The New Year

At the beginning of every year we have a dream of what that year might hold. We long for a desired outcome of future events and behaviors that may have eluded us in the past. The future, full of unadulterated opportunity and hope, sits in silent opposition to the past. Or, at least that’s what our culture tends to believe. When we only see a dim reflection of the past framed by self-doubt, dissatisfaction, and desire, a New Year must holds new beginnings and a chance to make dreams come true. The standard New Years mantra is, “It’s been a long December, but there’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last.”

Many people begin the New Year with a belief that this year “must” be better than the last. I, like millions of other have made countless New Years resolutions, attempting to better myself and to make the most of the future. And, like most people, my resolutions have ended in utter failure. They did not failed because the New Year held less than I believe it would, but because my resolutions rested in two false assumptions: First, that the past year was something that needed to be shaken off my boots, being unworthy to accompany me into the future. And second, that I could be resolved enough to change my behavior, alter my situation in life, or to make the New Year better than the last. Neither of are true.

As I look into the future of 2012, I don’t want to start the New Year with distain for the past or a list of hollow self-serving resolutions for the future. I want to start the New Year with a prayer. I want to set this year in proper perspective to God. I want to recognize the grace and mercy God has show me in the past as well as recognize that the future only occurs because of His power and goodness. 2012 is not about me. It is not about my will, my power, or what I desire for the future. This year belongs to the Lord.

In approaching the future I feel I must first look to the past and recognize that, even through the hardship of last year, there was always the goodness and grace of God. Goodness far beyond what we deserved. With many out of work and more dissatisfied with their station in life we must remember that God is always at work and only in Him will we find true satisfaction. All the events of this last year should point us either to rejoicing in the Name of our Lord or calling out to Him in repentance. As I look back at 2011, I want my prayer for the past to be the word of Reverend Billy Graham;

 As we look back over this past year we thank You for Your goodness to us—far beyond what we have deserved. May we never presume on Your past goodness or forget all Your mercies to us, but may they instead lead us to repentance, and to a new commitment to make You the foundation and center of our lives this year.

And so, our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith. This I ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come. Amen

In many ways 2012 started off like most other years. I approached the fresh calendar like a new moment in time. Not a time disconnect from the past but a fresh start to accomplish all I was unable to in 2011. But as I looked at 2012 I found myself dissatisfied, not with the past, but with what I desired for the future. It seemed that the things I desired where not of great significance. They were important, but if they did not happen things would still be ok. It is hard to be resolute about things like that. My desires were self-focused. Desires, I believe to be good and important but, not unique to God. They were things I could accomplish or fail at on my own. As I wanted to start this year off with a prayer and not I resolution I found myself wanting to know what God wanted for me in this New Year.

As I returned to work during the first week of January, I was able to listen to a few of the session of the Passion conference online. It was here that God showed me what He desired my prayer to be for 2012 through the words of Louie Giglio. Louie’s top prayer for this year was for God to give him the words to fearlessly proclaim the gospel. With all the other themes, speakers, and motivations of the Passion conference I believe this one phrase to be the most powerful and important of them all. I believe through this God placed a prayer on my heart for the New Year.

My prayer for 2012 is that God would give me the words to fearlessly proclaim the gospel. To speak truth in love but to never move away from using my words, above all else, to communicate all that the Lord has done for me and what He has done for all of those who would choose to follow Him.

This prayer is rooted in the importance and power of the spoken word. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all time and when necessary use words.” I do not believe this to be a legitimate response to the truth of Scripture. The word “gospel” appears almost 100 times in the New Testament in that, more than 75% of the time it is directly connected to verbal communication. The other 25% of the time, the “gospel” is related to truth which has been communicated in one form or another.

While our actions must be in unity with our words, our actions alone do not communicate the truth of God. It takes the spoken Word of God to clearly distinguish the origin of our actions. You can give a thirsty man a drink but unless you tell him that you come in the name and purpose of Christ, you leave him to praise whoever he desires for the drink you offer. This is cruel and unjust and leaves the man in danger of being eternally damned.

I want 2012 to be about God, His power, grace, and faithfulness. I do not want it to be focused on my power, actions, or accomplishments. I want it to be about the bold proclamation of the Gospel and not merely a life lived by biblical principles. Bill Hull says, “One of the most arrogant things a person can say is, ‘I will let my life speak for me.’ As Sam Shoemaker used to say, ‘that is too much about us and too little about God.’”

Lord, I pray You grant me the boldness and words to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel to all who are lost. May my actions reflect the words I speak and the truth of Scripture but may I never rest the importance and power of your Gospel in my actions alone. No matter what gets accomplished or not, may this year be about You and You alone. May Your words spoken through me, and other faithful men, change hearts and bring repentance. I pray no one is able to look at my actions and attribute them to my own power or desire because I have not had the boldness to speak your truth to them. For it is not to us but to you be the glory. Amen.