I used to be ashamed to talk about God.
I remember it so clearly when I first started figuring this “God thing” out and going to church. Finding God was this compartment of my life that I wanted to mean everything but I was also unwilling to share it with anyone. I didn’t want people to think I was weird or strange. I didn’t want to stand out.
As I have grown deeper in my faith, I realize I can’t help but bring God up in conversations. God is the reason I have patience. God is the reason I can juggle so many tasks at once. God is the reason I can get out of bed in the morning even when I'm dealing with depression or anxiety.
As I have handed over all the compartments of my life to God-- little by little and one by one-- He has helped me become stronger and better in every area. At some point, I had to be willing to get over myself and actually talk about the progress.
I look up to John the Baptist a lot and I refer back to him whenever I am feeling fearful or need a reminder to be courageous with my life. John the Baptist knew his role. He spoke about God and his mission in God bluntly. He knew He wasn’t God. He knew there was a single task he’d been created for and he lived it fully until the end. I want to be like that.
So how do we become bolder with our lives and our talk in 2017?
1. Possess a Fearless Honesty
John possessed a fearless honesty. As Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of his ministry, it also marked the beginning of the end of John’s ministry. John wasn’t phased by that. He wasn’t prideful. He wasn’t jealous. He knew exactly what was at stake as Jesus stepped into his role and the fullness of his teaching.
Possessing a fearless honesty means you are willing to talk about the hard stuff even when it feels uncomfortable. A lot of times, we don’t even realize who in our lives need to be lifted up because we are too busy sharing everything but the stuff that actually matters to us. If we could possess a fearless honesty then we would spend less time talking about stuff that is going to fade and more time digging deep and getting real with one another. God can float in the shallow end of the pool, but His miracles are greatest when you are willing to dive in the deep end.
2. Be Willing To Decrease
In John 3, John the Baptist says flat-out, “I’m not it. I’m not meant to be the center of attention.” He tells his disciples he was sent ahead to make way for the bridegroom. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
My heart needs this reminder constantly: you are not the center of the universe.
You are not the most important. You are not the end. You are not the beginning. That’s God. If I want to be open to what God has for me then I also have to be open to decreasing. I have to be willing to get small and do the small stuff that is required of me to make sure someone else sees Jesus.
I stick close to writer Flannery O’Connor’s words she wrote into her prayer journal during her lifetime: “Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and myself is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. Please help me to push myself aside.”
The world likes to tell us that we must be front, center, and always impressive. The gospel is a different story. Gospel-living requires us to get smaller as we go so that God can be amplified. Smallness is where the real work happens. Smallness is where we learn what we are made up of. Smallness is where our actions trump our words. In our smallness, our message for His glory becomes bolder and real.
3. Have a Single-Minded Mission.
It’s easy to get side-tracked and lose sight of a mission or a goal. For instance, resolutions we all make at the start of a New Year. I think those resolutions rarely ever come to fruition because we set too many goals instead of focusing on one single area or a single goal within each area of our lives that matters most to us.
Having a single-minded mission is essential. John the Baptist knew this. He carried out his mission. He stayed focused. Chances are, he placed aside bad habits to foster discipline and become stronger in his mission. We should be doing the same. Bold leaders are clear and decisive. When you have a target, you know where to aim. You know what to say “yes” to. You know what to steer clear of.
At first, you might think a single mission isn’t big or grand enough. However, a single mission-- lived right-- should take up your entire life. It should leave you poured out but also full, always reaching up to heaven for the lighter load. A single-minded mission doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious enough, it means the mission finally means enough to put all you have towards it.