Two days ago I was purchasing a newspaper, and as I took my change from the shop assistant, I said, “Thank you, and have a good new year”. His response was, “Well, I hope it is better than the last one”. Then I remembered, from a previous conversation, that he had had some considerable sadness in his personal life during the past year. Rebuking myself for being so clumsy, I said, “I understand what you are saying, and I hope and pray that this year will be a better one for you”. He said, “Thanks”, and we parted. I would like to have said more, but the shop was very busy.
However, our short conversation set me thinking: ‘What would I consider a ‘good’ new year? For anyone who does not know Christ as Lord and Saviour, the answer is easy. They must, above all things, strive with all energy and single-minded determination to get RightWithGod in 2018. This quest must stand on the fundamental truths revealed to us in the bible. We must confess that we are sinners, that our sins separate us from God and that our salvation is in His hands to give or to withhold. The bible is absolutely clear about this: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3 : 23). The wonderful thing about lour present this life is that God has made an amazing provision, not for the righteous, but specifically for sinners. In the words of John 3:16, the best-known verse in the bible, we read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten, Son that whosever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life”. Two things are clear from this verse. Firstly, that all human beings in their natural state, are doomed to perish, as those who are under the judgement of God. Secondly, that God has made an amazing provision for all who will trust in Christ as Lord and Saviour. They will instantly be made Right with God and will not perish. God is a God of great mercy to all who earnestly seek Him: “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him” (Psalm 103: 11).
Now, what about a good new year for the believer who has already been made RightWithGod through Jesus Christ? This is much more complex; but permit me to make a few simple suggestions:
1. Avoid all occasions of sin. This means avoiding company, entertainment, books magazines, programmes etc that pollute your mind and imagination. These things come between you and God.
2. Seek and cultivate the company of God. When alone try to meditate upon the glory of the Trinity: the love of the Father, the suffering of the Son and the help of the Holy Spirit. For this purpose seek times when you are alone, rather than avoid them. Matthew Henry said, “The christian is never less alone than when he is alone”. There is no enjoyment possible to man in this life like the enjoyment of God.
3. Do not look for an easy life. As a christian trials and afflictions are not empty and meaningless. God puts them there for a purpose. Try and interpret the trial when it comes, and see the hand of God there, and ask God for a submissive, accepting frame of mind. Have confidence that God has a clear purpose in view, of which we, for now, can only understand a little.
The list could go on. I felt sorry for my shop assistant friend, and I felt helpless. My hope would be that he would humble himself and receive Christ, and find meaning in all his trials