials as JOY because we know that in the end, we will look more like Jesus than before the trial. And that is something that is worth celebrating!

So as you gather with friends and family this Christmas season, I encourage you…

Don’t waste this trial by complaining or grumbling! Lead your family and friends in COUNTING 2020 a year of JOY! Explain to your family and children, your co-workers and your friends why you are counting this year as joy. This test is producing steadfastness in us, and this gift could come to us no other way. Thank you, Father!

LOOKING FORWARD

As I look to 2021, my heart is filled with expectancy and excitement for all that God is going to do. We received more testimonies this year from our simple resources of people getting unstuck in their relationship with God and starting to enjoy the freedom and power of the New Covenant. But I believe the best is yet to come!

In 2019 God gave us a vision of planting Braveheart groups all over the world to see the fruit of this gospel multiplied in the hearts of his people. To train and equip ordinary people to be loved by an extraordinary God. And the result? Burning hearts that live to see others experience the same joy and freedom that they have found in Christ.

What has started as a vision, has become a reality. In November of this year we held our first ever Cultivate Training. Around 100 people came together from around the nation to be equipped to cultivate the faith of the gospel where they live. From pastors, mothers and fathers, businessmen, teachers and everyone in between, we gathered to encounter Jesus and to receive his love for his people.

We now have more than 30 active Braveheart Cultivate groups (some of these groups are local churches where pastors have adopted our simple resources!) across the country and in a few other nations. Our heart is to continue to pour into these Cultivate Leaders, empowering them to raise up even more leaders!

As you look forward to 2021 with us, imagine the impact these groups will have on the Church as this humble, grassroots discipleship movement continues to grow. Imagine believers coming alive to God, falling in love with Jesus and being empowered to make his Name known. This is the cry of my heart. To wake the sleeping giant that is the Church and to see her take her rightful place in the world as a beacon of hope, a messenger of reconciliation and an expression of unconditional love to a dying world.