As it is written:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
According to our calendars, we stand at the beginning of another new year. What should we be thinking? Almost unavoidably we pause to think about what has transpired since last January and begin to craft and hone new resolutions for the months ahead. And yet, if we’re really honest, all of the years past have never really gone according to our plans. We aim to put in at Phoenix for the winter and instead we get shipwrecked on Malta. Today we forever swear off second helpings of fudge and cookies only to be named honorary “Keebler elf” by the twelfth day of Christmas. The fact that resolutions even exist simply points back to a long record of our failures. Happy New Year indeed!
Let’s turn back the clock even further: consider our elder brothers and sisters, Isaiah the prophet and the people of God. All was not well. Each year saw the wicked Assyrians spilling over the banks of the promised land, lapping up in waves even to the gates of Jerusalem. Amidst their troubles, many flatly refused to put their trust in God and inevitably began to be confident in themselves. But as they turned from faith in God and His covenant promises, they actually stumbled and fell into shame.
So, how should we approach this new year? First, we need to be reminded what we should have learned long ago: the hand of the faithless man only delivers into despair and death. Second, our celebrations of the new year occur within Christmas season: we are to receive the new year as a gift through faith, just as we receive Jesus Christ as the gift through faith. Third, the passing of time and all of its worries belong to our heavenly Father: the righteous man knows no shame as he places all of his trust in Christ, especially for the year to come.
—Pastor Jeff Evans, Christ Church of Livingston County, Howell, Michigan
Our merciful heavenly Father, as we stand at the beginning of this year, strengthen us to place our whole trust in You through the months ahead. Let us not fall into despair or turn to our own works for hope but rather serve you steadfastly by the grace of Your Son. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.
First of all, get yourself another cookie. It is still Christmas season, after all, and you’re supposed to be feasting. Good job. Now, talk with one another about how God has been faithful to you amidst difficulties throughout the past years. What were some of the hindrances in trusting God through those difficult times? Lastly, try to number all the ways in which God has been faithful to you amidst the easy periods. Has anything prevented you from seeing God’s faithfulness in these times? Does a life of peace cause you to firmly hold on to God as when things are difficult?