Saying Hello to 2021
The start of a new year is an appropriate time for reflection. In an ordinary year, we would think back to all that we accomplished and experienced in the past year and wonder what excitement the new year will bring. But 2020 was anything but ordinary. It may not have been the worst year ever - try and tell those who experienced the fall of Rome in 476, or the height of the Black Death in 1347 (200 million dead!), or fog that blotted out the sun for most of 536 - but it certainly has been a year filled with trouble. 2020 has had a bit of everything: disease, political unrest, violence, and persecution.
I certainly would not ask for such troubles for myself or anyone else, but one thing that trials do for us is to focus our minds on how helpless we are. Who would have thought before 2020 that we would be unable to leave our homes? Or to see our loved ones? When something is denied to us, we can then appreciate how important it is. One example for me is corporate worship. I would never have dreamed I would have to preach to a small group of ten people while broadcasting online to my congregation. Some in my congregation have been unable to come to public worship for months. By God’s grace, I am glad that those days are past for many, and I hope that with COVID vaccines on the way, they will soon be in the past for all.
So here is a beneficial exercise for you as 2021 begins: think back on all the good things that the Lord has given to you in the last year. Every moment of joy, every blessing, every promise kept. Then remember that the Lord does not owe that those things to you. They all come by His mercy and grace. We often assume that we are due only good things when the truth is that we deserve condemnation for our rebellion and sin. As Paul wrote: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Both parts of that statement are important for us: we deserve death because of our sin, but we can have eternal life because of Jesus Christ.
That leads me to a second exercise for you in 2021: make a plan to cultivate your relationship with the Lord this year. Intend to enhance your prayer life. Find ways to serve others. Develop a habit of reading God’s Word. My good friend Nick Batzig has written about Quality Scripture Reading in 2021. As he wisely advises: “It is important for us to remember that in studying Scripture, quality is actually more important than quantity. In light of this, it will do us good to shift gears to focus on putting into practice some principles by which we can benefit the most from our Bible reading in the New Year.” So as you start your Bible Reading Plan for 2021 (and there are a bunch of them to choose from at Ligonier Ministries), remember that Bible reading is not a chore to be gotten through, but it is a means to hear from the Lord and grow in your relationship with Him. Another useful resource I can recommend is a book by our former associate pastor, John Carroll, Concealed and Revealed: A Year in the Old and New Testaments. It provides a daily reading schedule with passages in the Old and New Testaments each day.
May the Lord bless you richly with His presence and grace in 2021!