by Shawn Brasseaux
As 2010 comes to a close and 2011 begins, we want to take time to reflect upon this past year.
This past year was filled with good times and bad. There were joyous moments—graduations, job promotions, marriages, and births. In addition, there were (what seemed like) eternities of suffering—financial struggles, illness, the death of loved ones, and persecution. What an eventful year it has been!
Take this time to think about what you did this past year, and evaluate your life on the basis of God’s Word. Where does your life need improvement? In your marriage? Your schooling? At the workplace? In the local church? What are your weaknesses? Strengths? What lessons have you learned? Did you apply to your life the sound doctrine found in God’s Word rightly divided? Was it you living your life to make God happy with you, or was it Christ living His life in and through you by faith?
In retrospect, we are bothered by those two words “if only.” If only I did this, if only I did that. The fact of the matter is this only hypothetical—we did not do it, so we need not waste our time fretting about a time period we cannot change. Though difficult, we need to focus on this present moment and the future. Do not dwell on your mistakes, but rather learn from them!!
In light of the upcoming challenges of 2011, let us consider God’s wisdom found in Romans 5:1-5 KJV:
“1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
In God’s eyes, we as members of the Church the Body of Christ are “justified” (just as if we never sinned). Because Christ’s blood has washed away our sin debt, our righteous and sinless God is no longer angry with us—“we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through faith in Christ Jesus, we can access God’s grace, and we can confidently stand in God’s grace. We can then “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Furthermore, Paul says that we “glory” (rejoice) in tribulations; that is to say, we endure challenging times and suffering with joy! Paul describes this chain reaction:
- the more we suffer tribulations, the more patience we can gain
- the more patience we gain, the more experience we can gain
- the more experience we gain, the more hope we can have
- the more hope we have, the more confident we can become because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Grace never teaches us Christians that we will live carefree lives, separated from suffering and hardships. No, not at all. On the contrary, grace teaches us “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 KJV).
Being sinful human beings, we make mistakes, and our mistakes cause us and others to suffer. We live under the curse of sin and corruption, so we grow sick and eventually die. We as Christians suffer persecution from the lost world around us. Until we leave this life, we cannot avoid suffering. Who knows what trials we will face this upcoming year, but we know that God has equipped us in His Son Jesus Christ, and we can handle the whole gamut of circumstances (good and bad). As Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
For the next year, may we allow God’s grace to teach us to have “patience and faith in all [our] persecutions and tribulations that [we] endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). As we study God’s Word rightly divided, and place our faith in His Word to us, the Holy Spirit will use that sound doctrine to impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Let Christ live His life in you!!
This upcoming year, there will be times of joy and peace, but also those of sadness and suffering. We can always handle the good times, but we always struggle when coping the bad times. This upcoming year, let us remember what Romans 5:1-5 told us about enduring tribulation to produce patience, bringing experience, giving hope, and gaining confidence in grace. A part of spiritual maturity is being able to handle greater trials.
For now, we only ponder what the future holds in 2011: new opportunities in the ministry, meeting new people, and more spiritual growth are just a few of the things to which I look forward. Whatever happens, let us remember to never lose hope and grow weary—“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4 KJV). Paul wrote that in prison, you know! We cannot rejoice in our circumstances, but we can rejoice in the Lord—in who He has made us in Himself. We can rejoice “alway,” literally meaning “all the way” throughout the next 365 days… and that will bring glory to the great God and our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ….
Who knows, this upcoming year, we may be caught up to meet the Lord in the air! 🙂