The current year is coming to a close; a new one is dawning! How has the current one been; were your expectations met? Were you so disappointed that you can’t wait to see the New Year? What are your expectations and hopes for the coming year? It is natural to expect improvement in areas of life where things have been difficult, rough, or painful.
Looking back on the past twelve months, what didn’t go well, and what were some of your frustrations and challenges, and how do you plan to turn things around? If you expect things to turn around, you need to know what went wrong and why. Only then can you start to look for the right solutions.
Before you think about what to put on your list, I’ll like to remind you that some of the issues you might consider problems are actually the standard to the Christian life. For example, Jesus told His disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33 NLT). Trials and sorrows are therefore to be expected, except that we don’t know how or when they’ll show up. This doesn’t mean we should be constantly worrying and looking over our shoulder to see what is coming down the pike. With that said, we need to remember the Lord’s admonition, “Take heart, because I have overcome to the world” (John 16:33).
The following will help us cope effectively with the challenges of the coming year.
BE ON THE ALERT:
The children of God should be watchful, not living carelessly. We should be on the defensive! Peter, the apostle, explains why, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith” (1 Peter 5:9 NLT).
While being watchful, we should also be ready 24/7 to engage the devil on a moment’s notice, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:11, 13 NLT). For the list of the complete armor, see verses 14-18. For example, if you were faced with a gossip situation, the Word of God about gossip that you’ve already hidden in your heart should jog your memory, to excuse yourself from the situation, and not get caught up in it.
Jesus told Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41 NLT). Why? Because if we stay asleep (not knowing what’s going on around us), and neglect to pray for strength and courage, we become very vulnerable to the devil’s attack. Again, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus told the disciples, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation” (Luke 22:40 NLT). When we pray, we demonstrate faith, which intercepts the devil’s fiery arrows. As we face a new year, let’s prepare to stay on the defensive, always ready to engage the enemy of our souls.
Trials will come; it’s only a matter of when and how. We need to be prepared to give thanks for them, no matter how painful, because they serve a good purpose. First, we learn that we should give thanks in all things, because it is the will of God for us (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Second, we should give thanks because none of our experiences are ever wasted; God uses each single one of them in the process of developing our character to line up with His own. Through our experiences, He gets our attention, rebukes, disciplines, encourages, teaches us (or others), or tests (not tempt) us. Third, the end result of our experiences (godliness) bring Him glory (see Romans 8:28).
Sometimes, our sufferings are the result of our sins. When we’re not sure of the cause of our sufferings, we should start with a soul search, and repent as needed (see 1 John 1:9). Even if our suffering is the result of sin, God still teaches us valuable lessons through it. Like I said before, no experience is wasted.
There is no trial we can overcome on our own, Jesus clearly said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT). We need Him, and we need to rely on His promises; He never goes back on His Word. When He says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:29 NLT), He means exactly that. If we really believe and claim that promise for instance, nothing in the coming year should frighten us. That assurance should enable us to completely lean on Him. And if we wonder why we should trust Him, He says, all power in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, and He has overcome the world. What beautiful promises!
The New Year is only a few days away. Have you learned anything from you failures from last year? Don’t lose heart; the Lord Himself will be your strength, and carry you through the next one. Trust His Word, put on the whole armor of God, and watch and pray. The apostle Paul urges us to be serve the Lord more fervently, because, “Our salvation is nearer than when first believed” (Romans 13:11 NLT). Wishing you a happy, and victorious New Year.