|Volume 17 Number 12 December 2015||
When we receive a gift, we decide what to do with it. It may be a special gift that you want to show off so you place it in a prominent place where it can be seen. It may be a very practical gift and not so pretty, but you know exactly what you will be using it for and can’t wait to use it! It may be a token of a special relationship, and you vow to renew that relationship that you’ve let flounder. There are other types of gifts that we receive and things we can do with those gifts.
Yet, the beginning of a new year is a true gift from God, and we each decide what we will do with it! It’s my hope that each one of you will have a renewed sense of dedication to and love for God in the New Year. My hope is that you’ll not allow anything to come between you and Him – not only in this year but in all your years to come if you are granted more years. After all, He is the single most important Being in your life!
We read of different kinds of years in the Bible. Jacob spoke to Pharaoh of his years when he said, “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” (Genesis 47:9). That is a sad commentary on a life. He was not a happy person. There’s a cure for that! Jacob had brought most of his sorrow upon himself as he tricked his brother Esau into giving up his birthright and their father’s blessing.
However, he later made reconciliation with Esau, wrestled with an angel, declared he had seen God face to face and became a new, God-fearing man. His life went from evil to godly. God changed his life to use him in His service for the remainder of his life.
The great apostle Paul is another example of living his first years in a sinful manner. He “made havoc of the church, entering into every house and haling men and women, committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). “Saul, yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and desired letters of him to Damascus to the synagogues that, if he found any of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1ff). Paul was torturing the early Christians in a driven way and causing hurt for many Christians.
There’s an app for that! He met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and Jesus said, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel: I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15ff). The apostle Paul met Jesus and his life did a complete turn-around. He made three great missionary journeys teaching the world about Jesus, and he is the author of 13 letters in the New Testament that have been teaching all peoples of the world about Jesus ever since. He gave all his remaining years to God! His life changed from evil to God.
The Bible gives many other examples of people who changed their days and years from evil to good as they met Jesus, either in person or by being taught about Him from others. No matter how you meet Him, if you accept Him and devote your years to Him, you will be blessed. Like Paul, you will find “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). That comfort becomes your faith and trust.
As this New Year begins, put all sin and evil days behind you and determine to live your future days and years for the Master. Make a change from darkness to light and have hope of living in eternity with God, Christ and the saints of all ages! Sometimes we sing this song, “In the land of fadeless day lies the city foursquare; it shall never pass away and there is no night there. God shall wipe away all tears, there’s no death, no pain nor fears and they count not time by years for there is no night there.”
If you haven’t done so, please give your life to Christ, and then, determine to live for Him. If you are already a Christian, determine anew to give more of yourself to Him by devoting your time, effort and energy more completely to Him to receive the blessings promised to the faithful.
[Editor’s Note: Jesus Himself summarized the divine plan of salvation when He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Dear Reader, notice the equation presented by our Lord: belief + baptism = salvation. Have you applied our Lord’s teaching to your life? Erring Christians are charged to repent and pray: repentance + prayer = forgiveness (Acts 8:22). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
This time of year, we hear so much being said about resolutions. Almost everyone makes some sort of New Year’s resolution and probably almost all of those are broken shortly thereafter! We forget about what we resolved to do, and we’re tempted to do things that are contrary to our determination to do something in particular. Alice and I made a New Year’s resolution to not let a day go by that we don’t take time to pray and read the Bible together. Of course, we pray together every day anyway, and more often than not, we study the Bible together. So our resolve was not something totally different from our previous way of life, but now, we want to make sure that, no matter what, we share a time of study, discussion and prayer together.
The definition of “resolution” in the context we are using is “to resolve” or “to determine.” In teaching the Corinthian brethren, Paul said, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Whatever the world has to offer can’t be compared to the wisdom and strength that faithful Christians can find in the Lord. Paul went on to say, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul recognized that His strength came from God, and he resolved that, no matter what, he would continue to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Was Paul’s resolution broken? NO! Paul went through more than what any human being ought to have to suffer and he did it willingly for Christ! Listen as he says:
In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often; of the Jews, five times I received forty stripes save one; Thrice I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, I spent a day and a night in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea and among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often and in cold and nakedness. And besides all those things that are without that come upon me daily, the care for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23ff)
So you think you’ve got problems? Most of us don’t even know what real problems are! After meeting the Lord, Paul never looked back and never faltered in his resolve to serve his Master.
We must be like-minded. We must resolve to serve God, no matter what! Jesus taught, “You shall love God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30). Paul told the Ephesian brethren that “for this cause I bow my knees to the Father… that He would grant you… to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:14ff). When we faithfully serve God, we are promised that “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When we resolve to put God first and serve Him faithfully, we will have the strength we need.
An old saying is “promises are made to be broken”; that’s only true because we do tend to easily and quickly break them. My prayer is that you resolve at the beginning of the year (or even now) to render greater service to God in this New Year that you’ve been granted. You can resolve from this day forward that you will serve the Lord better than before. Time is running out for all of us, and we absolutely must make the most of the days that we have left. We sing a song in which we say, “I am resolved to follow the Savior, faithful and true each day; heed what he sayeth; do what He willeth, He is the living way.” Are you resolved?