Friday, February 19, 2021

Word of the Year Theme Verse


Word of the Year Theme Verse

Each year I pick a Bible verse or passage to use as my theme for the year to accompany my word of the year. The verse or passage may or may not include my word of the year, but it will be connected to my vision for how I want to live out my word.

My 2021 word is Rhythm. My theme passage this year is Matthew 11:28-30:

There are a few reasons why I picked this passage:
  • It kept popping up last year. Seriously! As I looked through my journal for last year I found that I mentioned  or studied this passage numerous times. So it just felt like I needed to spend more time in it this year.
  • It contains my vision for this year: To learn from Jesus. Learn about His life, His words, His behavior and attitude. To study Him and to depend on Him more.
  • It also does contain my word, just not in this translation. In The Message Bible verse 29 is stated like this: "Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." There it is, the unforced rhythms of grace. It captures life dependent on following Christ. Rhythms of grace also speaks to me of the spiritual practices (disciplines or rhythms) that we engage in that help position us in Christ for spiritual transformation. We'll look more at those next week.

Once you have selected a theme verse or passage it's time to dig in and study it. For me, this is not a one and done kind of practice. I'll do some initial study, but then return to digging deeper into this passage throughout the year.

First, you will want to look at the context of the verse/passage. The simplest way to do this is to read what is around it. We always want to let the context of a verse or passage help us determine its meaning. So much false personal theology is made due to taking verses out of context. To learn more about determining context I have a tutorial: How to Determine Context. (It is also located on my site under the Bible Study tab at the top of the page.)

So for my verse I looked at Matthew chapter 11, reading the verses preceding my passage, 11:1-26. I note that my passage is at the end of topics Jesus had been preaching about in the region of Galilee. In this chapter Jesus had been approached by John the Baptist's disciples asking him if he is the Messiah who had been promised. Jesus responds using words from a passage in Isaiah (61:1) that spoke of what the Messiah would do. Jesus tells them that what he has done -the miracles, healings-  and what he has said throughout his ministry are the evidence that he is the Messiah. He goes on through this chapter to speak more of John the Baptist's ministry and of his own. Then he speaks about the judgement that will come on those who witnessed his miracles but chose not to believe in who he is. Finally in the verses right before my theme passage, Jesus declares he is the Son of God and that God has revealed all things to Him and he will reveal the things of God to his followers. He then makes the invitation in verses 28-30, to come to Him and learn from Him and find rest for your soul. So it is in the context of who Jesus is - the Messiah, the Son of God- that He invites us to come to Him and on which His promises are established.

Once you have established context, you can then begin to break down your verse/passage. I will usually do this by studying the meaning of individual words, looking at their definitions in dictionaries and in their original language - word studies come in handy here. I will look at how the verse/passage is laid out - the grammar, repeated words, commands, etc. There are many tutorials on the Bible Study Tips & Techniques page on how to do these different steps and practices. I will also look at the study notes in my Bible pertaining to my verse/passage and any references in the margins to other verses that will help me understand the meaning. Reading the verse/passage in other Bible translations or paraphrases will be helpful too. And then, finally, I will look at commentaries and read articles that relate to my passage from favorite authors and pastors.

The page I am putting in my word of the year journal reflects some of the highlights of my study into Matthew 11:28-30.

I hope you will share your theme verse or passage for your word of the year. You can leave a comment below or share it in the Words Art & Faith Group on Facebook or on Instagram with the label #wordsartandfaithgroup.


  1. Thank you for this article. My word for the year is Focus-which is pretty broad but now I know how to break it down and move forward. I had stopped journaling for a bit because I was stuck but now I can move forward.