( New Year’s Eve)
The Coming Days
Just before the start of a new year, we make one resolution after another. We set ourselves to lose weight, to exercise more, to eat healthier, and maybe even to spend less time working. All of these intentions are commendable, but what about our commitment to the Lord? How can we seek to serve him better in the weeks and months ahead?
The first step we must take is to become more determined, more resolute, to follow his will. We need to think less of what we want and focus wholly on what God has planned for us in the year ahead. The apostle James warned about making decisions based on personal desires and wishes:
“You who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:13-17 (NIV)
When we lay claim to what we are going to do, for example, we sin because we place greater emphasis on the finite rather than in the infinite. In other words, we replace God’s will with our own. We boast about our plans to make money or to prosper in some way when we should be placing our confidence and trust in God. What he wants us to do will last for eternity. What I want now will end as soon, and as quickly, as my life on earth ceases to be. My days, says James, are like a mist that lasts only a short while.
As we begin a new year, we have been given another opportunity to rededicate our lives to building God’s kingdom as opposed to our little one here in the world. We can still make resolutions for the next 12 months, but we must remember to begin them with the phrase, “If it is the Lord’s will.” Any success we experience is due to him; it is only right and proper that we begin with him as well.
We do not know for certain what a new year will bring, but we always hope that it will be better than the last one. We say goodbye to regrets, heartaches, arguments, missed opportunities, anxieties, perhaps even illness, and anticipate the coming days with eagerness. Maybe the year ahead will be a time of personal and professional growth, a time for financial increase, a time for a new job or a time for a much-needed vacation.
While we wonder about the future, God knows what lies ahead. He planned each moment of this new year long before our birth so many years ago. He alone sees where we are going and what we will encounter. Everything we are about to face will be according to his design. What we have to remember, in good times as well as bad, is that everything will work together for good for those who love him.
It would be nice to think that nothing evil or difficult will occur this year: we will not get sick; we will not experience tragedy; we will not be hurt by others; we will not have any economic problems; we will not confront disappointment; we will not have to cope with any adversity at all. But the reality of life is that many of these challenges will occur, and we will not have an easy time getting through any of them.
Day after day, for three years, Jesus walked from town to town doing the Father’s will. Each moment, from morning until evening, his life demonstrated the power and authority of God. He lived in the world without being a part of it.
Even though Jesus was attacked, maligned, mocked, jeered and rejected, he did not change. He knew who he was in God and he remained true to his purpose on earth. Nothing was able to come against him because he allowed himself to be guided and protected by God’s plan.
Jesus experienced the same temptations that confront us today. He was not immune to pain and suffering even though he was the Son of God. In fact, we seldom think about the magnitude of his struggle. Imagine how he must have felt after living in paradise and then coming down to earth. He came from glory and grandeur to face sin and corruption. Jesus knew perfection, yet he agreed to live for a short time among imperfection.
Our Father asks us to do the same. He plans for us to fulfill his good and perfect will. We, too, are asked to live for him (just as Jesus did) and to show the way to heaven. If we choose his way, God promises to care for us no matter what we encounter. He brought Jesus all the way through the cross and into eternity. Not only will God do the same for us, but we also have Jesus and the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf. The Trinity of the universe is all around us. Nothing can defeat us as long as we live according to God’s design.
This year we must be willing to trust God more than ever. Rather than placing our hope and expectations in circumstances around us, we need to put our hope in him. He is high above any of the troubles that will surely come our way. And he is ready to guide, protect, and sustain us. We have his promise, his covenant. We are his children and he is our father. He will take care of us every minute of this new year, even during times of tremendous pain and suffering. Our hope for the year ahead should be in him, and in his good and perfect plan for our prosperity. If we can find it in ourselves to place our full faith in his will, we will see – when we reach Dec. 31 – that this was indeed a good new year.
Grace for Families in the New Year
By: Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 NIV
Part of my job includes receiving letters from readers about family issues. Something that struck me this past year was how many Christian families suffer – truly suffer. Some struggle from financial woes, others from the behavior of rebellious teenagers, and some from painful relational problems within their marriages.
