The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Four Principles for Greater Spiritual Strength in the New Year

Posted on: January 03, 2017


As we turn the page on a New Year, it is natural to think ahead to new goals and purposes. Ephesians 2:10 speaks powerfully to where this tendency comes from:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

This tells us that we have been created to do good works, and that before the globe ever started spinning, God Himself prepared things He wanted to do through us. We have probably already done some of them. We have probably missed some of them because of a lack of spiritual readiness. But we surely have many still ahead of us that are ours… just sitting there waiting for us to do them.

A hitch is, of course, that some of them are beyond us, and God must grow us before we will be capable of doing them. Being aware of this process can give us greater resolve and help us gain greater spiritual strength. So, as we begin 2017, I want to look at the Four Biblical Principles that will help us understand:

  • What God is doing in our lives, and
  • How we can cooperate with the process
  1. God Gives His Children Life-Dreams

I believe God gives His children life dreams. Or perhaps another word might be a life calling, or perhaps a sense of life purpose. My belief about this is rooted in Ephesians 2:10, the passage we just looked at.

As we walk in the good works that God has prepared for us, fulfilling our life purpose, our lives take on meaning and the fulfillment that gets us out of bed in the morning, ready – for the sake of a higher calling – to face the day, willing to take the beatings that life inevitably deals us.

Without that sense of higher calling, that sense of purpose, life can begin to wear us down and make us wonder why we’re here.

But few things are more rewarding than believing that God is using us for an eternally significant purpose. And not only do we have the sense of fulfillment that that gives us, but also we receive disproportionate eternal reward for doing them.

  • God calls us to do good works
  • Then He gifts us and blesses us as we do them so that we have a sense of purpose and meaning in life
  • Then He rewards us eternally for doing them

It’s hard to imagine a better deal than that.

  1. Between the giving of the dream and the fulfillment of the dream is often a long, dark valley.

Job said, “Man is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) The Apostle Peter wrote, For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…” (1 Peter 2:21)

The fact is, for many of us, at least from time to time, life is going to be hard. It’s a given. It’s harder for some than for others, but it is hard for almost everyone at one time or another. During our dark valleys, we tend to lose sight of God’s work in our lives and his intention to use us for His glory. We often feel stuck in the backwater of life, forgotten by God or unimportant to Him. In fact, the valley may be so long and so deep that we are tempted to conclude that the dream was not real.

  1. The purpose of the valley is not to keep you from your dream, but to prepare you for your dream.

During the dark times…. which can last a very long time, we may be tempted to conclude that the suffering we’re going through is proof that our dream is dead, when in actuality, the suffering is part of the process for fulfilling the dream. It is part of the process of making us into the kind of person through whom the dream can be fulfilled.

The Apostle James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4).

  1. Those who see their dream realized are the ones who do not give up on God in the valley.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) And, he also wrote, “Therefore, we do not lose heart, for though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen but the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

When we remain faithful to God in the valley, He will accomplish His purposes in our lives, making us into the kind of people that He can do significant things through.

As Timothy Keller said, “There is a purpose to suffering, and if faced rightly, it can drive us – like a nail – deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.”


We see this 4-step principle lived out dramatically in the lives of Joseph, Moses and David. All three were given great dreams by God, but those dreams were not fulfilled immediately. In fact, in all three cases, it was many years between the giving of the dream and the fulfillment of the dream. What is more, those years were very challenging and difficult years as God was forging in their lives the faith, character, and wisdom they would each need to be able to fulfill their God-given dream.

So now we come to the issue of your God-given dream. What do you think God may want to do through you in 2017? Don’t be afraid to dream big, because He will lead you to those things that He prepared beforehand for you to do.

But remember, God may have to do something in you before He can do something through you.

Don’t give up on God in the valley. It’s the place where he forges you into the person you need to be in order to fulfill your God-given dreams… for His glory and your good.


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