One Word 2021


Happy New Year to you all! I hope that 2021 got off to a good start for you however you were able to celebrate this year.

I don’t know about you, but this year I’ve found it much harder than normal to set goals or make plans for the year ahead. Everything still seems so uncertain, and I think 2020 taught many of us that no matter how well we plan there are no guarantees.

For the last five years though, I’ve had a word for the year. Initially I was a bit sceptical about the concept, but I have found it helpful, and it has been interesting to see how God has used the word each year, often in ways I didn’t expect.

Over the last couple of months, a phrase has been repeatedly going round in my mind, and so for 2021, I want to focus on that phrase and on one word of it in particular.

The phrase is “the call is to faithfulness, not to success.” There’s a lot to explore in that, and I hope to do that this year, and the particular word I am going to focus on is “Faithfulness.”

I have already found it interesting to consider this theme in the Bible. As I was reading the Christmas Story, one particular verse stopped me in my tracks. It’s strange how often when you re-read a familiar Bible passage you discover something fresh and new.

The verse is Luke 1:25, and it is Elizabeth’s exclamation on discovering that God has heard her prayers and that she is going to have a baby: “How kind the Lord is,” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

As I read that verse, I just wanted to give Elizabeth a hug. Of course I could understand her joy at her prayer being answered after all those years, at the prospect of giving birth to this precious new life, but I ached for the sense of disgrace she had obviously experienced over her childlessness.

I don’t know how much of that sense of disgrace came from others and how much came from Elizabeth herself. Because children were seen as a blessing from God, childlessness was seen as a sign of judgement – perhaps an indication of infidelity or of another sin. Maybe others speculated about the reasons behind Elizabeth’s childless state, and I’m sure she wondered herself. It seems that the sense that she wasn’t meeting people’s expectations, or fulfilling what was considered “normal” was a heavy burden for her to bear.

Elizabeth wasn’t seen as a success by those around her, and she probably didn’t view herself as a success, but she was faithful – she was incredibly faithful.

“Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commands and regulations.” (Luke 1:6 NLT)

Her lack of a child certainly wasn’t the result of unfaithfulness, or judgement because of sin. In fact, no real explanation is given apart from the most basic one.

“They had no children, because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.” (Luke 1:7 NLT)

My first lesson for this year of “faithfulness” is that faithfulness is not an easy calling. It’s not glamorous or exciting, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to success in the eyes of others, or in our own eyes, but I do think God sees it as a success.

I think God must have been pleased with Elizabeth during all those years of quiet devotion to him, as she battled with her unfulfilled longing, but still chose repeatedly to obey. Wherever the sense of disgrace she felt came from, I don’t believe that was the way God viewed her.

So, this year I hope to learn from others who have shown faithfulness to God, and I want to grow in faithfulness myself. Interestingly, my church is beginning a series on spiritual disciplines next week and that is also the topic beginning today at She Reads Truth, which is the plan I most often use for daily Bible reading, so this seems to be where God is leading me to start exploring.

I also want to learn to trust more in God’s faithfulness this year. As I said, there is a lot that looks uncertain, but one thing we can be certain of is God’s faithfulness. This song by Brian Doerksen has been a helpful reminder for me in the past.

“I don’t know what this day will bring.
Will it be disappointing, or filled with longed-for things?
No, I don’t know what tomorrow holds,
But I know I can trust your faithfulness.”

What about you? Do you have a word for the year, or have you set goals or made resolutions?
Feel free to share in the comments.


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45 thoughts on “One Word 2021

  1. My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Merton

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  2. You’re so right, Lesley … it’s just about futile to make any kind of plans or grand resolutions. There are too many unknowns and disappointments still lurking.

    But God’s faithfulness?! Thank You Lord! Your mercies are never every morning, Your lovingkindness is better than life.

    Thanks for sharing a beautiful word, friend. He will see us through!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Linda! Yes it’s so reassuring to know that God’s faithfulness doesn’t change and it’s something we can rely on in all the uncertainty.

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  3. Like you, I was hesitant to begin selecting a word of the year. I am so glad I began the practice, however.

