There is a saying that has been around for sometime that goes, “We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we do know who holds tomorrow”, As we approach 2018 we look at a world with many uncertainties, but also a world with positive prospects as well. We have plans, hopes, and dreams for what we would like to see come about. But it is certainly true that we don’t know what tomorrow holds. The Apostle John wrote a brief letter to a friend named Gaius. He began by offering his wish for him saying, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”(III Jn.2) It is our hope and our desire for ourselves and for those we care about that they “may prosper and be in good health” We will pray for that and do what we can to foster that end. But our primary desire is to see that our “soul prospers”. That is, beyond whatever circumstances life brings to us, we stay in a close relationship with our gracious Lord, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As your soul prospers in 2018 may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ rest upon you throughout the year. (John 14:27)
New Years celebrations are important. Many people make a big deal out of celebrating on January first, the beginning of the calendar year. Actually it’s probably been 20 years since I’ve seen the New Year in. I usually sleep through it. But there are other New Year celebrations. The Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the Fall. The Chinese have a Spring New Years festival, and the Muslims also have a date in the Fall for the beginning of their year. For Christians the New Year begins this coming Sunday with the First Sunday in Advent. The year is geared to the Scriptural accounts of all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The year begins by looking back at the astounding wonder of the Incarnation, Almighty God coming among us in the Baby born in Bethlehem. But it also looks forward to the time of the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to return. The calendar New Year is a time for revelry. The Christian New Year infuses us with hope, knowing all that God has done for us in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, and in the certainty of the fulfillment of His promises to bring all things to their right conclusion.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! But will it be a happy year? Or will it also have its share of trials and tears? We simply don’t know. In my message yesterday I spoke about our walking into the unknown. But this is really true for every day. We have our plans and expectations, but we simply can’t know what is ahead. Even so, we don’t live in fear. Having just celebrated the Christmas event, God coming among us in Jesus Christ, we can move forward in faith, trusting our Lord for all that is ahead. This is not a general optimism about life. I am not optimistic about this life. I am trusting in our Lord to complete the good plan for which He has called us to be a part of His life. He has demonstrated His love toward us in many ways. He has promised to be with us always. He has assured us that He will complete the work He has begun in our lives. Whether there is joy or there are tears in this coming year, the Lord is there. You are His child and He will not let you go. May your new year be very blessed as you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s relationship with the Philippian Church was one of the warmest of all his vast ministry. In the first chapter of his letter he wrote, ”And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;…”(vss.9&10) That is an important prayer as we look to the beginning of this new year. May we enter this year understanding what godly, self-sacrificing love is, seeking to practice it in all of our relationships. And that love be guided by real knowledge, knowledge of God’s Word and will, able to discern the real differences between what is pleasing to God, and for the good of mankind. At whatever cost we may cling to the things that are excellent, that is, weigh the value and cost of all the “truths” that are presented to us, holding to values we believe are right before our Lord. And that we seek to be sincere and blameless waiting for and praying for the soon return of our Lord. Now there is quite a lot to meditate upon as we begin 2017.
Ah! the last day of the old year, and the brink of the new. What will it hold? What plans are we already making? What are the expectation, or perhaps fears? All this adds up to the simple response that no one knows what the year holds for any of us. Events have been moving rapidly. Things happened in the past year that no one expected. We have expectations, hopes, and dreams. We will plan for this or that. But perhaps this day as much as any other emphasizes the truth that we are dependent upon God’s grace for each day. The Psalmists as much as anyone knew the difficulties and uncertainties of life, but time and again they held firmly to their trust in the Lord. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps.91:1-2) There is never a guarantee that our lives will not face difficulties or pain, but “dwelling in the shelter of the Most High” we have the strength and hope to face each day. He is our “refuge and fortress” and the only One in whom we put our ultimate trust.
There are no lack of prognostications about what will be happening in 2015. For the next few day people will be asking questions and making predictions about what we can look for in the coming year. In truth, no one really knows. We see trends and make plans, but that is the best we can do. Personally, I’m pessimistic and optimistic about the coming year. I am pessimistic because I see the house of cards we’ve built in this world, economically, politically, and socially. In the process we have progressively shut the doors of that house to the Lord who made us, and who alone knows what is for our best good. I am optimistic because I know that whatever trouble may come upon us because of our foolishness, that is not the end of the story. Having just celebrated Christmas, we live in the truth that God has come to us in Jesus Christ. He has acted on our behalf with His redeeming love. He continues to call all who are willing to listen. He has promised to complete the plan for which we were created. Whatever comes in this year, we are called to put our trust in the one true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A church near our home has a New Years greeting on their road sign. Going west it reads:MAY YOU BE WITH GOD IN 2014
in the easterly direction it reads:
MAY GOD BE WITH YOU IN 2014
It was the first one that caught our attention. The usual association of going to be with God is dying, which seemed a strange New Years greeting for a church to offer. We don’t know if it was a mistake or not, but the sign is still there. Thinking about it, however, both greetings are good. We don’t like to think about death, but a Christian’s desire is to be in the presence of our Lord, whether by death or at His soon return. As Paul expressed, “to depart and be with Christ is far better”.(Philippians 1:23) Also, to know that God is with us, walking through all of life’s circumstances, is our great strength for each day. In all events life brings we know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”(Romans 8:39) So, we add our greeting: In all that comes to you in 2014 may you grow ever closer to our gracious Lord Jesus.
We come to the end of one year and the beginning of another. There is really nothing different between today and tomorrow. We have just made it that way politically, economically, and emotionally, but tomorrow is just another day like today. It marks the passage of time and is covered by Paul’s statement to the Romans, “Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”(13:11) With the passage of each day there is both the need to understand more fully the culture in which we live, and the hope we have in the coming again of our Lord. We begin each day, whether 2013 or 2014 with the words of David in Psalm 62. “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken”(Vss.1-2)
Resolutions anyone? Many jokes are made about New Year’s resolutions that start out with great resolve only to be discarded within a few days. It strikes me, however, that we all live under a number of resolutions that have been made a long time ago. If we are married, there is the resolution to “love and to cherish till death us do part.” If we have friends, there is a resolution to be honest and faithful and not betray a friend. We have resolutions as citizens, as tax payers, and as debtors. As Christians we certainly have a resolution “to press on toward the goal …. the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:14) So, today is not really a time to make new resolution, but rather to commit ourselves to do our best with the resolutions we have already made. In faithfulness to those resolution we bring honor to God and to others. And we don’t have to feel guilty about the New Year’s resolution that get lost by the wayside. May this be a blessed year for each of you, and may it be a year of your growing ever closer in faith and love to the Lord Jesus Christ.