Every New Year up to now seems to be the same. People launch into new habits and patterns to try and bring about the changes they want to see in their lives. “This year will be different in what I eat, how I exercise, when I read my Bible, and so on.” The New Year means new resolutions and it quickly becomes like every other year.
Maybe this New Year feels different. COVID-19 and all kinds of political and cultural turmoil have launched us into a period of uncertainty that, for many of us, feels like uncharted territory. This year will be different irrespective of what snack we avoid, what exercise regime we try, or what Bible reading plan we commit to follow. This New Year we need to remember what is unchanging, so it can anchor us for the year ahead.
I would encourage you to spend some time with God and your Bible. Make a list. You could call it “Certainties in 2021.” Or maybe “New Year’s Unchanged Truths.” Or perhaps “Facts: 2021.” Instead of a list of flawed resolutions, how about a list of Facts Resolute?
Here are a few facts that remain wonderfully unchanged, and you are welcome to add your own:
1. His Character – As you read the Bible you see not only an unfolding history, but also the heart of God being revealed. His generosity in creation. His power in deliverance. His faithfulness in history. His love in redemption. His righteousness in judgment. His character is there to be seen in one story after another, one era after another, one empire after another. God’s character has always been a fountain of goodness in a dark and messy world. That has not changed.
2. His Position – As you read the Bible it is clear that God is on the throne, even though that has been continually challenged by the forces of evil and sinful humanity. Whatever 2021 may hold, it will not hold a threat to God’s rule. God is ultimately in charge. There have been many times that humanity could not see that truth from down here, but nevertheless, it remains solidly true.
3. His Promises – As you read the Bible you will find threads of promise weaving their way through the epic stories of Israel and the Church. Sometimes generations pass without a hint of fulfilment. Sometimes threats loom large and the promises look to be trampled under the feet of invading armies. Sometimes heaven seems shut off and silent. But consistently God has, and God will, fulfil His promises. That has not changed one bit.
4. His Plan – As you read the Bible it becomes clear that God has a plan. On one page you might see the rise and fall of empires, one after another, until God’s kingdom comes to establish something radically different and better. On another page you might see God’s plan quietly working itself out as a young Moabite widow chooses to cling closely to her elderly widowed mother-in-law. God has a plan that is both global and personal, yet always unthwarted.
5. His Presence – As you read the Bible you find that God’s heart is to draw close to His people. He walked in the garden with Adam. He met with His people. His glorious presence dwelt in a tent in the midst of His people. Then there was the temple. Later, little Jesus was carried into the temple. Now we are the temple. One day we will be in a place that needs no sun because God’s dwelling will be with us. His presence with His people has always been, and forever will be, a key feature of God’s great story. 2021 is part of that story.
6. His Purposes – As you read the Bible it becomes clear that God’s people often don’t know what is going on. God can declare His plans and sometimes He does, but so often we are invited to walk by faith rather than by sight. We are to trust His character and His purposes even when everything seems to drive us in the opposite direction. We know He wants us to walk in step with His Spirit in purity and by faith, looking to offer Jesus to a dying world and seeking to build up His Church, provoking one another to love and good deeds. Those purposes have not changed.
7. His Timing – As you read the Bible you will find that God is as much God over the end of the story as He is over details in the story. We can trust Him with the timing of our own death, or the timing of the Son’s return. We don’t have any certainty that we will even see the end of 2021, but we know that we will see Christ one day. In a world of disease, death, disaster, and destruction, we can live with the certainty that death will not be the end of our story. It will just be a doorway. And if we do not fear even death, then there is no limit to what God can do in and through us in this next year.
New Year’s Resolutions are all about me and my circumstances. That is why they feel so flimsy and generally achieve so little. Let’s instead be New Year Resolute – confident in the things that never change, even if the world all around us, local or global, should spiral into chaos. Some things remain unchanged, certain, absolute . . . and they are all things about our God!