As we sit at the beginning of January, there is so much hope and promise that a new year brings. My heart is full of joy and wonder at the manifold blessings of God that we have seen since our arrival here in mid-August. Our gracious Father has opened up new doors for service, brought a freshness of His joy and presence among us, and is stirring within us a renewed vision of worship, obedience, and faithfulness to His Word. It is my sincere belief that God is preparing and moving all of us toward a season of greater growth, depth, and fruitfulness as His Word is preached and as His people obey and live out the Gospel. As I pray and plan for the New Year, my heart cries out: “All praise and glory goes to Him!”
At the same time, this New Year brings with it a sense of uncertainty. Numerous events of recent days and months have been bewildering to behold. It seems like hardly a day passes without whole concepts of right and wrong being turned on their heads as our culture, led by the “wisdom” of the age and the “tolerance” of the intolerant, rushes headlong into rebellion, foolishness, and ever-degrading expressions of immorality. It is a time for spiritual fortitude as we see days coming about which Isaiah warned so long ago: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20).
There are two temptations that we need to avoid in days like this. The first is withdrawal and retreat. The Scriptures do not give us such an option. We are called and commanded to engage the culture and proclaim the truth to it as salt and light. The need for such engagement is as important now as it has ever been. The second temptation, which is just as problematic, is to place our trust in our political and social activism. While we are to be a prophetic voice to the culture, we must do so in a way that does not compromise the integrity and character of the Gospel. We must not embrace a “win at all costs” mentality. God’s truths are higher, richer, and longer-lasting than any temporal difficulty or challenges we may find ourselves in.
So, how do we avoid passivity on the one hand, and fleshly aggressiveness on the other? As I reflected on this important dilemma, several promises from the Word of God formed my thinking. They will be guiding my praying, planning, and activities for 2018. I commend them to you as we begin the adventure of a new year together.
1. Take a step back and look. God’s Kingdom will prevail.
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.’
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:1-12)
2. Take a deep breath. Our trust is to be in the LORD at this time.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.” (Psalm 27:1-2)
3. Take the long view. God’s purposes will stand forever.
“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah. 46:8-10)
4. Take time to pray. It is time to seek His face for ourselves and for the Church.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
5. Take time to prepare. There may be some difficult days coming.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” (2 Tim. 3:12-14)
6. Let your light shine. Those in darkness need light in order to find the truth.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near.” (Phil. 4:5)
7. Relax and look to God. He is in control.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.” (Isaiah 41:10-11)
May these truths strengthen and encourage you in this New Year! I will be praying along with you for 2018 to be a year of growth for us and glory for the Lord. I’ll close with some words from an old hymn from Frances Havergal:
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.