God Will Provide
Matthew 6:25–34 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We stand at the end of one year and the beginning of another. 2019 is just around the corner and it promises to be a year of change, a year where who we are as Hope Church is going to be different as there will be a change in leadership. It’s easy to worry, easy to doubt our future and yet Jesus invites us not to worry, to take a look at the birds and how even in winter God provides for them, how the flowers aren’t really visible right now as they’re sleeping and waiting for spring to arrive, but we know that at the right time they will pop their heads above ground again and share their beauty with us, beauty that even Solomon couldn’t match.
God will provide for us, he will take care of us, even if things are going to change. We don’t walk alone, we don’t need to fear the future because God knows what we need and Jesus tells us that we can trust our Father in heaven to provide what we need. We’ve just come through Christmas where we remembered how Jesus came and became human in order to save us from our sin so that we are made beautiful and holy in God’s eyes. Jesus encourages us to focus on seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness in the year ahead, making God the priority in your life, keeping your eyes and heart focused on what God desires right now and leave the worries of tomorrow for tomorrow.
God Will Respond to Our Prayers
Matthew 7:7–11 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Prayer is an important part of your relationship with God, important enough to set time aside each day to stop and talk with God, even if it’s only a number of brief moments throughout your day where you take whatever you’re doing and ask God to bless it or to guide you. Prayer is a conversation you have with God where God promises you that he listens and responds. As Jesus tells you, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” You don’t come to God as a beggar, rather you come as a child wanting to be closer to your father, to know him better and to share your thoughts, dreams and plans with him, asking for his blessing with the confidence that he will bless you. As we sit at the beginning of another year, I invite you to focus to building a deeper relationship with God through prayer rather than having only a passing acquaintance with your heavenly Father. God promises you that, as your loving heavenly father, he will give you good gifts beginning with the gift of a deeper trusting relationship with him that will also shape your relationships with others in wonderful ways.
A God Who Understands
Hebrews 4:14–16 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
In the coming year, we can all be sure of one thing, we will all face temptations of different kinds, all designed by Satan to appeal to each of us personally where we are weak and most likely to fail if we try to fight them on your own. Temptations are hard because even if you have someone close to you who is walking the faith journey with you as a spiritual guide, mentor or accountability partner, temptations are hard to admit to because they reveal your weak areas emotionally or spiritually to this person. Yet we do have someone whom we can reveal all our weaknesses to, all the things we’re tempted by because Jesus understands completely because he’s been tempted just as you are tempted.
Hebrews tells us Jesus understands because he faced temptations and yet overcame them. You can read of some of his temptations in Matthew 4 where Satan approached Jesus and tried to get Jesus to take an easier path through life rather than the path Jesus’ father had created; a path that leads to the salvation of humanity. Jesus fought Satan with Scripture, knowing that God is faithful to his Word and that the Word of God is stronger than the lies and deceptions of Satan. When you face temptations, you can bring them to Jesus and his Spirit will guide you through them. The Spirit may use a mentor, a good friend, or your conscience to give you strength and wisdom, which is why it’s important you have good Christian relationships with other followers of Jesus as the church is the place God has created for us to experience his presence and power in a special way. May the Spirit guide you this year and open your eyes to those here the God can use to walk with you to overcome the temptations you will face.
Pardon from Sin
1 John 2:1–2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Pardon from our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. This is an older way of saying what Jesus has done for us by coming to earth as a child, living life with us, and then dying on the cross. Pardon is much more than forgiveness. Jesus’ death was much more than about taking our punishment, our sin onto the cross; he carried all the sin of the world on his shoulders as he hung on the cross between heaven and earth; unwanted by heaven and rejected by humanity because of the sin. Jesus died so that the sin we all do will no longer keep us from God or condemn us to eternal life outside of the presence of God as God’s wrath against your sin has been turned away and turned towards Jesus in our place. Pardon is about wiping our son completely away, making us new people, new creations again, which is more than forgiving our sin but still remembering what we had done. I love how the Heidelberg Catechism puts it in question and answer 43, Q What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross? A Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to him.”
To experience this pardon from sin, you simply need to receive it by faith as John tells us in his gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We have been saved by grace through faith, as Paul says in different ways over and over again in his letter to the Roman church. This allows you to move forward into the New Year with confidence, free from shame and guilt if you believe in Jesus, knowing that your sin is pardoned and you are being made new through Jesus. In response then, Jesus does call you to “Go and sin no more,” and to show him your love through obeying everything that he has taught you in his Word and through the Holy Spirit. Let this be your New Year’s resolution for 2019.
Jesus is Working for Our Good
Romans 8:28; 35-39 “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose… 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This last section begins with the promise that in all things God works for the good of those who love, who have been called according to his purpose. God doesn’t promise that there won’t be difficult times; that you won’t get hurt or hurt others, that suffering or illness or even death won’t enter your life in 2019, but God does promise that nothing can separate you from his love and that he is working all things, everything for your good. The hard thing is that we often don’t know what’s good for us, we don’t see how suffering or hurt can be good for us, at least not right away. It’s often only after time has passed when we can see how we’ve matured in our faith through those hard times.
This is what God’s love for us is all about; it’s about us growing up, not in years older, but in depth of faith. This is why God has brought us together as a church and as people and families, to intertwine our lives so that we can encourage each other to live more into the image of God. I pray this gives you the focus, confidence, and hope to dedicate your life to walking in God’s way and growing deeper in your faith with God and relationships with each other.
It all starts with God because we are imperfect, but with God there’s always the knowledge that God’s love is always at work to make things shape out for our good. God normally does this work of growing us through the church; the body of his Son, the building where his Son is the cornerstone. It’s with each other that we learn how to express love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, encouragement, and experience accountability and challenge to walk deeply in God’s way. As we begin the adventure of 2019 with no clue of what really lies ahead, let us walk together with God and learn the contentment we are promised when we truly trust that God is our God and we are his people.