The conclusion of 2016 has been delightful for me. A beautiful Christmas eve service focused our family on the birthday of our Savior. Christmas Day worship added to the “usual” yet extraordinary and traditional expectations of Christmas Day with family, friends and especially grandchildren. Judy and I were blessed to have the entire family minus one with us this year – three out of our four children, their spouses and seven grandchildren together with pets (two great Danes and two smaller dogs). Our house was filled with joy, festivities and excitement. In just four days we celebrated two Christmas dinners and two more birthday parties!
So now that we have experienced “the most wonderful time of the year” (as the song goes), we are looking 2017 square in the face. A whole new year of uncertainties, opportunities, unknown challenges and blessings. Only God really knows what we should expect in the coming year. I was recently edified by this Psalm, which gave me optimism and encouragement for the unseen future.
Psalm 20 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!
3 May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!
5 May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
6 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.
9 O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call.
We have lived long enough to know that we should expect the unexpected. There will surely be challenges, problems, difficulties and heartbreaks in the future. With this in mind, here is what I gleaned from Psalm 20 as helpful insights for me. These are also what I wish for you in the coming year:
- Turn to the LORD in times of trouble – look to him for protection. There will surely be times of trouble, crisis and confusion. In these times, look to the LORD. He loves his people and is totally committed to them. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Count on him to keep his word.
- Seek the fellowship and encouragement of other Christian believers for support and advice. God uses his people as his instruments to meet the needs of one another. Praise God for the encouragement, advice and his provision in meeting our needs. Recognize that participating in the lives of others means both receiving and giving as you are able.
- Worship God regularly. God takes delight in our regular attendance and participation in worshiping him with his people. All that we have is a gift from him. Learn to appreciate, adore and find delight in the LORD God.
- Seek God’s direction as you make your plans. I must purposefully submit my desires and ambitions to the Lord, seeking his priorities and considering his commands. I must find my delighting him and learn to enjoy him.
- Learn more about God and experience him through his Word and prayer – enjoy him! My relationship with God is just that – a relationship not an arrangement. I must resist the tendency of complacency by expressing both my needs and gratitude to the One who delights to hear me. My relationship deepens as I hear him speaking through his word as I respond in prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, confession and petition.
- God’s plan and purpose unstoppable; so stop resisting him. Remember that God is always in control. He will accomplish, and is accomplishing his purpose for his people – including me. In doing so, he hears and answers the prayers of his people. God is always looking out for me, providing what I really need, even when it doesn’t seem that way.
- Resist relying on anything or anyone besides God. There are temptations to trust in other things – to find security and belonging through many things other than God. Believers find their hope in the Lord!
- Frustration and disaster await the faithless, but God saves his people and graciously causes us to stand.
- Praise the Lord! He answers when we call upon him.
To some of you this might seem pretty religious. That’s only because it is. Actually, these speak more of a relationship that a religion. It speaks of a relationship with God, a righteous God who relates by his grace to rebellious people – like me and like you. God uses our troubles to get our attention. Otherwise we would likely ignore him.
But God continuously calls people to himself. He is calling people who have resisted and rebelled against him – People who have ignored and insulted him – People like me and like you. One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “the God of Jacob.” Jacob was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson. When you read about him in the Bible, you don’t get the picture of a very “holy person.” From his birth and throughout most of his life, he grabbed after what belonged to others. He deceived his father, cheated his brother and his father-in-law after getting his comeuppance. He was a master manipulator always looking out for number one. If there was ever anyone who didn’t deserve God’s favor, it was Jacob.
And yet, God loved him. God, forgave and changed him. God used him in wonderful ways. Mostly, he used him as an example of his compassion and grace. So, when I see “the God of Jacob,” it reminds me that God delights to show his grace to people who don’t deserve it.
Bottom line: we can have a happy 2017 by trusting and obeying our God. Receive his forgiveness by trusting in his son Jesus Christ. Rest in his love and power. Resist temptations to look beyond him. Cry out to him when you need him and thank him for his love.