“More God, Less Stress” has to be the attitude that we carry into the new year. Some may interpret this as a decrease of struggle when you grow deeper in your faith. We have to realize that this may not be the case. A stronger relationship with God does not make us exempt from adversity, even as we enter 2018. It helps us handle it better. “More God, Less Stress” means focusing on God more than the things that cause stress. I’ve grown deeper in my faith over the last two years, and I’ve still encountered multiple setbacks and seasons of struggle. During this year alone, I was forced to move out of my apartment, dealt with the heartache of a breakup, and was the victim of a scam involving a house. I remember how calm I was when I discovered that the payment I made on a home was fictitious. This was the result of God’s presence. We have to stop stressing about temporary situations when we serve a permanent God. I know we live in a world where some value money and materials more than God, but those things are temporary while God’s presence carries a permanent and more significant amount of value. The Amplified Version of Hebrews 13:5 states the following: “ Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed--be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “I WILL NEVER [under any circumstances] DESERT YOU [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], NOR WILL I FORSAKE or LET YOU DOWN or RELAX MY HOLD ON YOU [assuredly not]!”
I realized that money was stolen from me, not God. As the scripture states, God will never leave us without support, and this isn’t occasional. God is faithful in every season!
The word permanent can be defined as something that’s intended to exist or function for a long, indefinite period of time without regard to unforeseeable conditions. One synonym of the word, permanent is lifelong. God’s existence in our lives is a lifelong one, despite our sins or situations. We only think God is present during our best seasons, but he’s there during our worst as well. The reason we don’t see God during our adverse seasons is because of focusing more on the adversity than God. We instantly become overwhelmed when we take our attention away from God, similar to Peter attempting to walk on the water. The New Living Translation of Matthew 14: 25-32 captures it this way: “About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! ” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped”
As we enter the new year, we have to pay more attention to God than our circumstances or we’ll find ourselves sinking like Peter. As the last verse stated, the wind stopped when they got back in the boat. The strong waves were only temporary, but it was enough to take his attention away from God. This occurs a lot in our lives as well. We allow temporary things to distract us from the presence of a permanent God, and these things aren’t always adversity. This includes money, clothes, vacations and social media. These things can’t be valued more than God if 2018 is going to be “Your Year”. We can’t be obsessed with temporary things if we desire to grow closer to a permanent God! To paraphrase what my pastor (Dr. William Curtis) said during a sermon about Donald Trump’s term in the White House, “It’s a season!” Recently, a new tax bill was passed that has a lot of people concerned and uneasy. This is very understandable, but until a bill is passed that takes God off the throne, I’m always going to be calm and at ease! Presidents and legislations change all the time, but God remains the same and his presence is everlasting!
To briefly revisit the last scripture that I referenced, I want to reflect on what Jesus said to Peter:
“Don’t be afraid”
“Take courage. I am here”
Some of us will hear God say the same things, but focus on ‘temporary winds’ similar to Peter. We ignore God’s presence and lose sight of his promise when we’re focused on temporary things. We’ll miss a season of success because of one month of adversity. In Hebrews 13:5, God promised to never leave or forsake us, and the last time I checked, God doesn’t break his promises. The Message translation of Hebrews 6:13 states the following: “When God made his promise to Abraham, he backed it to the hilt, putting his own reputation on the line. He said, “I promise that I’ll bless you with everything I have—bless and bless and bless!” Abraham stuck it out and got everything that had been promised to him. When people make promises, they guarantee them by appeal to some authority above them so that if there is any question that they’ll make good on the promise, the authority will back them up. When God wanted to guarantee his promises, he gave his word, a rock-solid guarantee—God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable.”
As we enter the new year, we have to adopt the mentality that Abraham displayed, remain patient and we’ll receive everything that God promised us! The scripture also mentions that God’s promise is unchangeable. Despite the temporary adversity or circumstances we face going into or during 2018, God’s word or presence will never change!