While I can’t offer quick fixes in this small devotional entry, I want to reflect on some scriptures here that will hopefully offer you some encouragement if you are among those facing a difficult family situation.
“The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” – Genesis 3:7-12.
First, if you’re facing a broken situation or relationship, remember you’re not alone. With the fall of man came the fall of family life. We can see this in Adam’s dysfunctional words as he blames God and Eve for his own sinful decision to eat the forbidden fruit.
You may compare your family to others and feel like a failure – like everyone else has this family thing figured out. But truthfully, we are all sinners who marry sinners and give birth to sinners. While this truth doesn’t excuse a person’s hurtful, sinful behavior (God himself is grieved by such behavior), it helps ground me a little more in reality when I find myself playing the comparison game or building up unrealistic expectations of others.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:8
Second, we’re not doomed to this sinful state forever. Becoming Christian doesn’t necessarily make family life easier, but it does make healing possible. It is through the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ that not only can we be transformed as individuals, but our relationships can also be transformed, successfully reflecting the Trinitarian love of God to each other and the world. This is God’s desire for every Christian family, not just a privileged few. For as many disheartening letters as I receive from distraught spouses and parents, I receive encouraging letters and articles from those who have found true transformation and healing in Christ. If you are a believer, know that you have profound spiritual support to overcome your family trials.
“Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” – Ephesians 5:8-11
Third, transformation requires humility, help and work on our part. This may seem like I am stating the obvious, but sometimes it’s helpful to me when a loved one reminds me of basic truths. Just as we didn’t instantly become perfect upon our acceptance of Christ, neither will our families. Each day we have choices – choices to choose Christ and accept his grace or to turn our backs. Occasionally we have breakthroughs – giant leaps forward in sanctity – but most of the Christian life consists of small, everyday decisions to seek God and live in his truth.
Sometimes we need help from fellow believers to live successfully as children of the light – even Christ, who needed no help, graciously received help from Simon in carrying his cross (Matthew 27:32). I encourage you to plug into a local support group or check out some of the resources at the end of this devotional if your family is hitting particularly dark days.
Fourth, God grieves with us. He doesn’t rejoice in our pain or sit back and watch indifferently. Whatever trial you’re facing, he is there, wanting the very best outcome even if sometimes we don’t feel his presence or understand why things are going the direction they are going. When I find myself questioning God’s loving presence, I reflect on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where he accepted the painful cup of sacrifice out of profound love for you and me.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10
True unity promoted
By: Charles Spurgeon
‘Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ Ephesians 4:3
Suggested Further Reading: Romans 15:1–13
Let us cultivate everything that would tend to unity. Are any sick? Let us care for them. Are any suffering? Let us weep with them. Do we know one who has less love than others? Let us have more, so as to make up the deficiency. Do we perceive faults in a brother? Let us admonish him in love and affection. I pray you be peacemakers, everyone. Let us remember that we cannot keep the unity of the Spirit unless we all believe the truth of God. Let us search our Bibles, therefore, and conform our views and sentiments to the teaching of God’s Word. Unity in error is unity in ruin. We want unity in the truth of God through the Spirit of God. This let us seek after; let us live near to Christ, for this is the best way of promoting unity. Divisions in churches never begin with those full of love to the Saviour. Cold hearts, unholy lives, inconsistent actions, neglected closets; these are the seeds which sow schisms in the body; but he who lives near to Jesus, wears his likeness and copies his example, will be, wherever he goes, a sacred bond, a holy link to bind the church more closely than ever together. May God give us this, and henceforth let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I commend the text to all believers, to be practised through the coming year. And to those who are not believers, what can I say but that I trust their unity and their peace may be broken for ever, and that they may be led to Christ Jesus to find peace in his death? May faith be given, and then love and grace will follow, so that they may be one with us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For meditation: God alone can create unity between the disunited (Ephesians 2:12–16); we are not expected to manufacture false unity with those who teach another gospel. But neither are we expected to undermine the unity God has already created. Rather we are to work towards its perfection (Ephesians 4:13). What is your track record in this matter? Do you need to make a New Year’s resolution?