Rev. Dr. Billy Burch
A New Year, A Better Year
Isn't it amazing what thoughts and emotions are generated by the flipping of a calendar page? Stuck between the montage of events pouring through your head from the year past and the electrical current of imagination and hope for the coming year, we feel deeply and quickly a whirlwind of emotions. As with all reflection, the difficulties vie for space in our memories with the joys as if there was some sort of competition as to who would win top spot deep in the places where we feel things. Life does that. Some people avoid reflection for that very reason. Pain seems too strong a foe and might wear down any of the good thus shutting down, or at least decreasing, the hope and joy every human being needs to thrive. So, for many, the better option is to plow forward. Keep accomplishing. Work harder.
It doesn't have to be that way. Reflection is a wonderful tool which can be used to create moments of peace, nuggets of wisdom, and a sense of joy. Reflecting opens the curtain to past events allowing each act to signify the purpose for which we are here. By looking back, we can see our accomplishments and progress. We can remember the people who helped us get there and who shared unforgettable experiences. Furthermore, reflecting can unveil patterns in our lives which need attention, broken places which need healing. All of this amounts to growth and wholeness because the past always informs the future in some way.
BUT... there is a key to unlocking the ability to properly reflect. Without this key, reflection on the past has the potential to take this in a wholly negative direction. For instance, looking at an area in your life where you might need improvement, hopeful that that improvement is on its way in the new year, mindful of the steps needed to get to that better place, instead you take the position that you are a failure. Or maybe you reflect on a wonderful memory of years gone by and instead of being filled with joy, thankfulness, and wisdom, you let loss dominate your mind space and fall into discouragement thinking that the best days are over. You need the key.
The key is FAITH. I don't mean the isolated kind of faith that you see on a coffee mug or a t-shirt. Nor do I mean the kind that shows up randomly in speeches ranging from places like board rooms, locker rooms, and hospital rooms. "Just have faith." While that statement is true, it is also incomplete. Faith must have an object. That object is Jesus.
I mean that. Maybe I could have stated that the key is JESUS. And I would have been right. But I emphasize the word FAITH in order to move you to a belief that may sound eerily similar to positive thinking, but in reality couldn't be further from it. And here is my belief: this new year, the 365 days on the horizon, will be better than last year. Can I be sure of that? Yes. Can you? Most certainly. Not because we merely believe it to be so, isolated from a faith and belief centered on an object, but because we believe it to be so based on the person of Jesus, what He did for us, the truth He speaks and the promises He makes. That is why.
God is working in you and me to accomplish that which He has designed, a far bigger tapestry than we can see. He is weaving that which draws you closer to Himself making you look more like Jesus. Not merely in your character, however. God is painstakingly setting you upon a journey to make a huge splash in the the lives others. To meet needs. To care. To encourage. To help others succeed. Looking more like Jesus means you are increasing in your capacity for good. You will reach new horizons, learn new truths, gain new passions, see more needs, and be available to meet them. Looking more like Jesus in your character will propel you to look more like Jesus as a change agent in this world so desperately looking for peace, love, belonging, purpose, and joy.
Several places in Paul's writing speaks to this very concept, all worth exploring in your own time in the Word:
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)
Galatians 6:9 So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. (NLT)
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT)
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (NLT)
Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NLT)
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)
Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (NLT)
I do not know what you are facing at this particular moment. Is it something in your rearview mirror? Or is it something in your windshield? Looking back, allow yourself to reflect, but in faith, believing Jesus, see those moments as opportunities for thankfulness, joy and growth. Looking forward, know that God is doing a good thing and promises that He will keep the goodness flowing.
I shared some of this with my daughter a few weeks back and she asked, "With God, shouldn't we see every new year as better than the last one?" Great point.
Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (NLT)