I don't usually pay much attention to New Year, except to notice the calendar starts over and I have to train myself to write "2024" instead of "2023". My husband and I like to celebrate Rosh Hashana with our Jewish brothers and sisters, so for us, the New Year starts in the fall. One minister I once heard asked the Lord that if the calendar we use isn't a biblical calendar, then why does He (God) often give a word for the year in January? The Lord responded; "Because that's when people ask Me for one." He is so cute and witty. So calendar discrepancies aside, the Lord will give us a word for the year if we ask Him.
As I was in the midst of the holiday season with my family, I heard in my spirit the Lord whisper, "This is the year of the victorious church." I believe it, Lord! We ARE victorious. But I felt He gave me that straight-line face emoji. He meant way more than just me cheering on the church with an encouraging word. He gave me this scripture and then underscored its importance by showing me the same verse the next day in my online daily scripture:
"51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a
flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
I felt He then led me to notice the faithful church highlighted in Revelation 3:7-13 (my paraphrase is noted in brackets):
"[To the faithful pastors of the local churches around the world I write]: 'These things say He who is holy. He who is true. He who has the key of David. He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.' I know your works.[ I know how hard it is to be a pastor, to be a fulltime caregiver, a soldier, a nurse], See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it, for you have a little strength, [I see you when you are lonely, when it feels that you are standing on My word when even those who call themselves My children persecute you and mistreat you. I see you faithfully serving, I saw how you left your family to serve me and are lonely and suffering heartache. I see you who have stood on My word for healing and have terrible pain. I SEE you.], you have kept My word and have not denied My name."
I want to pause here because I feel the Lord wants to tell us something valuable in this new season: He sees us. The Lord God, the God of the universe is intimately aware of our lives and every single little sacrifice, act of love, the carrying of our cross in the dark when no one sees but maybe our little dog. Jesus says to you today; I know. I see. I am your witness and your advocate.
Jesus goes on to say this to the victorious church: "Because you have kept my command to persevere [even when you nearly bit your tongue off so you didn't say something ugly, even when you didn't want to do ______ but did it anyway for the Lord's sake, even when you didn't see the symptoms leave right away or they even got worse but you keep believing the Word for your healing], I will also keep you from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. [Jesus is not leaving His children on the earth while He pours out His wrath and finally judges the disobedient world. That would be contrary to His word and character (See Romans 5:9 "We are saved from wrath through Jesus", 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "For God did not appoint us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."). Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. [In other words, we can lose a reward if we do not remain faithful and do what He has told us to do. But this is the year when we will do what is assigned to us and we will not quit or lose hope!].
Paul writes to Timothy at the end of his second letter (2 Timothy 4:1) and uses the strongest language to get his (our) attention; "I charge you! Pay very close attention!" And he goes on to tell him how to operate in the ministry and importantly instructs him on what victory looks like:
" Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
To little 'ol us, this looks like; "Get up! Stand fast in the word the Holy Spirit has given you! Don't give it up no matter what! Be prepared in every situation to respond with 'It is written...it is written...it is written'. Filter the culture of today through the Word of God and reject anything that is contrary to it. Learn the word from your local church and be discerning with the plethora of teachers on the internet. (I personally still believe that it is the local churches around the world that change the world.) Be discerning and don't accept every prophetic word without asking the Holy Spirit if it's truth. Cast all cares on the Lord, receive Jesus's peace, and let not your heart be troubled (1 Peter 5:7, John 14). Do everything (this includes the laundry, driving to the store, getting groceries, and making meals) for the glory of God and in love.
To be victorious, we don't have to do what we think are huge things for Jesus. We just have to be faithful in whatever He has told us to do and not quit. Recently, as I was putting my dog in the truck, a little piece of white paper flew out and landed in the parking lot. I looked at it and felt the Holy Spirit was saying, "You're not going to leave even that small piece of trash, are you?" I picked it up. Now it was tiny, about the size of a tic tac. Seriously. But it's obedience training. It's like the Holy Spirit is training our spirit with a spiritual fitness tracker, "You have walked 10,000 steps of faith today, ascended 25 spiritual floors of growth, and burned 500 negative thoughts. Great job!" Maybe we need a faith-based Fitbit?
The end of Paul's letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 is very touching. Paul discerns that his life on earth is coming to an end and he makes a point to sum it up; "I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith" (vs.7). He kept the faith. This is the key to our victory: We keep the faith. We trust Jesus's word no matter what the circumstances look like and we remember that He promised; "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, that I will do. That the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." John 14:13-14 It's not easy, but if we make God's promises personal declarations, and confess them out loud so our soul can hear, the Word of God will become our conviction. Our convictions then become our character and our character becomes more like Jesus.
I believe this is the year that we are victorious. That we don't quit on whatever assignment we have from the Lord and we remain faithful to the word of God . I love how Paul ends the segment of 2 Timothy 4:8; "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." May we all endeavor to receive that reward and long for the appearance of our Lord Jesus. Because it is through Him that we live, move, and have our being. And through Him individually, we are the Victorious Church.
*All scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Credit is given to Biblegateway.com for references to 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, Romans 5:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, John 14:13-14, and 2 Timothy 4:1-8. Credit is given to Blue Letter Bible App for Revelation 3:7-13.