We have closed the book of 2022. Possibly you are reflecting on some of the triumphs and trials of this past year. Most everyone experienced some highs and lows over the last twelve months. Hopefully, we have learned from our past. You may be familiar with that old saying, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” It means that people should learn from their mistakes, and that should give us the impetus for better planning and goal setting.
We can begin this New Year with a clean slate, anticipating more incredible things to come remembering God’s plans have always been to prosper His people. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV. Keep close to your heart that God can transform ordinary events and difficult trials into moments that help His plans to prosper.
In our darkest moments, however, we must remember these words of God: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV.
These are such encouraging words from our Savior. He knows our future, and His plans for us are excellent and full of hope. That does not mean that we will be spared pain, suffering, or hardship, but that God will see us through to a glorious and triumphant outcome. Eternity should be our focus.
“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a NIV. Know this! Living a Christian life requires concentration and hard work. It requires us to give up the thoughts and materials of this world that may endanger our relationship with God. Our faith is tested over and over. Faith is an action verb; faith, apart from action, does not exist.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Read Hebrews chapter 11, which is full of people famous for their faith. These faith heavyweights not only saw with eyes of faith, but they also acted on that faith. You will be able to witness their faith in action. The chapter begins with Abel and ends with Jesus.
These Jewish heroes did not receive God’s total reward because they died before Christ came. “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us…” Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV.
Looking forward to this new year, we can reflect on our spiritual ancestors who lived by faith and follow their example. We can be encouraged by their stories, and even more so, we can look forward to the Trinity, who looks encouragingly back at us.
Every decision you make has an outcome. Look at the case of Ashley Smith of Atlanta. On March 11, 2015, Brian Nichols escaped from his Atlanta rape trial, confiscated a gun from a deputy, and killed a judge and court reporter before fleeing. That evening he forced his way into Ashley’s apartment and held her hostage for seven hours.
The movie, “Captive,” released in 2015, tells Ashley Smith’s true story. That night, while held captive, Ashley (a meth addict herself) read Brian Nichols passages from the Bible, cooked him a meal, and read to him from a self-help book. Long story short, Ashley never touched illegal drugs again, and Brian Nichols surrendered to law enforcement officers without harming his captive.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians (4:5), “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” Ashley could have taken on the role of the victim, but she chose to play an active role. Most assuredly, her decision saved her life.
God presented her with the opportunity to witness just as he does for each of us. We must take action when circumstances arise, regardless of how large or small. Will we take the occasion to be a witness to others? We should be wise in our contacts with outsiders (non-Christian), making the most of the opportunities to share with them the Good News.
Embrace the new year with the Apostle Paul’s words. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 7:17 NIV. And look for those strange and different situations that give us opportunities to serve the Lord.
Pat Throckmorton, December 29, 2022