It is January 4, 2021. As I look to the new year I wonder, am I enough? Can I make a difference in the world? Can I be a good example of Christ to those that need Him?
After a year full of the unexpected and learning to simply get through each day, I have questioned favor. I want to be that positive influence on every single person I come in contact with. I want to represent Christ well to those I know and love as well as those I may never see again but pass by through my day.
How do I do this when I still feel broken from all that has happened over the past twelve months? Do I have anything left to give?
I have been reading Daniel. As a child we knew the story of Daniel in the lion's den and tend to focus on that one miracle and God's favor on Daniel at this moment, but what was Daniel's life like up to that point?
Daniel 1 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar besieging Jerusalem. He ordered his officials to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and youths in whom was no defect, who were good looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge. Daniel was among this group.
Daniel 1:8-9 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.
Daniel 1:17-20 As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.
Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and out of them all, not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered the king's personal service. As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.
Daniel began his journey being taken from his home to a place that served other gods, lived differently than he had been raised, and ate things that would defile him. I'm sure he questioned God's favor at this moment and how he would make a difference in this place. Why had God allowed this to happen to him? But God had a plan and He used Daniel to change a nation.
These stories did not just happen in Biblical times, they continue to happen today if we allow them to. One of the hardest lessons I have learned came out of a business loss that crippled our family for years. I did not consider that favor at all. But that lesson taught me how to live on less, how to have integrity even when it meant a second job, long days, a lot of debt, and more anxiety than I even want to experience again. Almost eight years after this loss I paid off the final debt this week! It was God's favor, we did not lose our home, we did not file for bankruptcy, we honored all of those we owed and worked hard to pay not only them but the staff that had trusted us. One of those precious staff members now sits on Village to Village's board. That would never have happened if I had cheated them out of their paychecks. I could not run a Christian non-profit today if I had not paid all those I owed then. God continues to show favor from that huge mis-step and I would not change those lessons learned.
I believe God's favor is in the good and the bad. I would not be the person I am today if the hard things did not happen. How does a child learn how to walk without falling a few times? Anything worth doing well will probably come with hard lessons that we learn along the way. They make us stronger and better, which in turn allows us to impact others in a bigger way.
I don't know what I have to offer today or this year but I know I serve a God who has plans much bigger than my small ones. He will bring favor to the things I do when I listen for His voice in it all.