Seven lessons from 2015

                                                                              (Written by Tim Howes)

Wow, what a year it has been. 

This past year was one of the most challenging years I 

have ever faced and although there have been years in 

which we have struggled in the past, I do not 

remember a year which has been more difficult than 

2015. Even as I write this I am reeling as I continue to 

try to process and make sense of everything that 

happened.  In no way am I writing this to attack 

anyone.  I have learned hard lessons and I try to be 

truthful about the way our life has been affected by the 

events that have occurred. 

 I do not desire to bring anyone down by exposing truth but rather to uncover the raw parts of each of our lives to help get a sober look at our human condition so that as a group we can help pull each other up and be better.

I would love to paint for you a beautiful picture of triumph despite pain, victory through struggle and unwavering 
hope but as much as that has been my goal, it has not been our reality in 2015.  This past year could be better 
described as raging storms, pounding waves, bitter cold and driving rain.  There were brief moments of calm 
and sunlight which were certainly sweet reprieves but were followed all too closely with a resurgence of the 

It was a long and painful year and although I continue to feel shell-shocked by what took place, I have compiled a list of some of the lessons learned:

1.       God gives us far more grace than we give each other.  

Oh the stories we tell of the grace of God, his love and his mercy.  We sing songs of his grace and it is true.  God has offered us undeserved grace that is seemingly never-ending.  He forgives our mistakes, washes us clean and treats us as his beloved.  He doesn’t see us as used up and no good when we mess up, he sees our heart and when we repent, he restores us to a place of honor we don’t deserve.

If only we could learn to treat each other the way God treats us.  I would love to think I have mastered the art of grace but the truth is I am guilty too.  How often do we want to dole out judgment and painful consequenses on others for their wrongs in a way we would never want to be judged ourselves.  How much easier would it be to draw people into God’s kingdom if we were good at giving the same grace God gives to each of us.

2.       Gossip is as active and destructive today as it ever has been.

Gossip is revealing information about the behavior and personal lives of others.  What is so wrong with giving information about other people?  Is it wrong to pass on information about other people?  Of course it is not always wrong to share information but it is the intention of the heart that makes sharing information gossip.  It doesn’t matter if gossip is preceded by “bless her heart” or “please pray for him”, if the heart of the information bearer is to bring slander or destruction it is gossip and it is wrong.  Gossip is a brutal killer of God’s design for unity within the body of believers.  The bible speaks volumes against gossip and for good reason.  Gossip is a parasitic worm that eats away the fabric of the body of Christ and leaves behind a nakedness and vulnerability which leads to death.  Everyone who gossips habitually is systematically killing all who surround them.  This is a serious problem in the body of Christ and must be addressed in each of our hearts in order to spread the gospel to the next generation.  

3.       Sin hurts you far more than it hurts God, which hurts God!

A bittersweet honor of this past year was to be trusted by friends and family members enough to help them through struggles regarding overcoming sin.  During that time I have noticed something that should have been painfully obvious in the past.  Our sin is much more harmful to us than it is to God.  God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (in all places at all times).  He knows we will sin before we sin and he loves us anyway.  He has a firm grasp on our failures in a way we will never truly understand and despite knowing the full extent of our past, present and future wrong-doing toward him, he still gave his son as ransom for our lives.  He is not destroyed by our sin, we are.  When we sin it separates us from God’s love and makes us more susceptible to condemnation from the evil one.  When our sin separates us from God, the pain that God feels is the pain of knowing his children are hurting. 

4.       In this world everyone is replaceable. 

In the worldly economy people are either assets or liability.  The rulers of this world will keep all the people close who bring them money and fame.  When those same people seem as though they bring more risk than reward, they are let go and traded for a less risky investment.  It is the way of the world and the worldly.

5.       In God’s kingdom everyone is valuable.

God sees you completely contrary to the way the world sees you.  To God, you were bought for a high price.  The ransom for your eternity was paid by the blood of his only son who he dearly loved.  When you come into God’s kingdom by putting your faith in Christ you have a permanent place in heaven and in God’s family.  No matter what role you have in the body of Christ, it is important and valuable to God.

6.       One friend who weathers the storm with you is worth more than a thousand fair weather friends. 

At the start of this year I didn’t know I had any fair weather friends, I just had friends.  Slowly as the storms raged, people went away.  Some told us not to contact them again, some just stopped speaking with us.  The loss of those people was painful and continues to be painful to this day.  Despite the pain of losing friends, I have been blessed beyond measure by the friends that loved me enough to weather the storm with me.

                There are “friends” who destroy each other, 
                But a real friend sticks closer than a brother.  
                Proverbs 18:24  NLT

To those who have weathered the storm with me I thank you.  You will never know how much you are appreciated and how much I have needed your friendship this year.

7.       I have a far greater dependence on God and other believers than I have ever known before.

For the longest time I have considered myself fairly hardy and able to resist adversity with sheer determination and grit.  As I have been worn thin by the storm I have come to a place of realizing my strength alone is not enough.  My own strength is not sufficient to get me through and I depend on the grace and strength of God and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to survive.  Although it is not easy to make my vulnerability known to other people, I now realize I have even more strength when I allow the strength of God and others to carry me through.  For this I am thankful.

I never want to repeat the experiences I walked through over this past year when I was taken to the limit of what I could handle multiple times before I was eased away from the cliff.  I hope desperately the storms have passed and the next season will be filled with peace and prosperity.  I don't have the answers to what is in store this next year however, regardless of the answer I continue to be thankful for these hard fought lessons.  

To summarize it all, I have realized how critical it is to love people well because I realize how very much I need that love for myself and my family.  Now in 2016, I only have one resolution, to love people better.  I hope it isn't just a resolution for 2016 but an anthem for my life.  God bless you friends.  You are loved and needed more than you could ever know.


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