The year 2015 has just passed. Perhaps, only certain memories remain. Even then, they shall soon fade away. Now we are into a brand new year – 2016. What will we write on its pages? Come tomorrow, what will we face? We do not know what personal struggles and pressures await us. Can we rise above them all? How we need to depend on our faithful Lord to guide and keep us in the face of life’s uncertainties! This truth was highlighted in my message on “God’s faithfulness” at our Watchnight Service last Thursday. Speaking from Lamentations 3: 22-23 – “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness”, I shared that God is true to His counsels and purposes which will be accomplished. He is also true to His promises which will surely come to pass.
o God – “the Father of mercies”
Because of His people’s disobedience, God sent the Babylonians to smite their land. But even in the depths of Judah’s afflictions, they could testify of God’s tender mercies in not utterly consuming them. Though they perished “by the sword, … famine, and … pestilence” (Jer. 14: 12), He did not make a full end of them. We read of God’s gracious dealings in Jer. 30: 11 – “For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished”.
The prophet Jeremiah could likewise testify that despite the severe persecutions he had to endure, he did not perish in prison nor in the dungeon (Jer. 38: 6). In fact, the Chaldeans who invaded the land not only spared the prophet but also treated him kindly: “Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, 12 Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee. 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, … and all the king of Babylon’s princes; 14 Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people” (Jer. 39: 11-14).
Our God is “the Father of mercies” (II Cor. 1: 3). This is the Jewish way of expressing the bountifulness of God’s mercies. It is in God’s nature to impart mercy and compassion freely to His children. Some of us may be going through tough times, but we must not entertain hard thoughts of our God. Rather, we must always acknowledge that He is kind and merciful. “Things are bad but they might have been worse, and therefore there is hope that they may be better” (Matthew Henry).
o Testimonies of thanksgiving
It is always good to give thanks to the Lord: “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations” (Ps. 79: 13). In the Berith tradition, the brethren testified of God’s gracious dealings in 2015. Our hearts were filled with thanksgiving as we recalled God’s guiding hand and providential care over the past twelve months. We do not know what the new year will bring. Whatever our lot, let us learn to thank God and to trust Him to work out His purposes for us (Rom. 8: 28).
o Getting right with God
As we enter the New Year, it is my prayer that all in Berith will set their heart and mind on the things of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus counselled His hearers: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6: 33).
In the same passage Jesus also warned His disciples against disquieting, distrustful care. He used the birds and plants as examples of God’s provision for our basic needs: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matt. 6: 26; 28-30).
Brethren, we all have our earthly cares and concerns, even our daily needs. But we should not be overwhelmed by them. Our Heavenly Father knows our needs: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matt. 6: 31-32).
In Matthew 6: 33, the word “seek” has the idea of making a persevering and strenuous effort to obtain. Note also the word, “first”. The secret to a happy and abundant life is to set our heart on loving and obeying the Lord. When we make Him our chief pursuit or priority in life, He promises to meet all our physical needs – “all these things shall be added unto you”.
To conclude, let us ask ourselves some questions. In the past year, have we put the Lord first in our lives? What is the state of our soul? Are we so pre-occupied with worldly concerns that we have no time for the Lord? Have we set God aside? If we have not been right with the Lord, let us get right with Him. Make a fresh start with the Lord in 2016. Amen.