The Old Year and the New
by Seattle ALC
As we cross the threshold that leads to a new year, we reflect upon the year that has just ended, and we greet the New Year with quiet anticipation. In bidding farewell to the old year, we pause to give thanks for its many blessings. Some of these blessings have come to us as beautifully wrapped gifts. We have welcomed them with receptive hearts because they have brought us immediate joy. And without hesitation, we have raised our hands and we have lifted our hearts in a spirit of thankfulness to our Father in heaven.
But not all of God’s gifts come in such attractively wrapped packages. Some of these gifts we are inclined to reject rather than accept. Yes, we may even wonder if it is really God who has given them since the Bible teaches that He gives good and perfect gifts. In the school of experience, we have learned that many of God’s best gifts have been those that we would have rejected had the choice been ours. God does not always give us the things that satisfy our momentary fleeting desires or even our long-felt inner needs. It is not His practice to give us what we think we need. Instead He gives us what He knows would lend to our temporal success and be for our eternal benefit.
As we look back upon the events of the passing year, let us be assured that even the year’s most difficult experiences are not indicative of God’s displeasure, but are a reflection of His love. The Bible teaches us that no trial is pleasant during the time we are enduring it, but God promises that the benefit will become evident later. Let us ask God to mold us so that we may submit to His will, being assured of His promise that: in all things He works together for good to them that love Him, to them who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Then even at the end of this year, we can erect our stone of help, our Ebenezer, as did the Prophet Samuel, and with him we can say: Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.
As we prayerfully begin this New Year, let it be with firm reliance on God’s sustaining promises. At the age of twelve I was first introduced to a Bible verse that has become a special source of encouragement to me. At that time, autograph books were very popular. Mine contained brief poems written by classmates, notes by my siblings, and messages by other Christian friends. The writing in my childhood autograph book that had the greatest impact upon my life was by an elder in the congregation who later became a preacher of the Word. In his native Norwegian language, he wrote the words: As thy days are, so shall thy strength be (Deut. 33:25).
When I read the message he had written, I understood the words, but not the meaning. In my youthful mind, I wondered at the essence of this Bible verse. Why did this experienced Christian man consider it so significant that he would write it in a young boy’s autograph book? Not long thereafter, God started to work in my life in a special way. Through His fatherly goodness, I began to learn something of the meaning of this Bible verse, and that it had practical application even in the life of a teenager. First, God made me aware of my complete dependence upon Him. Second, He chose to reveal His enabling grace; His willingness to be the strength of my life so that I need not be afraid. In the decades since then, He has remained the strength of my life.
And so, as we begin this New Year, let us not be dismayed at the many uncertainties that continue to mark the horizon of our troubled world. Although we do not know what each day will bring, God’s Word promises: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not permit us to be tempted above that we are able; but will, with the temptation make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it (I Cor. 10:13). Let us not be unduly burdened by the concerns of tomorrow. For each new day that dawns, God will give the wisdom to discern His will, the courage to follow His leading, and the strength to walk in His way. Although we may be called upon to confront situations that are different and more difficult than those of the previous year, let us proceed with confidence in the God of our Fathers. He still moves in the affairs of men and of nations. Lift up the banners of promise and hope. Let them be unfurled in Zion. The high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, renews His pledge of faithfulness for our New Year. Hear Him say: As thy days are, so shall thy strength be
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
“Great is Thy faithfulness,
O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not,
Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided:
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”
From the Archives of the late Pastor Alvin C, Holmgren
Submitted by Pastor Stan