By: Josh Reich found at http://theresurgence.com
Do you feel let down during the week between Christmas and the New Year?
Christmas is such a fun time of the year: the presents, time with family, the parties, the endless lists of things to do, and the food. You’re exhausted, a little heavier, and a little more in debt, and the good college bowl games haven’t begun yet.
This is the week when people begin to reflect on the previous year and think toward the coming year. We think about what has happened and the things that went wrong in 2012. Some are disappointed the world didn’t end while others are excited for a new year. Many churches will begin a new series in January on the topic of purpose and meaning, trying to help people wrestle with how 2013 will be different and better than 2012.
Earlier this year, I preached from Ephesians 2:8–10, which says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Here are three things to help you as you prepare for the new year.
1. LIFE IS A GIFT
Grace is a hard topic to wrap our minds around. As a follower of Jesus, we know that we’ve been given grace. We sing about it, rest in it, share it with others as a means of helping them find their hope in Jesus.
Yet, for many people, once they start following Jesus, grace becomes something they seek to earn, or at least they work to keep it. It’s like paying someone back for the Christmas gift they got you, “Thanks for the gift card to my favorite restaurant. Here’s $50 for your trouble.” This past year was a gift and the coming year is a gift.
2. LIFE IS NOT A RESULT OF SOMETHING YOU DID
For some of us, the past year was a banner year, one for the record books. For others, the new year can’t get here fast enough. The changing of the page, seeing a new date at the end brings hope that maybe life can be different. In Ephesians 2, Paul is reminding the church in Ephesus that the great things they did were not a result of their works; they are a result of Jesus. If the past year was a year you will remember forever because of something great, take a minute to thank Jesus for it. It’s his gift to you. Rest in that. Know that he could’ve done that without you, yet, he chose to do it through you. Maybe the past year was rough; if so, keep reading.
3. YOU ARE STILL ACCOUNTABLE
No matter what the past year held for you, no matter what the coming year has in store, God still holds us accountable, but he allows it to happen and plans. I often tell my church, “I love the sovereignty of God, that nothing happens without God’s direction or permission. Yet, when life is hard, that’s the first thing I doubt about God.” You may read accountable, and feel the hammer of this past year and be tempted to think, I knew God would punish me.But the writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12 that God loves us, and therefore as his children he disciples us for our good, not for our demise. That’s why Paul starts with the word that grace is a gift, a gift we only have to receive. Once received, we are able to live and trust in the plans that God has for us, plans that he “prepared beforehand.”
Stop and thank God for the gift of last year.
That phrase goes back to Ephesians 1:4 where we’re told that God chose followers of Jesus “before the foundations of the world.” That’s part of the gift: God planned out the passions we have, the goals we have, the things we would accomplish that would bring him the most glory and us the most joy—he planned those things before creating anything.
The question that answers is, “How much does God love and care for me?” Enough to save you, rescue you, plan your good works for you joy and his glory before creating you, before the foundations of the world. Enough that on this week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, as you reflect on the past year and look ahead, stop and thank God for the gift of last year. The highs and the lows. The moments you’d like to relive and the most that you would maybe rather forget. Those moments are gifts from God. Moments to grow us, to help us become who God created us to be, to live the lives he intends for us to live.