Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Looking Back / Looking Forward, Day 2

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Download "Questions for the New Year."

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says you don’t have to enter 2019 with fear.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: All the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, and you don’t have to fear it. You don’t have to fear hardship; you don’t have to fear suffering. It will come. It will come in small doses or large, or both, but you don’t have to be afraid of it. I can assure you—and we need to assure our own hearts and encourage one another with these words—that nothing, nothing, nothing that touches your life this year will catch Him off-guard.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A Place of Quiet Rest, for New Year's Day 2019. 

In 2018, we saw headlines full of violence, heartache, and scandal. This doesn’t mean you have to dread 2019, as Nancy explains in the series "Looking Back / Looking Forward."

Nancy: William Borden grew up in an affluent and socially prominent home in Chicago. He was the heir of the Borden Dairy Estate. You know Borden Milk? He was the heir of that estate, and the opportunities and the options before him were nearly endless. When he graduated from high school at the age of sixteen (this was in 1904), his parents gave him a cruise around the world as a graduation present.

Now Bill had given his life to Christ when he was a child, but as he sailed now as a teenager from one continent to another, God just broke his heart by the needs, the spiritual needs of the people that he met at different places around the world. In response to that, he sensed that God was calling him to give his life to serve Christ as a missionary.

Humanly speaking, Bill Borden had a lot to lose. He had never been less than comfortable and well taken care of, but in a journal entry that he made during his college years at Yale, as he was preparing to go into ministry, he expressed his desire to surrender his life wholeheartedly to God’s purposes.

He wrote, “Lord Jesus, I take my hands off as far as my life is concerned. I put Thee on the throne of my heart. Change, cleanse, use me as Thou shalt choose.” That was really a marker for Bill Borden. The issue was settled about whose life it was, who he belonged to, and what the purpose of his life was to be—not making money, not living in a socially prominent position, but laying down his life for the sake of the gospel.

When he graduated from Yale, the time finally came for him to leave for the mission field, and he headed for China where he hoped to be able to reach Muslims with the gospel of Christ, but his route took him first to Egypt where he planned to study Arabic. While he was still in Egypt, before he ever got to China, Bill Borden contracted spinal meningitis and died less than a month later at the age of twenty-five.

When his will was probated, it was discovered that he left his entire fortune of approximately a million dollars—which is no small amount in any day, but in 1904 that was a huge amount of money—he left that entire fortune to be invested in the cause of Jesus Christ, and that didn’t include the thousands of dollars he’d already given away during his short lifetime. Bill Borden surrendered everything that the world considers important—his plans, his hopes, his dreams, his career, money, possessions, and ultimately his life.

Now, from earth’s vantage point, many would consider Bill Borden a loser, but from heaven’s perspective, all he did was give up that which was only temporary anyway in exchange for the eternal riches of the kingdom of God.

After Borden’s death, there were three phrases that were discovered that were written in the back of his Bible—three phrases that summarized his short life, but his surrendered and sacrificial life. Those three phrases were:

  • No reserves.
  • No retreats.
  • No regrets. 

That’s the heart of the apostle Paul. You read it, for example, in Philippians chapter 3, beginning in verse 8.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Paul is saying, “If you stack up everything that I could have possibly had”—education, money, fame, reputation, prestige, position . . . all these things the apostle Paul could have had—he said, “I’d trade it all in, and give me Jesus, and I’d still be a rich man. That’s all that matters to me.” He’s saying, “I want Him, and Him more than anything and everything else.” He said,

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that through which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him (vv. 8–10).

These are Paul’s New Year’s resolutions. These are Paul’s every years’ resolutions, all throughout the year, “. . . that I may know Him”— Christ—“and the power of his resurrection, and may share in His sufferings (v. 10). Most of us didn’t put that on our New Year’s resolutions. But Paul said, “I not only want to know Him, but I want to know the power of His resurrection” (paraphrased).

Well, you don’t get to the resurrection until you’ve been through the cross. So I want to “. . . share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may obtain the resurrection from the dead” (vv. 10–11).

You don’t get to the resurrection until you’ve been through the cross.

Then he goes into verse 12 and he’s talking about straining toward the goal, reaching forward for all that God has for him. He says,

Not that I have already attained this [this knowing Him and the power of His resurrection and sharing in His sufferings]. I’ve not already attained this, and it’s not that I’m already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 12–14).

If you were going to summarize the apostle Paul’s life from the point he met Christ to the point he went to heaven, you could say, “No reserves; no retreats; no regrets.”

I want to challenge you, as God has been challenging my heart, to press toward the goal in this coming year—not drifting; not treading water; not just letting life happen, but pressing toward the goal.

We talked in the last session about resolving as we look to the year ahead, making resolutions that, by God’s grace and the power of His Holy Spirit, these are ways that we want to press toward spiritual maturing, becoming more like Christ.

It make me think of that old, gospel song. I used to love to sing it.

I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world's delight. 
Things that are higher; things that are nobler;
These have allured my sight.

("I Am Resolved" by Palmer Hartsough)

What are those things? It's Christ; it's the crown; it's the throne. It's seeing Him and knowing Him and being like Him. That's what allures our sight—things that are higher.

