I've heard more than one person say that 2016 has been a difficult year ... both Christian and non-Christians have expressed this. Consider this sampling of the year's troubling events - devastating floods and fires; contaminated water sources; violent racial unrest in many cities; continued terrorist attacks; debate over gender identity; bitter and divisive election; massive cyberattacks ... and that's just here in America. Countless other tragedies have happened around the world - earthquakes, terrorist bombings, attempted coups, refugee crisis, hurricanes, etc. 2016 also saw the deaths of such iconic people as Arnold Palmer, Muhammed Ali, Gene Wilder, David Bowie, John Glenn, Prince, Merle Haggard, and Harper Lee. And for Community Presbyterian, 2016 marks the end of Quinn Hill's long tenure as one of our pastors. No doubt Quinn and the entire Hill family will be greatly missed.
After such a year we likely wonder what's coming next ... will it get worse? will the economy tank? will human rights be further diminished? will hate prosper? will terrorist activity escalate? can natural disasters get any worse?
Our response in facing a new year, especially with such uncertainty and anxiety, is to hunker down and make some new commitments ... often labeled "new year's resolutions." Even for those who dislike that label I contend most folks still look inward for strength and commitment to do better; there's just a part of us that constantly resolves to try harder to do better. I know that's my typical pattern even though I've resolved to try harder to not do that! See how hard it is to get out of that cycle?
Perhaps the answer just isn't found in us making new commitments, promises, and resolutions. And it's not that promises and commitments are bad ... in fact, they're great. But I suggest we look at the many promises from God and the covenant commitment He, as our Father, has made to us. Unlike us, He actually keeps each and every promise and always follows through with His commitments. Consider the following:
- Gen 3:15 - to Satan - "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
- Psalm 121:8 - "The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore."
- 2 Cor 3:18 - "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of he Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. "
- Gen 17:7 - "I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you."
- Isa 1:18 - "Come now, let us reason together says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."
- Phil 1:6 - "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
- Zeph 3:17 - "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."
- John 14:16 - "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever."
- Josh 1:9 - "Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
- Rom 8:28 - "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
- John 14:27 - "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you."
- 2 tim 4:18 - "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom."
- Deut 4:31 - "For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to you."
- James 1:3 - "For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness"
- Hab 2:14 - "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
- Matt 11:28-30 - "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn form me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
- Rom 8:18 - "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
- Mark 8:35 - "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."
- Eph 1:3 - "Blessed be the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places"
- 1 Pet 5:7 - "casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."
- Heb 4:16 - "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
You want and need commitment in 2017? Try to rest in God's innumerable promises and let the Gospel inform your actions, words, decisions, thoughts, motives, and life. This won't guarantee that no tragedies or difficulties will arise during the new year, but we will be able to face it all as we stand in the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.