Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hope for the New Year

5…4…3…2…1…Happy New Year!!!

As the sparkling ball dropped in the frigid temperatures of New York City during the final seconds of 2017, millions of Americans sat bundled up with blankets and warm drinks in front of their televisions to reign in the new year. They were excited to hear the joyful cry of “Happy New Year!”

For some people, the new year brings with it new hopes and dreams. Maybe 2017 was an extremely tough year. It may be a great relief to close that chapter of the book. Maybe things didn’t go quite the way you had hoped last year. Now there’s a hope for a new beginning. Then again, maybe 2017 was a great year and you’re looking forward to another great year.

But not everyone is experiencing this same level of joy and celebration about the new year. Maybe you feel like you are just barely hanging on. It was a miracle to make it through 2017, and now you need another miracle to make it through 2018. Maybe you dreamed new dreams for years, but none of them came to fruition, causing you to feel great pain or even slighted by the new year gods. Maybe you feel like 2018 is going to do nothing more than give you more of the same old crap you’ve been dealing with for as far back as you can remember.

Do you have hope for the new year, or do you feel hopeless about it? If you have hope, from where do you find hope? If you don’t have hope, why do you think you don’t have hope? I’d encourage you to spend a little time thinking about those questions as I share about the place where I derive my hope for the coming year.

I have a confession to make: I feel asleep before the ball dropped. Oops! Sorry, I was really tired that night.

Don’t mistake my lack of enthusiasm for the ball drop as a lack of hope in the coming year. I certainly have hope for the upcoming year. But the reason I have hope for 2018 may surprise you.

Some people have hope in their ability to discipline themselves to become better. Some people have hope in their boss to give them a promotion. Some people have hope in their wealth to make them happier. But those aren’t the places I’ve turned to find hope for the new year.

The hope I have is not found in something I can do, something someone else can do for me, or something I own. My hope is in God and his ability to come through on his promises. What has God promised? He has promised to bring glory to his name. He has promised to rescue all of his people from their captivity and raise them to life. He has promised to transform his people into the image of Jesus. And he has promised to unite his people to him for all of eternity. So the hope I have is in God, that he will accomplish all of these promises.

Some of you may feel like this whole God-thing is imaginary, pie-in-the-sky stuff that makes me feel better about myself. Not so fast. To believe everything God says about me is to believe that he’s far greater than I will ever be, that I can do nothing to thwart his plans, that I have nothing short of an evil heart which needs to be completely transformed, and that I can do nothing to save myself from eternal damnation. I don’t know about you, but those four beliefs don’t exactly make me feel better about myself. Quite the contrary. They make me feel worse about myself. It’s a good thing I stopped finding hope in myself!

My hope comes from God. There’s such a thing as faith which comes by believing without seeing. But God knows how much I struggle with that. So he’s been gracious enough to let me see him in the act of fulfilling one of his promises: the promise to transform my heart. When I take a look at my heart today, it looks so vastly different from the heart I had as a child. As a child, I greatly lacked the fruit of the Spirit, but today, my heart bears the fruit of the Spirit every single day. And every single day God is continuing to transform my heart so that it bears more and more of this good fruit.

I don’t tell you all of this because I want to convert you to some crazy religion; I tell you all of this because it seems I’ve stumbled upon the greatest treasure anyone could ever find. And instead of hogging it all for myself, I want to share it with you too. I want you to experience this hope, a hope which isn’t found in the created things of this world, but a hope which is found in the Creator of the things of this world.

I have hope for 2018 because I trust that God is going to continue to fulfill his promises both in my life and in the lives of the people around me.

My hope and prayer for you is that 2018 is that you would get a chance to experience God’s work in you, leading you to find your hope in him, the greatest treasure the world will ever know!

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