Yesterday we challenged you about making these resolutions, and I want to remind you that if you go to ReviveOurHearts.com, there’s a list of questions—many of them from Don Whitney—others that we’ve added that you can consider as you ask the Lord how He wants you to press into the year ahead, what resolutions He wants you to make. But I just want to add a few thoughts to what I shared yesterday as we come to the close of this year.

In addition to resolving, as we talked about yesterday, a few more “r” words as we come to the close of this year: the word relinquish. Relinquish your hold on things, on self, on pride, on your plans, on your goals. Relinquish; let it go; give it up to Him. Anything that is keeping you from becoming all that God wants you to be, let it go.

You’ve heard me talk in the past on this program about John and Betty Stam, who were faithful, young disciples of Jesus Christ, graduates of the Moody Bible Institute as I recall. In 1935 they were martyred as missionaries in China.

Betty was only twenty-seven years of age, and she had a little baby girl at the time. But before her death, she wrote this prayer. She said,

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my own desires, hopes, and ambitions, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give up myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships. All of the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will for my life at any cost, for to me to live is Christ. Amen.

If you could write an epitaph for Betty Stam, you could say, “No reserves; no retreats; no regrets.” She lost her life at twenty-seven, but no regrets. She’d relinquished all that she was, all that she had into His hands for His safekeeping. Now, it doesn’t mean all those things are bad—friends, family, future—it’s just saying, “Give those to the Lord. Surrender them to Him, and let Him do with them as He wills.”

As you come into this year ahead, I want to challenge you to embrace God’s calling.

I went to a commencement this past May—high school commencement. One of the teachers spoke at the commencement, and she challenged those young people in a way that I don’t know if they heard it as carefully as I did, because they haven’t lived as much life as I have, but I hope they were really listening. She challenged them to embrace God’s calling for their lives—not to resist it, not to just tolerate it, not to just endure it—and she got very transparent with them.

She’s probably in her fifties, and she said she wished that she had known this when her children were young when she was enduring God’s will. It wasn’t that she resented having children, but she thought, I’ve just got to endure this. Now, there is endurance involved in every season of the Christian life, but she said, “I wish I had known how to embrace the will of God.” You can only embrace God’s will as you relinquish your own to Him.

“Lord, I know what I want to happen in this marriage. I know what I want to happen with these kids. I know what I want to happen with my health. I know what I want to happen with my job, but I relinquish all of that to you—my plans, my future, my ambition." 

That prayer of Betty Stam I have prayed many times over the years. It expresses the desire of my heart. I hope that will become your prayer and desire as well—to live a life of unconditional surrender, relinquishment to Jesus as Lord.

And then having relinquished, I want to challenge you to reach forward—reach forward—to exercise faith as you move into this year, to walk into this year by faith—walking not by sight, not by fear, but trusting that He is the God of the known and the unknown. He’s the God who holds in His hand your life and the lives of those that you love. Every day of this coming year, should God give us more days in the year to come—Jesus may come—but whatever it is, reach forward in faith to what God has for you in this next year.

Again, let me quote the words of a song that we don’t sing very often anymore, and this one expresses the desire of my heart, and I believe yours as well:

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.  

You say, “It sounds like that songwriter is just wanting to get to heaven.” Well, I think they are wanting to get to heaven, but I think also that songwriter is wanting to live in a heaven-like way while still here on earth, reaching forward for what God has, as the apostle Paul says, “I press toward the mark—I reach forward—to take hold of that for which God took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12 paraphrased).

The song goes on:

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.” 
("Higher Ground" by Johnson Oatman, Jr.)

Is that your prayer as you think about the year ahead? “Lord, I want to press on. I want to move upward, onward toward You, toward the prize, toward all of that for which You created me, toward becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.”

Listen, ladies, most people will not be any different a year from now than they are today unless they will be more entrapped by sin, more in bondage, more guilty, more fearful. But I want to say you can press onward, upward, growing, blossoming, flourishing in the house of the Lord, becoming more of what He created you to be.

So relinquish, reach, and then rest. You said, “You’re talking about straining and stretching and reaching, and now you’re telling us to rest?” Yes. Rest in the Lord; rest in His sovereignty; rest in His grace as you face the year ahead.

I sent recently a birthday greeting to a friend, and I said, “We don’t know what lies ahead, but as we reflect back, we know that He is faithful and that His goodness and mercy will surely follow us all the days of our lives.”

Some of you are living in the midst of heartache. Some of you don’t know if you or your mate will be alive this time next year—actually, none of us knows that. You don’t know what lies ahead, but what you do know is that God has been faithful. He has brought you to this point, and He will take you through the days ahead. His goodness and mercy will surely follow you, attend to you, be as bodyguards to you all the days of your life.

Let me tell you, as you go into the year ahead, you can’t go anywhere without God’s goodness and mercy and grace following you every day of your life, every place that you go.

Now, I can tell you for sure that in the year ahead there will be unexpected turns in the road—expect it, that there will be unexpected turns—things that you’re not anticipating, things that sitting here today you have no clue are going to happen, but God knows it. He orders the steps of the righteous man. All the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, and you don’t have to fear it.

