When the New Year Doesn’t Look New Enough
By Guest Writer Ronn Read
Field Team Chaplain
Saint Marys, Georgia
Quick fix. Secret formula. Magic bullet.
No matter how you say it, we all want 2020 to be over and a brand new start with 2021!
First, the bad news. There isn’t a magic new start with the New Year. January 1st is simply another day on the calendar, and it won’t bring with it any special fixes to all that has happened in 2020. We will most likely still be facing shutdowns and social distancing, not to mention sickness and death.
But there is some good news. While this season has impacted so many things negatively that won’t be made new on January 1st, we have picked up some other “new”s along the way: new skills, new perspectives, new ways of doing ministry, and the opportunity to see God in a new way.
Hopefully, you’ve also experienced one very important truth: God is still in control. Even when things might look their worst, He not only knows what we’re going through, He’s using it for our good and His glory.
One year ago, on New Year’s Eve, we gathered as a family at my oldest daughter’s house. My youngest daughter arrived a little bit late and a lot frustrated. She had just been hired as the business manager for her church and had received a phone call on the way to the gathering asking that she put together some figures for the new year’s budget—before the end of the night!
Having done many church budgets during my years in ministry, I sat down with her to help put some numbers together on her laptop, and she sent them in.
A few days later, she received a call that the numbers seemed quite low on the income side. A little investigation revealed that they had failed to tell her about another bank account that had been closed, but the figures had not been entered into the account she was working from. The decision was made that they would use the budget as presented and make adjustments as needed in the first quarter.
Then COVID-19 hit. Like nearly all churches, they were forced to go virtual, and giving went down. The new budget, based on the lower amount, was now the perfect amount, and the church will end this year in the black.
As we face a new year, God knows.
Facing the New Year
The story of the Israelites entering into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership brings out three very clear challenges that we can apply as well in looking to the new year:
1) New Opportunities
“…then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” Joshua 3:4
We all had plans for 2020, but those plans—from graduations to games to going places—were all changed by the pandemic. We had to learn to flex, to change, to adjust.
Most likely you have some hopes and plans for 2021, but we have not been this way before. However, God knows.
2) New Obligations
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5
We can’t control what will happen to us and the world around us in 2021. But we can make the choice to stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ. We can make the choice to keep our focus on Him. And we can make the choice to enter this new year consecrated to Him.
3) New Oppositions
“This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites…” Joshua 3:10
Previously, the Israelites had battled only the elements as they wandered in the wilderness. Now they would be facing enemies of a different sort, but God promised to go before them.
We had no idea that when we entered 2020, we would be facing the giant of COVID-19. And today, we have no idea what 2021 holds.
But we can know that God goes before us again, and He has proven faithful.
Later, in Joshua 4, God tells Joshua to have the representatives from each tribe take up stones from the middle of the Jordan where they miraculously crossed over.
God gave them this challenge so that when their descendants would ask, “What do these stones mean?” they could tell the story of God’s power and presence, especially in a time of greatest need. Bottom line, they could tell their children and their children’s children, “God showed up.”
What will be your stones of remembrance for 2020? Will they be stones of burden? Or will they be stones of blessing—your sign of remembrance that God showed up?
As we enter a new year, we can have confidence that God will keep showing up!
THE BIG IDEA: God is still in control. Even when things look their worst, He not only knows what we’re going through, He’s using it for our good and His glory.