Prior to entering the year, many churches made declarations about 2016 accompanied by weeks of prayer and fasting. Members of these churches, by the declarations of their leaders are promised breakthroughs and miracles during the year. These declarations and promises are annual rituals. However, often times, the year ends without any of the promises being fulfilled. Towards the end of the year, they are further promised “to hold on for a last minute breakthrough”. In a repetitive cycle, the year ends and begins again with these same promises.
There are many reasons Christians and church attendees fall for these falsehoods. Notable among them is that we all seek an improvement in one area of life or the other. Indeed, the times are hard. If there is the possibility of a sudden breakthrough or miracle that will change our lives, why not?
Unfortunately, many are driven by this quick-fix mentality in our churches. I am sorry to disappoint and burst your bubble. But the truth is that “you will not experience a sudden miracle or breakthrough that will attract global attention in 2016”. In Acts 2:46-47, Luke tells us something uniquely usual about Christianity:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved
In contrast to a sudden breakthrough and miracle, the Christian life is a day by day experience in the presence of God. We find our joy and excitement in mundane Christian living rather than a sudden unexpected miracle. An ordinary life of obedience in a rebellious world was what drew the attention of the world to the first century church. This was the secret of their power and effectiveness in the then world. They did not gather to amuse themselves through declarations and decrees. Rather, they daily attended to the apostles’ teaching and devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 4:42).
As you journey through 2016, don’t fall for a life that promises sudden breakthroughs and miracles. Resolve by God’s grace to travel the well-trodden path of Christian disciplines.
What do I mean by Christian disciplines? I will expound on three below:
1. Reading of Scripture
This must be obvious for a Christian. But not many give heed to the Bible. God is a communicating God, and he has chosen to reveal Himself and speak to us in a book–the Bible.
Spending time in God’s word is the best way to know Him and what He requires of us. Recently, we did an article, The Resolution Every Christian should Make in 2016, to highlight the importance of consistent bible reading. Nothing can replace the word of God in the life of a believer. Luke’s commendation of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 is a great yardstick to inspire us to reading the word. “…these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so” Note our word again: “daily”. The Bereans searched the scriptures daily. There are no shortcuts when it comes to the Christian life, and more so when it comes to Bible reading.
There are many Christians who elevate the words of their preachers above the bible, but like the Bereans, our sole authority must be the word itself.
2. Consistent Prayers
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
If there is anything that creates anxiety more than any other, it is a broken promise. It is instructive to note that Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians from jail, and yet the book overflows with joy and excitement. The apostle found his “breakthrough”, not in ‘material blessings’, but in a life of daily consistent prayer. Now, I don’t need to be a prophet to predict that those declarations of breakthroughs and miracles will not happen, because God hasn’t promised any of them.
The result will be disillusioned Christians who might shipwreck their faith, blaming God for failing them yet again. On the contrary, we should walk the path of consistent prayer throughout the year. We should faithfully and trustingly bring all our supplications and requests with thanksgiving to the Sovereign Lord, who works all things in accordance with His will and purpose.
3. Selfless Service to God and His People
We live in a world that teaches us to look out for ourselves, minding our own business. If we must help, we should do so when the timing is right and the conditions are just perfect not forgetting what is in it for us. This is the doctrine of the world; a mind-set that elevates self above any other consideration (all the clamouring for breakthrough is self-centred). It is within this context Jesus calls His followers to a life of servitude– giving up ourselves for one another and thereby proving our discipleship. Jesus, the eternal Son of God cast aside all His ‘Godly’ privileges and took on the form of a man, came into our world and gave Himself as a ransom for many.
In John 13:12-15, Jesus gave us a picture of how this life would look like in service to others. In these verses, He stooped so low as washing the feet of His disciples (the most menial of all tasks) — a bold statement of how service should look like. He did this to show us an example in serving one another. Christ is calling us to a daily life of expending ourselves for others in the church throughout the year.
There are many other Christian disciplines I have not mentioned. But I believe they are central to the Christian walk.
In 2016 don’t fall for the promises of sudden breakthroughs and miracles in your life. The Christian life is a day by day experience and not so dramatic and sudden. We are on a pilgrimage to that celestial city whose founder and builder is God, our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we eagerly await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).