If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:7-8
Every new year, my family and I spend some time praying and asking God for goals for the year ahead. When that time of the year comes around, there is often an air of expectation and rejoicing when we get to share around the dinner table, the things that God has fulfilled in our lives in the year that has gone by. Because we have generally prayed and ruminated upon the goals that we would be sharing, we listen carefully to each others’ hopes and note them all down in a book. This year, with just the 2 younger daughters with us, it was particularly meaningful, because it had been marked by great trials and challenges for our daughters. Amazingly, it was also marked by answers to prayer that were “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
In spite of having tendonitis and neuritis for the past 1 1/2 years, and added to that, a shoulder injury, all of which made it impossible to sustain regular swimming practices for the year, one of our daughters broke 2 club records, made Y Nationals, Sectionals and NCSA Junior Nationals all in the same year, qualifying her for Academic All-American, while achieving her academic goal of a 4.0. All goals which, when she had shared them a year ago, seemed completely impossible, even painful to write down. As a result of God’s dealings in her life this year, she came out on the other side.
Another daughter had been plagued with an edema, a shoulder injury in which she could not lift her shoulder above her chest, and pneumonia this year. She had shared that her goal would would be to be ranked in the top 10 for her age group in the nation for an event. As it turns out, she was ranked 9th in the 100 back and 8th in the 200 back. She also won 3 golds and 2 silvers in the Winter Junior Olympics. She also wanted to make the 8-women SoCal All-Star team to compete in the Pac Coast All-Stars Meet. Although she had missed the deadline, we received a call from them saying that she had been picked. She flew to Seattle with the team the first weekend of January!
Through all this, it has been a year of tremendous, often overwhelming challenges for them, often taking them through dark, dark nights with no end in sight. In many ways, any goals or dreams that arose out of their/our own flesh would have been incinerated by the reality of the many setbacks. But if God was the initiator of these goals, it would have been He who was guiding them through to these God-sized challenges that God would meet head on, all this while teaching and molding them. Thus while it is true that we can be full of our own dreams that are self-generated, God does have significant and miraculous goals for His own accomplishment in us! These will appear even after all our own hopes have been decimated. But it is He who brings about the answers to our Askings, and who fits us for them.
We have been talking about that challenging passage in which asking is enjoined upon us. We already know that Jesus here doesn’t mean an indiscriminate asking that is a license for fleshly lusts. Nevertheless, this passage has the power to completely radicalize our approach to life, including our perspective on the new year ahead of us.
How is that so?
1. Asking here refers to more than requesting, or mere wishful-thinking. It involves taking up the wishes of God that are being grafted into our hearts desires by the abiding of Christ’s words in us. To let His words abide in us is to receive them in a surrendered and intimate way, to the extent that they are the hammer that has been put to our idolatries and bondages. His words are the Lion who has been let loose in our house. If we receive His words as we receive Him, i.e., in their fully authoritative character, they will not be merely a resource to us – one among many other data-points, but as the awesome Lion that they are. They have the power to tear apart the enemies in our own soul, and establish the Lordship and kingdom of Christ in us. (Chances are, you’re already harboring the things that God is wanting you to ask for in your heart!)
2. What that does is to replace the diseased desires and cravings in us, with the desires and purposes of God. God puts His visions and dreams within us, and cuts a path through the year that is full of direction, purpose, training, transformation, correction, discipline, refreshing, lessons, intimacy and close working, divine appointments, providences and miracles on the road to fulfilling the above promise in John 15:7-8. Everything that you face can now be viewed within the perspective of your covenant of asking and God fulfilling. God, in other words, wants to make this year a year of purpose and fulfillment; not of aimless que sera sera’s.
3. But this path and perspective require courage, and is not for the faint of heart. To take on God’s bigger vision of what He wants to do in and through you this year, it will involve a commitment to walking closely with Him, and following Him through His seeming reversals when in being raised up to be a harvester, He works on your valleys and flat spots. It will require a commitment to spiritual disciplines and a commensurate increase in time spent with Him, going way past the fitful resolutions that only result in spasmodic jerks in devotional activity. For the things that John 15:7-8 speak of are not the domain of those who are mere fans of Jesus. Only a rigorous follower (read Kyle Idleman’s “Not a Fan”) can even begin to get a feel of the Way of Jesus that leads to the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that our joy will be full.