You don’t have to fear hardship; you don’t have to fear suffering. It will come. It will come in small doses or large, or both, but you don’t have to be afraid of it. I can assure you—and we need to assure our own hearts and encourage one another with these words—that nothing, nothing, nothing that touches your life this year will catch Him off-guard.

Nothing that touches your life this year will catch Him off guard.

Now some of you need to go back and listen to this about six months from now when you’re in the midst of what I told you was coming and remind yourself then that this didn’t catch Him off-guard. Nothing that you face this coming year will be bigger or greater than He can handle. Nothing will escape His watchful eye and care.

Some of you have a major move ahead, major job change, major new addition in your family. Some of you are facing the empty-nest stage with your children.

I had a woman say to me the other day, she was just teary. We stood in church and talked, and she said, “I’m facing this change in my life, and I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to be doing.” It’s a change in life.

Some of you women are literally facing a change in life, different seasons of life, and I just want to say you can be sure that nothing escapes His watchful eye and care. He is Lord.

  • You can rest in His sovereignty.
  • You can rest in His love.
  • You can rest in His grace.

Oh what an amazing word that is—grace. You can be sure that His grace will be sufficient for whatever you face.

You say, “But my circumstance is so big; it is so huge.” His grace is bigger. His grace will be sufficient for you. It is sufficient for you today; it will be sufficient for you tomorrow. You say, “But March 15 we’re facing . . .” His grace will be sufficient for you then and every day.

For the things you anticipate, or the things you have no clue are coming, He will not fail you. That’s one of the rich things that come after years of walking with the Lord—you get a track record with God. You look back, and you say, “He has never, ever failed me, and not only has He never failed me—you look back over the train of human history, from the days of Abraham and Moses and David and Paul and Peter, and you see God has never failed His children—and He’s going to start with me this year?” No way. He will not fail you.

And let me say this: The hardest things you face this year may prove in time to be the greatest blessing of your year. You say, “Well, it’s hard to imagine how cancer or death of a loved one or my children all leaving home, how all these things could be blessings.”

But you know anything that causes us to need Him, anything that presses us closer to His heart is, in fact, a blessing. Anything that makes us more conformed into the image of Jesus is a blessing. And if Jesus learned obedience through the things which He suffered, do you think we can become like Jesus—become obedient servants and children of the Lord—without suffering?

Anything that causes us to need Him is, in fact, a blessing.

You see, we want the resurrection. We want the higher ground. We want all the glories of the sanctified, glorified life without going through the process of the cross. God says, “No. There are no shortcuts. Embrace the cross.”

We can see these pains, these losses have been those things that pointed us to Christ and that brought about in us, shaped in us, molded in us the likeness of Jesus Christ.

So you can be sure as He takes you into the fire in the days ahead, He will be in the fire with you, and He will bring you out so that not a hair of your head is singed. He will deliver you in His way and in His time.

The apostle Paul said in Acts chapter 20, “Now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (vv. 22–23).

It’s kind of what I’ve been telling you about this coming year. You don’t know what will happen, but you do know there will be hardship. Listen to how Paul had a perspective that helped him deal with that.

He said, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,”—it’s not about me—“if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24).

And so the life of the apostle Paul could be summarized: No reserves; no retreats; and no regrets.

That’s what I pray for you. That’s what I want for you. That’s what I want to be said of me as we think about the year ahead.

Let me just remind you that the day is coming when there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears, no more death, no more darkness, no more night. That day is coming, but until then, hold tight to Christ, rest in Him, rest in His sovereignty, rest in His grace, and rest in His love.

I’d like to pray a blessing over you as we close this year and go into the year ahead, so let’s pray together.

Oh Lord, I thank You for my sisters, these true women who have walked together with You and Your grace and with me in our ministry through this past year. Thank You, Lord, that You have been so faithful. Thank You that You have poured grace upon grace into our lives.

Now as we face the year ahead, help us to do it with joy, with faith, with anticipation. Help us to relinquish our hold on anything that might have a hold on us other than You. Help us to reach forward and exercise faith and press on to higher ground. Help us to rest in Your awesome sovereignty and love and grace.

And now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been providing something all of us need in the coming year—courage, and it can only flow out of a relationship with God.

Today’s program wraps up a series called "Looking Back / Looking Forward." If you missed any of the teaching segments, I hope you’ll review the series at ReviveOurHearts.com. Each day’s transcript is available at our site along with audio that you can stream or download.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been on our website, I encourage you to take a look around. You’ll find engaging new content on our blogs for women, leaders, and teen girls. You can stream True Woman conference messages from the archives. You’ll find all this and more at ReviveOurHearts.com. And . . . it’s available to you at no cost, thanks to the listeners who give generously to this ministry! So visit ReviveOurHearts.com today to find encouragement and refreshment for your soul.

Around the New Year holiday, it seems like everyone is trying to pursue happiness through parties, food, and drink. But true happiness this year will come in an entirely different way. Nancy will take you through Psalm 1 to show you how to have a truly happy new year. That’s tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is inviting you to walk by faith this new year. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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