2023 Words to Live By
It’s another new year (this keeps happening!) and I’ve finally selected a focus word for my devotional and prayer life… or rather, several words.
For the last several years, I’ve chosen a ‘Word of the Year’ to help guide and illuminate my regular study of Scripture and personal devotionals. I read recently about some folks choosing a word as a “name it and claim it” sort of demand to God, but this is never how I’ve approached the concept. I agree completely with the author of this post that God’s Word is the only Word we really need! Thus, as impetus for my study of God’s Word, I’ve found great value in focusing my efforts on a particular theme or concept within the Bible. My only expectation being that the Holy Spirit will bless the effort as He promises to do when we approach Scripture in expectation of truth and growth by His grace. I have found my ‘word of the year’ incredibly helpful for continued spiritual growth, and it always seems to come up in connection with other things in my life, from songs to sermons.
Well, that was by way of an intro.
I’ve put a lot of thought and prayer into this process — more so than in previous years, for some reason. I initially took the Dayspring Word of the Year Quiz back in November, and the resulting word was ‘Presence’. It was different and wouldn’t have been on my list otherwise, and I didn’t really like it at first. I kept coming back to more emotive words like ‘peace’ and ‘joy’. I started a running list of words that popped into my head: providence, patience, prayer (it was purely coincidence that they all started with ‘p’… to begin with). As I dug more into my reasoning behind this annual selection, and in connection with some sermons we’ve been hearing recently on spiritual disciplines, I really wanted this year to have a more progressive element. The alliterative theme became more clear as my list of words grew, especially after a beautiful Christmas morning sermon on Mary’s magnificat and the definition of the word ‘ponder’.
After that, it was pretty clear that I needed to expand my ‘word’ of the year to ‘words‘. And this fit perfectly with my goal of engaging more actively in inductive Bible study, quiet time and prayer that would be led by these concepts. I ended up with 6 words total, which worked out nicely for dividing them out over the course of the year. I’ve arranged them in a somewhat progressive order, and will be working my way through all Scripture references for each word every two months. I’ve given a brief summary of each below, and links to the resource I’m using for my Bible reading plan.
What does the Lord have in store for me this year? I don’t know all the details, but I’m looking to Him to prepare me for whatever it may be.
Another perspective on this word since I’ve been studying it for a few weeks now: the verses I’ve read thus far talk a lot about preparing food and sacrifices. Preparation often involves work for the sake of others and self sacrifice. Preparing oneself for service to God is an important part of obedience — and also a pivotal aspect of the sanctifying plan He has for our lives!
God is faithful and He always provides. He is a promise keeper, even when I fail – not because of who I am or what I’ve done, but because of who Christ is, whose image He is conforming to! Seeking out the evidence of His faithfulness and lovingkindness in the Bible and in my own life will be a major part of learning to continue trusting the Lord’s providence in this coming year.
Though this word has fewer specific references in the Bible, it really covers the entire concept of my words this year. The Lord is doing amazing, unfathomable things each day — and there is much to treasure and ponder, just as Mary did (Luke 2:19). Ponder does not just mean sitting and thinking briefly, or daydreaming absentmindedly. It is intentional, studious meditation. This post even ties it to the meaning of the word Selah used frequently in Psalms and other portions of Scripture. The meaning is associated with a sense of heaviness that makes a lasting impact, as in making a crooked path straight or a rough road level.
“In Proverbs 4:26 and 5:21, the Revised Version (British and American) substitutes “make level.” In Proverbs 5:6, it drops out entirely in the Revised Version (British and American). In Proverbs 21:2 and 24:12, “weigh” is substituted for “ponder.”https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/ponder/
This is a word that implies life-altering thought patterns. So much to ponder here and I look forward to working through this word, especially with the background of ‘preparation’ and ‘providence’.
This is the word recommended by the Dayspring Word of the Year quiz that I took. Initially, it didn’t have any appeal to me at all and felt rather foreign. But it has gradually grown on me–not only as a means of meditating on the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, but also in reference to my own presence in the lives of others: God actively working in and through me in a variety of situations. I want to be fully aware of God’s presence with me, and also fully present in whatever situation I may find myself. In this digital age, it’s so easy to “tune out” and become engaged in mindless social media scrolling or self-centered activities that have little worth. That’s not how I want to spend my time; life passes too quickly and I want to be present for it! Especially with so many little eyes watching me throughout the day (children ages 9, 7, 5, 3 are acutely aware of digital distractions). By fixing my eyes on Christ and abiding in His presence, I trust He will guide my footsteps in influencing others with my presence.
This may seem a little trite; patience is always on my list as a mother of little ones. It’s also a fruit of the Spirit and you will find that, when prayed for, is always granted in abundance — through situations that try one’s patience. Difficulties and suffering in life are the “fiery trials” that burn away the dross and result in the purified gold of patience (1 Peter 4:12, Job 23:10). This is why another word used for patience in Scripture is ‘long suffering‘. It feels unbearable, or even pointless, at the time, but God is using every situation to work for the good of His children — and to cause them to bear fruit over time.
“Many of God’s servants develop the quality of longsuffering through their service and dedication to Him.”
Peace is a big one — one that everyone wants, I think. To be at peace with the Lord is to be at peace with oneself. Or, as Augustine said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” All of the preceding words point to this one, and cultivate the faith that results in peace. Trusting in the Lord results in perfect peace.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”Isaiah 26:3
By no means am I saying that with these 6 simple steps you too can have perfect peace! No, this is not an infomercial for how to achieve peace easily in this life. Rather, my hope and goal is that the Lord will work in my life by His means of grace (prayer, Bible study, fellowship, worship, communion, etc.) to grow my faith in Him, and thereby “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
I’ll leave you with the Bible reading checklist I’ve prepared for the next several weeks, which will get me through the first two words (Prepare and Providence) and through the month of April. I’ve printed this out for myself and keep it with me for reference to read in my Bible at home or in the Bible Gateway app on-the-go. Perhaps it will be helpful to you (click to download the PDF)!