A New Year is Dawning1
Once again, the calendar has come around and we are about to flip the page from December to January, and with it, a move into the new year. There is nothing magical about the change from 2019 to 2020 – your life will not all of a sudden get better; you will not have new resources of willpower to keep all your resolutions; and the world will not be more peaceful. But the end of a year and the start of a new one is an excellent time to reflect. I want to encourage you to reflect in two ways this New Year: first, reflect on the blessings that the Lord has given you in 2019 and the lessons He has taught you, and second, reflect on how you will seek to obey the two Great Commandments in the coming year.
I find that I often forget the blessings that the Lord has provided to me over the past year because my vision is to firmly fixed on a narrow point in time: right now, this moment. I am concerned about my needs now. I am focused upon my circumstances now. But it is better to think back and see how faithful the Lord has been to me in the past year. Why? Because I can better face the challenges of the moment when I realize that the Lord is faithful to His promises. When I remember that God has kept His promises to me over the year (over and over!) I have great confidence that He will keep His promises to me in the coming year. Solomon (the wisest man on earth) understood this and made this his practice. 2 Chronicles 6:10 records his statement of praise to the Lord for keeping His promise to the house of David:
Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.
Solomon then goes on to pray and dedicate the temple, talking about the future blessings he expects to see from a promise-keeping God. Do you remember what God has done in 2019? How He has provided materially for you, even in hard times? Do you remember the friends and family He has brought into your life to encourage and love you? As the hymn advises, “Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Seeing God’s past faithfulness allows us to be confident in His faithfulness in the future. This is one of the main themes of the Bible, and it is a great practical help. Perhaps you already see challenges on the horizon – health challenges, financial challenges, relationship challenges. The Lord has not promised you (or me!) a carefree and easy 2020, but He has promised that He “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Can you say with the Psalmist, “commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act”? I pray you can. The New Year is a good time to plan to set aside time for prayer each day, time for reading the Bible each day, and time to tell others that you love them. Know in advance that you will not be perfect. You will miss days. You will forget. You will be tired and want to give up. But each day of the New Year brings new blessings from the God who loves you and gave His Son so that you could be reconciled to Him. So if you fall down, ask the Lord to pick you back up and start again. Resolve to love the Lord with all your heart and mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-39)
Finally, no New Year post would be complete without some guidance on Bible reading for the coming year. Each year, Ligonier Ministries posts several Bible reading plans online. You can download a PDF and store it on your phone or print it out and put it in your Bible. You could also download an app to use for reading on your smartphone or tablet, many of which also have an audio option so you can listen instead of reading through the Bible. Our own Christ Church app has a tab with a Bible reading plan in it. So does the Ligonier app. There is a wonderful Bible app that not only has a reading plan but many versions of the Bible from which to choose. There is even a ReadingPlan app that allows you to choose from a half-dozen plans and marks off passages as you read. I hope that 2020 is a year in which you grow closer to the Lord and that He makes even clearer to you His love.