I can't believe we are now living in the year 2019. I know it sounds cliche, but seriously, the years just seem to be flying by much more quickly than they used to for me. But ready or not, here we are in 2019. Maybe you, like me, are also wondering just what this next year will bring for you personally, your community, your church, or for the people of God as a whole. It is humbling for us to realize that we really don't know just what all will take place in this new year. Maybe this will be the year you finally see that breakthrough you have been hoping for. Or maybe this will be a year when you suddenly experience a shocking, unexpected loss which completely changes the outlook of your life. Or maybe this will be the year that we will experience the Lord's glorious appearing.
Now, of course, you may have some things planned for this coming year that you are really looking forward to, which, of course, will not be a surprise to you. A graduation, a wedding, a new job, or the delivery of a new son or daughter. These times are memorable, and yet, we must be humble enough to realize that just because these times are scheduled on our calendars does not assure us that we will get to experience them, especially in the way we expect.
Those of us who know the Lord must take seriously His word in James 4:13-15 (ESV), "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."
You just never know what tomorrow or the next year will bring. Eighteen years ago as I hung up a new calendar I was at a point in my life where I was a little lost. Things definitely hadn't worked out the way I thought they would. I was considering leaving the church I was serving in and maybe going back to school, but I wasn't sure if I'd go on to seminary or get a different undergrad degree. I was several months past the ending of, what I thought to be, a promising, dating relationship. At the time there were no other prospects in sight along those lines. I was getting a little tired of having to live with a roommate who, like me, wasn't a very good cook and also regularly shaved his face. I was really at a point where I was thinking I needed to do something different with my life, but I just had no idea what I was supposed to do. I had no idea what was about to happen in that coming year.
Twelve months later, by the time 2002 was ending, I was being showered with gifts and well-wishes from my church family as they threw me a farewell/appreciation party. In just a couple of weeks I would begin working on my Masters of Divinity at a small baptist seminary in Sioux Falls, SD and be reunited with a few old college friends as classmates who were also there. I was about to start all over again the process of taking classes and studying with the goal to know and teach the Bible better to be better equipped for ministry. I was also in a fairly serious relationship with the woman who would become my wife another year later. My roommate had gotten himself married a few months earlier. But before seminary would begin, I would get to go to Miami with my father to attend the Orange Bowl, featuring the 11-1 Iowa Hawkeyes. You could say, there were a host of things which happened that year that I was not expecting.
As a pastor, I am also very much aware that tragedy can strike out of nowhere. I know of folks who were fully expecting to enjoy another Christmas with their families who instead were forced to go through their family traditions without one of the dearest members of their family. The loss they experienced hung like a dark cloud over their Christmas celebrations. We just never know, do we? What we do know is that we are not in control of our own lives, much less the lives of our loved ones. We are not promised tomorrow, as Job lamented, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21 ESV)
So who knows what this year will bring for you? Maybe you have some plans for some exciting changes. Maybe you are hoping something will change for you in your life because you do not like where you are at right now. Maybe you would prefer if nothing much changed at all. Maybe this will really be the year the Lord returns.
No matter what happens, may we live each day walking by faith in the only One who really knows what lies ahead of us in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. May we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, trusting that all the things that we need will be provided for us by our kind and gracious heavenly Father. May we continue to long for His appearing and prepare our hearts and the souls of others for it. May we not lose heart, no matter what difficulty has come into our lives, but instead look to and enjoy knowing the One who made all things and holds all things under His Sovereign control. And who has promised that He will never leave us and never forsake us, but will come again (maybe this year!) to deliver His people once and for all.