    Your word for the year is such a good one. I have read the story of Elizabeth many times and have never stopped to wonder why she was ashamed of being childless. That is an interesting thought. And yet, her faithfulness was not affected. Focusing on faithfulness rather than success reflects our servant’s heart. I am excited to read your thoughts on your word this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Lesly, I love the quote you shared at the beginning of your post! If that isn’t infused with hope, I don’t know what is. Faithfulness is a two-edged sword, and you’re right, so much to delve into. Prayers and blessings that your spirit will be enriched as you do so. For me, my One Word 2021 is “ENOUGH”. A couple of months ago the Lord spoke to me, “You have always been enough for me…when will I be enough for you?” In that moment, I fell in love with the Lord all over again.

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  5. As much as people looked forward to leaving 2020 behind, they are likely to find that many of the same problems that plagued us and our country last year will follow us into 2021. BUT! Your focus word is just what we NEED to focus on: God’s faithfulness through it all–through the troubles and the blessings. “When I cannot feel the faith of assurance, I live by the fact of God’s faithfulness”–Matthew Henry.

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    1. Yes, 2021 feels like a new start, but a lot of the challenges we face are going to continue at least for a while. I love that quote you shared. It’s so true – we can trust in God’s faithfulness even when we don’t feel it.

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  6. 1 Cor. 4.2 is one of my favorites. It says that it’s necessary that a servant of God be found faithful (NKJV) or trustworthy, not successful, certainly not successful in the eyes of the world, but faithful. It’s a great comfort to know that’s all God calls us to!

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  7. I can’t remember the context, but I remember hearing someone comment on great heroes of the faith, and someone responding that he likely doesn’t know who they are–meaning in the grand scheme of things, there are so many unknown people just faithfully following God and doing His will day by day that are unknown to the world. That takes such a weight off–that’s all we have to do, keep faithfully following and obeying.

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  8. Thank you, Lesley for sharing your word for 2021, what a blessing to travel through the upcoming year focused on faithfulness. God’s faithfulness is unparalleled, and something we can indeed be sure of in any circumstance. May the coming year bless you with deeper faithfulness in your walk with Him!

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  9. I keep finding stuff for my own word as I read about yours, Lesley! 🙂 This song fits so well with my word. I’m making note of it just like I did that poem a week or so ago that you mentioned.

    This phrase is so insightful: the call is to faithfulness, not to success. I hope you’ll share this post with our One Word FB group if you get a chance!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lesley, you are so right – it is most difficult to make plans as we have no idea what lies ahead. I take comfort that what is yet unknown to me, is fully known by God. My word for 2021 is “Prevail” and the verse He has me focused on is: “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer …” (Romans 12:12, (NASB). I am going to focus on rejoicing in the new year, prevailing in difficulties, and being devoted to prayer. Many blessings in 2021 in and through Christ!

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  11. Lesley, so much of what you’ve written here resonates with me, from wondering about Elizabeth’s barrenness (I have definitely considered this as I walked that same road) and what it means to be faithful in obscurity. I love the phrase you quoted about the call being to faithfulness and not success. I’m so thankful that God is the one who determines what true success looks like not the world or culture. Wonderful post!

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    1. Thanks, Lois! Yes, it is so easy to judge ourselves based on our own, or others’, expectations, but God is the one who sees it all and defines true success.

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  12. I love how you searched into Elizabeth’s heart, Lesley. There must have been so much anguish in her heart as her culture looked down on her and her prayers seemed unheard. It’s so encouraging to know God knew her faithfulness to Him, no matter what anyone said or thought of her. Thank you! The song you share sends so much hope to my heart as well. Yes, we can trust His faithfulness. Love and blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Trudy! Yes, it is so hard when our prayers seem to go unanswered or we feel we’re not meeting expectations (our own or others’). It is reassuring that God sees our faithfulness if we keep looking to him in those times. Love and blessings to you too!

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  13. i love this! Faithfulness is such a good theme to camp on for the year! For me this year it’s “peace” based on Ps 34:14, Isaiah 26:3, Colossians 3:15. seeking hIs peace is my theme for the year.

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  14. Lesley, what a great word and phrase to focus on for the year. I have come to admire Elizabeth more and more over the years. I appreciate your insights about her and how she called the Lord kind for (finally) answering her prayers for a child. She was faithful in the way she lived. You’ve got me thinking about her and about faithfulness. I look forward to reading more of what God shows you this year!

    My word for the year is Known. I’m looking forward to seeing all that God wants to teach me about living known. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeanne! Yes, the more I read Elizabeth’s story the more I admire her faithfulness. I look forward to reading what God teaches you through your word too.

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