Jan 07, 2022

Looking Back to Learn, Looking Ahead with Hope

Learn – Hope

He Will Carry Us Home Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you. (Isaiah 46:4) The year is very old, and this verse is a promise for our aged friends – yes, and for all of us, as age creeps over us. If we live long enough, we will all have gray hair; therefore, we may as well enjoy this promise by the foresight of faith. When we grow old, our God will still be the I Am, abiding forevermore the same. Gray hairs tell of our decay, but He does not decay. When we cannot carry a burden and can hardly carry ourselves, the Lord will carry us. Just as in our young days He carried us like lambs in His arms, so He will carry us in our years of infirmity. He made us, and He will care for us. When we become a burden to our friends and a burden to ourselves, the Lord will not leave us to ourselves. Rather, He will take us up and carry us and provide for us more fully than ever. In many cases, the Lord gives His servants a long and calm evening. They worked hard all day and wore themselves out in their Master’s service, and so He said to them, “Now rest in anticipation of that eternal Sabbath that I have prepared for you.” Let us not dread old age. Let us grow old graciously since the Lord Himself is with us in fullness of grace.

Spurgeon, Charles H., Faith’s Checkbook: Daily Devotional – Promises for Today
(Updated Edition) (p. 379). Aneko Press. Kindle Edition.

At the end of a life it is normal to look back and assess, to celebrate good memories and try to understand hard times from the perspective of hindsight. Often we can trace God’s Hand of Providence leading and protecting, even if we did not sense His presence in the moment. And then there are still times and things that we wonder at and wait until we see the Lord face-to-face to see how He brings beauty out of ashes.

I look back on this last year as we had hoped to return to “normal” but remained constrained in a global pandemic, and one lesson I want to continue to learn is to remember death. That is the title of a very good little book by Matt McCullough, but it also came home this past year as my father-in-law died and entered his eternal rest on our oldest son’s 25th birthday. In God’s gracious providence we had remained relatively healthy throughout most of the year, but toward the end I experienced the unrelenting pain of an abscessed tooth and then most recently COVID. But my experience pales in comparison to other’s trials and suffering. I pray that I would learn increased empathy and show compassion more consistently. O Lord, help me not to forget those in pain when my life is pleasant.

Another lesson I hope to remember from 2021 is to live with perseverance in the present. It is hard to believe that we’re in a new year; but if I’m not careful, the days slide by and are gone without a trace. Many perhaps tend to continue to think of stewardship in terms solely of money, but God graciously gives each one of us 60 seconds each minute and 60 minutes in each hour and 24 hours each day—how are we investing this slippery treasure? In the parenting study by Paul Tripp (Getting to the Heart of Parenting) one comment keeps echoing in my mind with thankfulness to God for its truth: Change is a process, not an event so I need to keep taking another step forward as God continues to rescue me from my sin and selfishness. And by His grace, I will have tomorrow to continue the journey of sanctification! Do you have goals for your growth in holiness? Have you identified particular sins that need rooted out from the crevices of your heart? Pray! Persevere! Be intentional day by day, and mark your progress and regress. (It happens). Chart your journey somehow so that you can give thanks to God and plead with Him for continued help.

The last lesson I learned last year that I’ll share here is the importance of Christian community. It is not easy to love fellow sinners and relationships are messy, but we are called to live in the community and to love one another. We are immensely helped with this when we actually spend time with one another! One of the tragedies of the pandemic restrictions, particularly early on, was the enforced isolation and consequent loneliness. We are created to live in healthy societies, but our culture is not healthy. Christians are called to be salt and light, to display the joy of faith, hope, and love found in God’s kingdom in the here and now and so to point people to Jesus the only Savior. One impressive way to do that in the local church family is to show the world that the Gospel transcends those things that divide and enrage so many today. When we spend time together as a church family we will no doubt find out that one person and then another has a different opinion about this or that, that they have a unique past which has contributed to their life in all sorts of different ways; and we’ll even see certain things that we would do very differently than they do. But our own peculiarities will also be exposed! And so we must all look at each other as united in Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit; must hope and pray for each other; and must help to encourage and build up the body of Christ in love (see Eph. 4:16).

God is faithful and good, a lesson that is all over the pages of Exodus! Thus I can (and you can too) look ahead at 2022 with hope. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we know the One who does! And He is trustworthy; I pray that day by day in this New Year you and I will walk by faith and in obedience. As we enter 2022 we are once again faced with certain inconveniences due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19. However difficult our earthly lives may be this year we can live with confidence that God is in control and loves us. We make our plans and then commit them to our Heavenly Father, holding them loosely and anticipating that He will do wonderful and surprising things in and through us. We are part of Christ’s Church, His Bride—aren’t you eager to experience His love and grace at work in us to sanctify us? (Eph. 5:26)

I hope and pray that God would be pleased to continue to grow us here, planting deep roots and bearing much fruit as we abide in Jesus (Jn. 15:5). To God be the glory!

Pastor David