The end of another year is upon us and if you are anything like me you are finding yourselves looking back and then trying to look forward.
“How did I do this year Lord?” we murmur as we consider the triumphs, failures, joys, and sorrows of a year that can never be relived. “Well, we made it through 2016 Lord, now what awaits us in the year to come?” But He doesn’t often answer that prayer does He? Perhaps it is just as well that we don’t know what lies ahead, for Jesus did say; “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
For us here in South Africa, 2016 has been a troubled year on a number of levels, but I guess those living in Europe or the United States would say the same. The economy is not likely to improve much in the year ahead and the political situation will no doubt remain tense. Americans will have to adjust to a new, and very different President; the British will have to come to terms with Brexit; Europeans will have to endure ongoing terrorism; and we in the RSA… well, we have the Robbing Hood and his merry men-in-power to deal with.
Here is the thing though:
do we believe that no matter what happens in 2017 we can make huge progress towards fulfilling our life’s goal?
No matter who we are, what resources we have or don’t have, or how healthy or stressed or challenged we are, we all have the same fundamental mission in life. We are called to know Jesus, to become as much like Him as we can in this lifetime, and to help others to do likewise. For those who don’t yet have an eternal relationship with Him, then changing THAT is the highest priority for 2017. For those who do know Jesus as saviour and Lord the mission in the year ahead is to know Him better and more deeply and, by manifesting His resurrected life in and through us, to become more like Him. And this glorious quest is never undertaken in isolation, for as we live out the Christian life we try as best we can to help others to know Jesus and to become like Him.
Now tell me, can hardship, illness, or adversity stop this from happening? NO, to the contrary, challenges and tests provide a powerful means for knowing Jesus and becoming like Him. Paul expressed something of this idea when he wrote; ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead’ (Philippians 3:10-11). Prosperity can be a means of achieving our ‘growth’ goal, but so can poverty; Health can be a means, but so can sickness. Peace can be a sought after means, but conflict can provide a challenge that accelerates our growth in Christ Jesus.
‘No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:37-39).
I can’t get back one second of the year that has gone, but I can redeem the time that lies ahead IF I can comprehend God the Father’s purpose for, in, and through me, resolve to walk with the Lord Jesus through the days to come, and learn to depend on the guidance and sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.
I won’t end with, ‘May God be with you in the year to come’; I would rather affirm the truth that God IS with you now and in the days that lie ahead.