Monday, December 31, 2018
New Year's Eve Message - Hope in the New Year
As one time zone after another bids farewell to 2018 and slips into 2019, many people are celebrating. Some do not want 2018 to end. For them, it was a year full of great achievements and wonderful events. For others, like myself, 2018 was filled with sorrow, pain and upheaval in their lives. For those, they cannot wait for 2018 to end. No matter what situation you are in, we all look forward to 2019 as a year of renewed hope.
While I was shopping at a local grocery store, I noticed all of the “Happy New Year 2019” decorations being unpacked and put up on shelves. Bottles of champagne, fireworks and snacks were being stocked up. Those celebrating New Year's Day in the South were paying for all of the ingredients for the traditional meal of ham, collard greens and black-eyed peas. Every family has a set of traditional rituals that are observed without fail all to do one thing: ensure a prosperous new year.
We place more emphasis on family traditions and rituals than we do on the hope that is already available to us. As each year starts, we make resolutions to do various things. The number one resolution shared by most people is to lose weight by eating less and exercising more. Some are successful at keeping the resolution. Most, however, often give up within a couple of weeks citing various reasons for their inability to lose the weight. The average American, I am told, gains seven pounds during the holiday season. Instead of gaining wisdom, we gain weight and lament the fact that we cannot lose it due to having no time to exercise or that losing weight is too hard. Once we begin to make those statements, the resolution is quickly forgotten until the end of the year. We often remind ourselves that we made the same resolution and found it difficult to keep. We say to ourselves, “This new year will be different.” We promise to find the time to exercise and to have better willpower when it comes to eating. But, alas, we do the same thing. We never quite complete our resolution.
Our spiritual lives are a bit that way. We start out strong in our faith in the beginning of the year and by year’s end, our relationship with the Lord has suffered. During Christmas, we may have received a daily devotional book from someone and we say, “I will read it every day.” In just a couple of days, we find ourselves too busy to read and that daily devotional book sits quietly somewhere collecting dust. Some are often taken to charities and given away. Others often find a place on a dusty bookshelf never to be opened again. There they sit collecting dust and occupying spaces on shelves.
Instead of spending time with the Lord, we choose to spend time doing other things. When things are going great and there are no problems, we often forget our relationship with the Lord. We set our relationship with God on autopilot and just cruise along with no cares in the world. We do not even try to find time to pray or meditate in His word. When problems pop up as they often do, that is when we start looking to God.
Have you been in situations like this? Have you allowed yourself to slip quietly into a relationship of mediocrity when it comes to your relationship with the Father? We all have times when we lapse in our faith. We put our faith in ourselves to get us out of our problems; however, when we face big problems, it is only then that we reach out to Him.
This year should be different. We must realize first that God never forgets us nor does He ever not have time for us. We are His and His alone. Our debt of sin was paid in full, not in part, by the precious blood of His son, Christ Jesus. We need to always remember that and never, ever forget that blessed fact or take it for granted. The psalmist writes in chapter 91, “9 If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, 10 no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. 11 For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. 12 They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. 13 You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!”
God has already given you His word and you can count on Him to deliver every time. We, in turn, must make the Lord our refuge and shelter each and every day of the year. That means that we seek Him daily, meditate in His word daily and praise and worship Him daily. You may have noticed a word that I repeated. That keyword is “daily”. We must never put Him aside or just go about our lives without thanking the Father for all of His daily blessings.
Over the past year, my family and I have faced daily struggles. There were times when we were ready to just give up, but we remembered the words of the psalmist in Psalm 91, “14 The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. 15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. 16 I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.’”
The Lord has given my family and me His word and promise. When I seek Him, express my love for Him and trust in His name, I have nothing to fear. I know, beyond all doubt, that God will rescue and protect me. Referring back to verse 11, God will even send His angels to protect me wherever I go. With an assurance like that, why should we just take those promises for granted? We should be thanking God daily for His words and promises. Each day we live in the New Covenant of Christ Jesus who is the mediator of that covenant. Because of Jesus, we can go to the Father in prayer. We can, in the name of His holy son, lift up our prayers to Him and know that He will lift us up in honor and victory.
When we do all these things, we can rest assured in the words of Proverbs 4, “12 When you walk, you won't be held back; when you run, you won't stumble.” Because of the love of our Heavenly Father, our path is broadened beneath our feet and we walk safely with the surety of each step. It is only through our daily obedience and love for Him that we are able to do all these things. When we face problems that come up, we can know that He is there with us. By not letting the world corrupt us or cause us to lose our focus on Him, we can face our trials and troubles with knowledge that He will rescue, protect and place us on a higher ground.
The author of the book of Hebrews writes in chapter 13, ”5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ 6 So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’”
Do not let anything stand between you and the Lord. Discard the things of this world like dirty clothing and, as Paul writes in his letter to the Romans in chapter 13, “12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.”
As the New Year comes, greet it with prayer and dedicate yourself to building a strong, daily relationship with the Lord that cannot be shaken by any problem or worry. When you discard the things of this world and focus your attention and make God the center or your life, you will not only be assured of a great 2019 but you will also stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.