Stay Free in ‘23-Thriving in Christ: Part 1
by Valerie Bergquam
Every morning, I wake up to hear the chirping of birds outside my window. All creation heralds Spring as the cold of winter recedes, making way for fresh plant growth and new life. Melting snowpack cascades into waterfalls and running streams. My heart jumps with joy about the change which this new season brings! Nature itself provides a visible display of what it means to thrive.
Psalm 92:12-14 describes thriving growth, stability, and ongoing health and energy for God’s faithful followers: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.Those that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be filled with vitality and foliage.”
We find that word ‘flourish’ used several times in this passage, which also means ‘to thrive’. Biblically, this speaks of vigorous growth, springing up, make steady progress, to prosper physically and spiritually, and increase ! This applies to all Jesus’ followers from the youngest to the oldest.
God’s great love for all people was expressed as He sacrificed His only Son Jesus Christ to be the ransom (payment) for our freedom from slavery to sin. Making the decision to believe what God did for you personally brings one directly into the freedom package! This includes not only the promise of receiving abundant life here on earth, but living forever in heaven with Jesus and His eternal family.
Now as Jesus followers, we get to choose whether we will stay free from the chains Jesus rescued us from, or take risks which lead to getting entangled with new ones. The Apostle Paul instructs us, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Galatians 5:1) So believers need God’s wisdom to maintain that freedom, and not step off the narrow path-veering away into sinful behaviors- or into practicing legalisms. Thriving in Christ is the fulfilling lifestyle which leads to wisdom, joy, peace, safety, productivity and divine purpose.
In order for the believer to dwell continuously in this place of flourishing freedom, there are 3 steps which need to be practiced habitually- not just once a week, or now and then, but are recommended for daily routine. Of course, these spiritual disciplines are taught throughout the Word of God, but I like to remember them as the 3 R’s.
- REQUEST God’s Wisdom- Stay Free from Fear and Confusion
Believers need God’s wise counsel every day, just like we need daily bread. Scripture promises freedom from fear and confusion to those who seek after God’s wisdom, and listen to Him. “Those who respect the Lord will have security, and their children will be protected. “(Proverbs 14:26) How do we discover God’s wisdom, and be sure it’s not just following worldly wisdom? To start with, the Bible instructs us to show reverence to God. ”Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord, and understanding begins with knowing the Holy One.” (Prov. 9:10) Make it a practice to simply ask God in prayer for His wisdom before you go out into the responsibilities of the day. James 1:5-6 states the confidence we have from God: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” As we humble ourselves, its vital we recognize God’s faithfulness in asking for His guidance; then place our complete trust in Jesus who cares about everything in our lives.
Resist both internal and outside pressures and temptation, with the understanding that Jesus warned His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) That word “tribulation” or ‘thlipsis’ in the original language describes the pressure or burden one experiences when bench pressing weights. The Holy Spirit told me in our New Year’s prayer that people are becoming unhinged in 2023, meaning they are “highly disturbed, unstable, or distraught.” (Miriam -Webster Dictionary) Don’t become unhinged by worldly pressure and temptations; don’t buckle. Multitudes of people around the world are experiencing fears so great today because they stem from unknown dangers. This “unknown” factor can multiply feelings of disorientation and confusion, leading to uncontrollable fear. Jesus promised we would have His supernatural peace in the middle of this incredible pressure! Be planted in the House of the Lord with your spiritual family, receiving the wise instruction from the One who knows all things. Like the cedars of Lebanon, you’ll be fragrant and enduring! Fresh faith will spring up inside; you’ll break forth and bloom in new areas-understanding Christ’s love and purposes. Experience the abundant life Jesus has planned for you- staying free from fear and confusion. Request God’s wisdom, and you’ll have the confidence He’s working in you and through you every day-every step of the way!