There is something refreshing about the beginning of a New Year. Isn’t it true that at times we all long for the opportunity to start over? The New Year serves as a point and place in time where people routinely choose to erase the slate and embrace the opportunity for a fresh start. We give ourselves permission to build on our strengths and attempt to eliminate or minimize our weaknesses.
It is almost as though the turn of a calendar year is the invisible barrier that segments our lives into chapters and we long for the new and different chapter. If 2016 was a difficult and challenging year for you and your family, intuitively you hope and pray that 2017 will be different.
What does the New Year hold for you? Is there any way to know? One way is to look at the probabilities and predict. Another is to look at what we believe about life. Many years ago, John Claypool dealt with the question in a sermon by suggesting that the year ahead will not simply be the result of what life brings, but will also the outgrowth of what one believes about life. To prove his point, he mentioned some of his friends:
- Tom will be 48 next March. As he faces the New Year, he is edgy and apprehensive, but determined. He has two children in the university and money is scarce. He has got to have a promotion in his company to get a raise and there is a young man ten years his junior pushing him hard for that place. The pressure is mounting to an unbelievable level. One wrong turn and it could be all over. He feels alone and scared. And out of those feelings he has grown more ruthless than he ever imagined he might be. In the year ahead it is “every may for himself and the devil take the hindmost.”
- Ellen is as unconcerned bout the prospect s of a new year as anything else in her life. She simply lives for today and does not worry about tomorrow. She moves from relationship to relationship and from job to job. There is an emptiness and lack of meaning to her life that she tries to evade by throwing caution to the wind.
- John has been ill for at least six months. The signs are evident that he has a heart problem. But he has kept it a secret from his family and refused to see a doctor. Once when a friend at church noticed his discomfort and asked why he didn’t go to the doctor, John replied that he believed that if God willed, he would be okay. If not, what good would it do to see a doctor? ‘When your time is up, it is up. If God wills….
- Jane is a young mother who is not much looking forward to a New Year. She looks back at the year gone by with much regret. “If only I had done it differently.” She remembers that her mother told her, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” Guilt and self-doubt are her constant companions. She is withdrawing more and more…life happens to her while she agonizes over each decision. She prays to know God’s will but does not ever seem to feel she has found it. She believes that God will help her in the new year…but only if she does the right thing.
Dr. Claypool suggested that what the New Year brings to Tom, Ellen, John and Jane will be a reflection of what they believe or do not believe about God and His creation and themselves. After all, how is God involved in shaping our lives? What do you believe?
- Is he an absentee landlord who wishes us luck and departs the scene?
- Is He a clockmaker who has wound up the universe and lets it run until it finally runs out?
- Is He a puppeteer who manipulates us- pulls our strings, puts words into our mouths, favoring one and despising another?
- Is God a stern judge who keeps books on us and only helps those who manage a healthy balance of right decisions and turns his back on those who fail?
- Or is He someone quite different?
Who is God and how does He operate? What you believe about that will determine to a large extent what the New Year hold for you. Not that God will be any different, but your experience of Him will be colored by what you believe.
Isn’t it true that we opt to build our lives from the vantage point of either trusting in ourselves or yielding to belief that we are the recipients of God’s grace and that nothing touches our lives beyond his ability to share with us and support us in the process?
The Psalmist expresses it this way: “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death… We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” [Psalms 33:15]
What the New Year holds for you and I will colored by our perception of God’s presence and his ability to make all things new.
All My Best!