There is one advantage for those of us who observe Chinese New Year: we have an extra month to think about New Year resolutions. Each New Year brings hope and the chance to start again.
This year, however, what seems to be certain is uncertainty. The world is in limbo waiting on whether there will be war on Iraq. Our lives across the oceans are so intertwined, politically and economically.
Those of us who serve the King of Kings are also being tested in our faith. My brother, David, and I feel that we and many of our Christian friends are being tested spiritually as well.
Granted, we are told that we will have trouble, but do you feel, as I sometimes do, on the brink of despair? You seek and seek the Lord for wisdom and it is hard to stay reassured. Sure, there are times that I sense his love and grace powerfully. I know I must trust in him but life this side of heaven goes on and daily we can be bombarded with all sorts of problems:in marriage, career, family, children, health, finance, and so on. We are on our own making choices, it seems.
My spirit wants to trust in the Lord but my flesh is drawn by what is going around me and I worry about my future and my children's. It wasn't so long ago when I first trusted in Jesus and I was riding this wonderful ride soaring in his strength. But now troubled with these difficult times, I feel that I am alone a lot of times. Yes, I have friends who share hope with me, but reality can get so hard to live with.
This is the refining by fire that we are called to endure. We are to welcome it with joy, said James 1. That is a hard call, but really, when you think about it, how else are we to mature? How often do we, as parents, allow our children to learn the hard way? Character building, we tell them. What are the Lord's plan for us in this difficulty? What new levels is he going to bring us to through this?
What is the Lord teaching me in this period of hardship? Several years ago, when stocks were doing well, and the economy brought us economic comfort--luxury even--what did we think of ourselves? Did affluence woo us into pride? Was there a tiny bit of self-satisfaction? Was there greed? Or dependence on earthly treasures to provide joy? What, where or who did we place our confidence in? Nothing like depressed times to bump us back to reality. Nothing like broken-ness to make you think about God.
(Challenge: When we were doing well, we felt the blessings of the Lord. Now, in difficulty, do we still believe we are living in his blessings?)
We all hate to eat humble pie, but I think I really need to learn humility. And meekness and simplicity. How to find joy and contentment in this situation? They come only from one source, really. How we respond to this testing will either sanctify us or lead us away from the Lord. How can I, then, focus my life for 2003 to move in my God's will?
As I pondered about resolutions the words of a song by Point of Grace came to mind: "saturize" on Jesus. Of course they are saying "set your eyes" on Jesus. I think I should do that with a difference. Saturize, I made that up. This year, may the Lord give me grace to seek him without any ulterior motives on my part. It's time to stop dwelling on my troubles and start looking up. At him. Time to grow up.
How often do we come in prayer really hoping to find an answer? Or hoping for that special touch of his love to be on us? How good it feels to have goosebumps and a trembling heart during worship because we feel we have been in his presence. Oh yes, of course, he is such loving Father that in his graciousness he lets that happen.
I had better grow out of this, much as he knows that I desire it. This year I should try to set aside time to come before him and give him my love for him, not expecting anything (not even the goosebumps). Instead of seeking for that mystical experience to prove his love for me, which is me-centered, I want to just search my own heart first for love and present it TO him. Love and worship him for who he is and all his goodness. Him alone, my agenda aside. Not about me, about him.
I will really need to put down, put aside, all my needs, anxieties, burdens, and sins (I have a lot of them) at his feet and leave them there offering only my love for him. I pray for his grace that I find this discipline, especially when I cannot sense his presence, especially when I want to tell him about my problems.
Secondly, "saturizing" on Jesus involves "saturating" my life with his word. He has left instruction for us in his Word, and when my master is away I need to wait patiently, following his orders until his return. Oh, for the grace to make my every moment captive to his will. I know there will be times that I forget, or get too distracted or sin, but every time I remember, I want to commit to him. He has said: "They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me" (John 14:21).
Lastly we cannot follow his word and love him without loving others. So as we all travel into a new year, left us stay together in prayer and encourage one another. Life is hard enough on our own, let us bear each other's burdens and walk together alongside with the Lord in 2003.