If we hadn’t just come out of a pandemic year, this would probably be ‘that time of the year’. The time when we take stock of those New Year resolutions and (usually) throw in the towel because of how far off track we are in achieving those goals.
Of course, this year, it’s likely the majority of us decided not to make any resolutions at all. Either way, if resolutions aren’t your cup of tea at the moment, how about reminders? Here are three for the months ahead.
Last year, for reasons mostly related to the pandemic, suffering was the world’s common denominator. If you weren’t hurting or struggling yourself, you almost certainly knew someone who was. It’s too early to tell if this year is going to look much different, but in case it involves more trials, here’s a thought: don’t waste them.
The idea that you can ‘squander’ your sufferings away sounds ludicrous at first — but it’s what happens when we don’t recognise what God is trying to teach us during the winter seasons’ of our lives.
The nation of Israel was a classic case of this throughout the Old Testament — but especially so in the book of Judges. The book practically reads like a time loop. For 21 chapters, the pattern does not waver: Israel sins, God allows them to be oppressed, they repent, He delivers them, they fall back into sin — and on it goes till, in the end, the ‘chosen people’ are indistinguishable from the surrounding Caananites in their moral and spiritual failure.
It’s too early to tell if this year is going to look much different, but in case it involves more trials, here’s a thought: don’t waste them
The nation’s steep descent — from racking up victories under Joshua’s leadership to slaughtering each other over a heinous crime — is startling, yet unsurprising when we consider how they kept returning to the same sins over and over again. Of course, not all trials are brought on by sin. The key, however, remains the same: are we able to identify what God wants us to learn? Eventually, that’s what will help us look back and see the beauty He brings out of our brokenness.
The New Testament is full of exhortations to ‘be on the alert’ for the return of our soon coming King. We see this as a constant undertone in the epistles, where an unspoken vein of urgency runs through much of the writing. That’s because early church fathers lived in the genuine conviction that their beloved Saviour would be back in their lifetimes. And the Lord would’ve expected no less.
Christians today are also waiting on Jesus — but, 2,000 years on, we do so in an admittedly far more passive, complacent way. For sure, we believe and even look forward to His appearing, but it wouldn’t be remiss to say many of us are probably surer of meeting Death first. Why does it matter?
Well, think of the time you and your classmates frantically scrambled to get to your seats before a teacher entered the room, or the time you sprung into action to straighten up a messy living room because surprise guests were dropping by. There’s a world of difference in the decisions we make when we think we ‘have time’ and when we know we don’t.
This is no less true in Christian living. The things we prioritise in this life would look a lot different if we remembered more often the Scriptural promise that Christ would return in “the twinkling of an eye” and as a “thief in the night”. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
What would we do differently if we did know? And what can we do this year to be “ready”, or better prepared, to hear Him commend us as good and faithful?
Early church fathers lived in the genuine conviction that their Saviour would be back in their lifetimes. And the Lord would’ve expected no less
You can be the hardest worker in your office, and still be passed over for a promotion. Following all the rules on the road, and still be the victim of a drunk driver. Minding your own business, and still subject to racial discrimination. There is so much inequity in the world today; so much injustice. How do you keep the weight of it from crushing you this year?
Fix your hope on the living God (1 Timothy 4:10), and store up treasure for yourself in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can destroy, and thieves cannot break in and steal (Matthew 6:20). In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul urged his young protégé to be kingdom-minded. Pursue godliness which “holds promise for the present life and the life to come”, he said. That is solid advice for us today too.
Perhaps, this year will be the one Satan truly buffets us. For sure, we will encounter demoralisation and despair. But even if every day is a reminder that far too much is out of our control, may God give us grace to remind ourselves of the greater truths. To say with the psalmist:
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14
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