This post was originally published in Faith Talk Ministries in January 1, 2012. I found the personal insights therein both timely and timeless. It is my prayer that the post will inspire you to reflect upon the real hope of your 2013.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”
1 Timothy 1:15
2013. It’ yet another year. Another chance. A chance to do it right, set things right, get it right and get right with people and God. Yet, even as we make our plans, resolutions and vows, we are still confronted by our greatest obstacle: SELF. Some of us may consider getting more money (and pursuing more investments) to be a resolutions that are not spiritual enough… not deep enough. So, in order to avoid appearing shallow, we don’t say it publicly, even though that’s where our hearts reside. Instead, we publicize our hope for a deeper intimacy with God, a closer walk with God, a deeper knowledge of God, a greater understanding of God…. etc. These sound like safe resolutions, noble goals, undeniable desires. Yet, I have lived through enough Januaries to know that resolutions, no matter how sincere, get old, plans get dismantled and our spirituality still gets… well, recycled.
THE NEW YEAR AS ANOTHER CHANCE TO FAIL
I have learnt to see the new year as another chance to fail. A chance to get it wrong, make wrong decisions and even fall out with people. Yes. These things will happen, even though our noble desires and hopes are that we’d rather have them not happening. I started off this year reading the book of Ezekiel, and one thing that I thanked God for is that He no longer (I could be wrong) sends such prophets today. Please note, that just because God may not send such prophets doesn’t mean that He doesn’t work in similar ways. I wonder what it would be like to be told that you are going to get worse, you’re going to fail and turn away from God, you’re going to forsake your first love and worship idols. On top of this, you’re going to be punished and banished for those actions. God is going to execute some of you and exile the rest from His presence… and you will not be repentant when He is doing all of this because your heart will be hardened.
Yet, after all these things have happened, God is then going to change your heart, and you will fall down on your knees in repentance, worship and reverence. A common phrase that blows my mind is the reason God provides for all the “bad” things that happen to Israel. It is the statement; “And then they will know that I am the LORD.” [Ezekiel 7:4,9,27 ...]
My wandering and wondering mind sort of stumbled upon this harsh reality as I was reading this prophetic book. What if that’s how your 2012 is going to be? What if your year is going to be riddled with harsher economic times, worse relationships, deeper heart-breaks and stubborn recurrent sins? What if the only thing physically new about your 2012 turns out to be your calendar? Yes, you made wrong decisions in 2011, regretted them and repented about your sins. But is that a guarantee that you now know better about the things you failed in? What if the devil (under God’s sovereign plan) tweaks your circumstances so that you still end up failing in the same areas, same relationships, same decisions… What then? What’s a believer to do with the possibility of recurrent sin?
GETTING BETTER BY REALIZING I AM WORSE
Before we are tempted to speculate and give “spiritualized” answers to these questions, let’s camp on them for a little bit. First of all, these questions are not new… simply because this is not the only year they have come up. Looking back on your 2012, you may have noticed that there are many incidences in which you deteriorated from the person you were in 2011. You made worse decisions in some instances, repeated similar and even worse versions of your sins than those of 2011 and even ended up doubting God more than ever. OK, maybe this didn’t happen to you. But it happened to me.
Yet, even in my slippery slope of deterioration and succumbing to the same old sins, something new was happening, I discovered just how sinful and dependent on Grace I was… and how infinitely Holy and Sovereign God was:
- I went into 2012 hoping to draw closer to God and know Him better… only to discover just how much further I was from God, how little I knew Him and about Him.
- I went into 2012 hoping to perfect my understanding of God and refine my obedience of His commands… only to discover that even my previous little understanding was greatly flawed and my obedience had been superficial all along.
- I went into 2012 hoping to have deeper relationships, intentional accountability in my friendships and realer fellowships… only to have relationships broken and some entrenched deeper in sin; and that the accountability I was chasing was self-conditioned, self-commissioned and deeply misguided.
Disappointment lurked around every turn of the month in the past year. While I expected to have deeper content to write and preach, more doctrines to reveal God and less sins to battle with, I found myself debunking even the content I had believed to be Truth in the past, bragging about my deeply flawed and skewed doctrines, and sinking deeper in the murk and mire of my own sins.
In my eyes, my Christian walk had been downhill as the years progressed.
In my eyes, I had lost the innocence of my youth in the knowledge of my God.
In my eyes, I was becoming even more hypocritical as the days passed.
Even so, the realization of God’s sovereignty over each second of the past years leads me to acknowledge that it would be blasphemous and ungrateful of me to wish or pray for a better past. I am better today, because I was worse yesterday.
GOD GLORIFIED IN MY WEAKNESS
Ironically, this also seems to be the trend in the life of every saint I have ever known or read about. The grown up David seems, in our eyes, to be much worse than the young shepherd tending his father’s sheep. We prefer the young, untainted and unexposed David being anointed by Samuel over the old, adulterating King. But God sees otherwise. What we regard as degeneration is perceived as regeneration by God. The truth of the matter is, the closer we get to God, the further we will realize we are from him. The more we desire to be like Him, the more we’ll discover just how much unlike Him we are. The deeper our understanding of God gets, the shallower we will realize we are regarding the deep things of God. That’s the irony of the Christian walk… and that’s the irony of the Cross.
That’s why I enter this new year the way I enter every new day, hour and second of my life… by God’s Grace. My desire for this new year is to live closer to, walk in step with and move by, the Truth. My desire is to live a life that glorifies God alone, in Christ alone.
My desire is not necessarily to give more than I gave last year, know better than I knew last year, pray harder than I prayed last year. My desire is simply to give, to know and to pray. I will not be bound by spiritual goals defined by “er”. My joy does not rest in the superlatives of man but in the supremacy of Christ.
I pray that my life will flow from the Cross, stay tethered to the Cross, and be guided by the Cross. May all the victories and defeats, righteousness and sins, successes and failures serve to decrease me as they increase my God. To live in light of the Gospel is my desire.
I rest in the hope that God is my hope for the new year, and I am grateful that I am one year, one day, one hour and one second closer to finally resting in His eternal presence. Maranatha.
I am a great sinner. Jesus Christ is a great Savior. There’s no greater love than this.