Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Closing of the Year

As we take our final steps toward the end of the year, we all have an opportunity to reflect upon the events of 2019. I, like most of you, experienced great moments and a few I would like to forget about. No matter what happened to each of us in the past year, we all are looking forward to a new year and decade and hoping and praying it will be a sight better than the last.

Although we do not know what 2020 will hold for us, we are optimistic and look towards this new year with a sense of hope. The new year may hold a new job or opportunity. It may have a new relationship in store for those looking for that special someone. For others, they hope that their medical conditions will improve and that they can move on in their lives. We all hope and pray that 2020 will be our year for victory and success.

Before you move on to the new year, stop for a moment and really look hard at the not-so-great moments of 2019. Were they really that bad? Did you learn something from those moments and experience something new? Were you surprised that you were able to get through those events?

If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that we sometimes have to go through a wall of fire in order to truly test our mettle. Our lives are like a rich tapestry or, if you prefer, a quilt. Each panel or segment tells a story and an experience. Some of them detail great victories in our lives while others contain the story of a setback. As we look back on all the moments, we see the richness of learning something. It is easy to say that we learned something when we are victorious. It is harder to find the lesson in a setback.

Someone once told me that there is a big difference between failure and setbacks. Setbacks happen. They are just a part of life. But, what keeps a setback from becoming a failure is the lessons learned from them. If we do not learn anything from our setbacks and accept them as final, then we have truly failed. Setbacks test us to see if we are truly ready for something bigger in our lives.

In his first letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul, in chapter thirteen, writes, “Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

As we live our daily lives, we continue to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. However, we have the choice of materials. We can choose to build with strong and durable materials like gold and silver or we can choose to use wood, hay or straw. When it comes time to put our work to the test, which do you believe will withstand a fire? Will a strong foundation of gold and silver truly show others that you have the mettle to withstand the worst conflagration imaginable? Or, will your foundation just burn up and disappear and leave nothing in the path of the fire?

Those moments in 2019 that almost took you to the brink of falling tested you and, most importantly, your faith. Each time you experience something devastating, you learned something more about yourself and your faith. You learned that you alone cannot face the world. It is only through God’s will and His undeserved grace that you are able to face tomorrow.

I cannot tell you what tomorrow will hold for me or for you. But, I can remind you of this one thing.

A rich man asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus replied that he must obey all of the commandments. The man said that he was already doing that and asked what else must he do. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor and then follow him. The man left sad.

Jesus told his disciples in chapter nineteen of the Gospel of Matthew, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!

The disciples were astounded and asked Jesus, “Then who in the world can be saved?”

Jesus tells them, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.

If we rely only on our own strength, intelligence and abilities, we are unable to achieve the impossible. If, however, we build upon the foundation of Jesus using strong material, as Paul stated, and realize that we are nothing without the Father, we can achieve the impossible, weather any storm and withstand the hottest fires.

I want you to think about those setbacks of 2019 using this new lens to view them. Did you make it through each one with God’s grace? Did you learn something about your faith? Did those events strengthen your faith and give you the courage to be bold? Are you ready for the challenges of 2020 knowing that God will be there with you leading the way?

Do not let setbacks become failures. Build a strong foundation with strong and enduring materials based on the one true foundation of Christ Jesus. Know that you must give yourself over to God completely and totally. Don’t chase after the things of this world. Know that all things are possible with God. 

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes in chapter eight while talking about the future glory that will be given to the chosen of the Father, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

As long as we remain faithful, obey the commandments, follow the example of His son, Christ Jesus, and build upon him, we can withstand all the storms knowing that there is nothing that can be against us. When we do all those things and remember that failure is not an option, we can stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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