Facing the New Year challenges, it is proper to look back to see what God has done. David, the psalmist, in looking over the past exclaimed in psalm 126:3 “The Lord has done great things for us, for which we are glad”. We too, by looking over the past year, can say the same thing. God has spared our lives to this present moment. He has sent us the sunshine and the rain so that our crops might grow. He has fed us, clothed us, and sheltered us. He has given us health and strength; He has given us dear ones and friends. We have our work to do. He has provided teachers, preachers, doctors, schools, the church and all things needful for our bodies, minds and souls. He holds the world in His hands, causes the sun, moon, stars and planets to shine and has taken care of all his own.
Today, with grateful hearts, we can say with Samuel; “Thus far the Lord has helped us” 1Sam. 7:12. We can raise our Ebenezer and say “Thus far the Lord has helped us”. The old year is gone and we are in the New Year. I believe our New Year resolution should have been to make this world a better place. All honest, God-fearing people surely long for a better world to live in, and in which to raise their children. But don’t expect help from our local, state or federal government; for needed improvement must be generated from another source! “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34) “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen for His personal inheritance” (Psalm 33:12) but government, nor a nation, per se is neither righteous nor sinful! Rather these attributes pertain to the citizens! If you want a better world, then better yourself; that brings forth immediate results. When we pray for a better world, ask Him “Lord, let it begin with me”.
- Seek to know the will of God: Someone said “No people can behave better than they have been taught!” that is undeniable true! And therein lies the cause of our dismal failures! Long ago God said to His people, “For my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you” (Hos 4:6). The frightening fact is that very few people (and this includes the church) really study God’s word; can each family, boast of having a bible in her home? If we would make this world a better place, it is vitally essential that God’s word be preached to them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Thess 1:8)
- Better yourself spiritually in this new year: There is no way we can re-write the record of the past year. You can’t turn back the hands of time or rewind the day, revise the calendar, re-call one minute, or live again one second once it is past. But we cannot allow past failures or our glorious achievements to mar or impede spiritual progress. Rather we should quote “forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. (Phil 3:13-14). We must have that kind of faith as we stretch for goals in the New Year with confidence we may say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil 4:13) we must trust the lord to be with His people in the New Year! He promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper and I will not fear what men shall do unto me” (Heb 13:5-6). All the while we must be careful and watchful. Why? “Be sober, be vigilant, because your enemy the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking who he may devour” (1Peter 5:8), 2Cor 2:11 “For we are not ignorant of his devises”. So no excuse to say that the devil made me to do this.
- What are your Goals for the new year? There must be definite, attainable goals set for living in this New Year. Foremost and primarily, our goal was stated by the Lord Himself. “but seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:33). Every earthly, temporal blessing is subservient in this one goal in life. Hear this from the wise man. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret things, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). Before laying too many plans and schemes for this year, we must first establish the proper priorities!
- The New Year is unexplored and unknown! As Israel approach Jordan to enter the land of promise, specific orders were given as to how they should progress. The explanation was “For you have not passed this way before” (Josh 3:4). The New Year presents the same challenges for us. Wisely, we must accept Paul’s advice, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise; making the most of the time because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16). Surely we have become aware of the wickedness growing more prevalent, with evil on every hand. Saints are exhorted to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Col 4:5). Redeeming time means “buy back opportunities for good” “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially them who are of household of faith” (Gal 6:10). Grasp every opportunity the New Year offers, opportunity of hope and service, also don’t hide your talent.
- Begin by “renewing of your mind”: we are told “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2) self-improvement can start by committing of memory and to practice, this verse, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise; think of these things” (Phil 4:8). Right thinking improves the whole man, “for as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov 23:7). Saints of God should resolve to spread kindness and good cheer. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake had forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32) friends, put this rule into practice. Are you inclined toward selfish goals? Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:4-5) First, set your mind on right things. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God”. Set your affection on things above not on things on the earth. (Col 3:1-2). When you turn your face from this sinful world, heaven seems much nearer.
- Face the New Year courageously: We must face the new year without fear and trembling. We can say with Paul. I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). We must have faith and trust in His divine guidance as we submit unto God’s will. But we can still confidently say, “O lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps! (Jer 10:23). But God has provided the light for our way; and we may say; “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway” (Psalm 119:105). By looking to the Bible we can triumphantly forge ahead. “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). This illumination we need to light the darkened way for the New Year.
- Happiness not found in riches: Even though delayed, we wish for each of you a Happy New Year! But true happiness is not found in that which is often most desired. First happiness is not found in material riches. Many very wealthy financiers have died in dejection and despondency. Jesus gave this to all who would be happy in the new year. “Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15) (1Tim 6:9-10). How much happiness came from Achan’s wedge of good; Judas’s 30 pieces of silver or Demas’s love of the world?
- Happiness is not found in power and domination: The prophet counseled; “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (Jer 45:5). The spirit of Christ opposes self-exaltation. Jesus taught (Matt 20:25-28). Further we are told. But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (1Peter 3:14)
- Happiness is not found in pleasure, nor in seeking fun and merriment: pleasure is too fleeting to be our goal in life. The wise man penned; “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of mirth is heaviness” (Prov 14:13) John wrote; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world: and the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that does the will of the Father abideth forever” (1John 2:15-17). Possibly no other man fared so sumptuously on wealth, fame and pleasure as did Solomon. But turn back to find how much happiness it brought him (Eccl 2:1-11). Solomon describes the vanity of pleasure and wealth in these verses.
Verse 4: Then I began doing great things. I built houses and I planted fields of grapes for myself
Verse 5: I planted gardens, and I made parks. I planted all kinds of fruit trees.
Verse 6: I made pools of water for myself and I used these pools to water my growing trees.
Verse 7: I bought men slaves and women slaves. And there were slaves born in my house. I owned many great things. I have herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. I owned more things than any other person in Jerusalem.
Verse 8: I also gathered silver and gold for myself. I took treasures from kings and their nations. I had men and women singing for me. I had everything anyone could want.
Verse 9: I became very rich and famous. I was greater than any other person that lived in Jerusalem before me.
Verse 10: Anything my eyes saw and wanted, I got it for myself, my mind was pleased with all things I did. And this happiness was the reward for my hand work.
Verse 11: But when I looked at all the things, I had done. I thought about all the hard work I did. I decided it was all a waste of time. It was like trying to catch the wind. There is nothing to gain from all the things we do in this life.
Conclusion: Live each day of the New Year in view of the judgment (2Cor 5:10). May God help us to soberly reflect on this message in Jesus dear name. Amen... By Dr. S. P. Ekanem (Elder).