The commencing of a new year is obviously a milestone in our lives. In olden days, a milestone was a place where a traveller could rest and look back to where he had come from and look ahead to the remainder of his journey. The journey may have been long or short, yet the milestone was a place for getting his bearings.
It is good to pause and reflect on what has happened. This is true on the big scale of life. This time last year no-one would have predicted that David Cameron would not be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and that Donald Trump would be waiting for his inauguration as President of the United States. In those changes in the political world we are reminded that rulers come and go, but the Lord is enthroned for ever. Probably there will be major changes in the political world in 2017 that will be very surprising when they happen, but when they do we should remind ourselves that God is on the throne.
No doubt, each of us can look back to events in our own lives that we did not understand or desire. At times, we faced disappointments, sadnesses, tragedies and crushed hopes. Sore bereavements have been the experience of some in the past year. When such events take place, we wonder sometimes why the Lord allows them to happen. About some of them, we may never get an insight regarding them while we are in this world. In such times, we must rely on the promises of God. Circumstances change, but God’s promises regarding them remain sure. He is the one who can make all things work together for good to those who love him. Job in his difficult life situation expressed his faith by affirming that when God had completed trying him he would come forth as gold.
Yet at a milestone we have also to look ahead. Whatever the next stage in life will be like, if we trust in the Lord Jesus we have the promise of his presence each step of the way. As we know, when he describes himself as the Good Shepherd, he is not only promising to meet our needs. In addition, he is promising to be our Guide (a shepherd in the Middle East walked ahead of his sheep, mapping out for them the way to go). He does not only guide when we ask for specific directions. Rather he is the constant Guide of his people. So wherever we find ourselves in the coming year, there should be the realisation that Jesus has taken us that far, and that he will continue to lead us on from there.
Good things will happen in 2017, whether in our own lives, or in our families, or in our congregation. We do not know what the Lord has in mind, but he has promised to give grace as well as glory. Grace covers a wide range of good things. The Lord will meet our needs ‘according to his riches in glory’. We often quote that verse from Philippians as if Paul had said that God would meet our needs ‘out of his riches in glory’. ‘Out of’ is not the same as ‘according to’. A rich person could give me ten pounds out of his riches, but he would not be giving according to his riches. How rich is God? If we trust in him, he will enable us to discover something of the spiritual treasures he has stored up for his people.
We should ask ourselves, ‘What is the best thing to do as we begin 2017?’ The answer to that question is obvious. We should commence the year by putting ourselves, our loved ones, and our congregation into the hands of God. The way we do so is by prayer. Even as you read this, you can do so. If you have not done so already, you can speak to Jesus and ask him to be your Saviour. And if you already belong to his flock, you can ask him as the Good Shepherd to take you safely through whatever 2017 will bring your way. And you can speak to him about it right now.