Stepping into a new year always feels a bit like stepping off a precipice before a vast unknown. Like the door in one of the books in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, which stood open, surrounded by the countryside, yet when entered revealed a new land unseen from the other side.
In every new year there are stepping stones ahead, events scheduled that we can count on: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, school and work routines.
But more importantly there are promises ahead, eternal truths that go with us into the unknown of a new year that are always ours no matter what surprises await.
Here are 15 things we can count on for the year 2021:
1. God is with us … forever. There is a long list of verses that repeat this truth for us, and I plan to return to this topic soon because I need a reminder of all the times God has so graciously promised me His never-ending presence.
2. We will enjoy continued freedom to read our Bibles and study God’s Word publicly. As a student of history I know the freedoms we enjoy in America are the exception; they are fragile treasures. Read your Bible this year as if it’s your last. One day it might be.
3. A multitude of great books both old and new wait to be discovered and read. I always have a stack of books to read and recently I’ve been rereading several. And I’m about to order a classic by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago. It feels daunting but I will give it a try!
4. Trials and suffering will continue. My Bible study is currently in 1 Peter. In that book is this promise of God: “For you have been called for this purpose, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21, NASB). This too is a topic I plan to write more about this year for our learning and call to courageous faith.
5. Christianity will continue to be marginalized. The pandemic has changed the church. It remains to be seen what it will be like this year. But even before the virus landed on our shores Christianity has been the target of persecutions. Though I believe they will continue I also am confident God intends to use the culture’s animosity to strengthen our faith.
6. Limitless beauty will remain for our marveling and joy. Our planet is filled in every nook and cranny with wonders of God’s handiwork which can inspire, refresh, and fill us with worship. Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes …”
7. Three hundred sixty-five more days ahead to wait and watch for His sure promised return. Unlike His first coming, which was shrouded in obscurity, His second coming will be evident to all, for “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). Anticipation is extremely important to our faith and so God’s promise that He will return is for our hope and encouragement to keep believing no matter what.
8. Three hundred sixty-five days to experience God in your life! Father Tomislav Kolavic, author of God’s Underground, wrote “Give yourself totally to Christ, throw all your worries and desires on Him, for he has a wide back, and you will witness miracles.” Do you desire to see miracles? God is eager to show you Himself if you are fully surrendered and hope in Him alone.
9. A whole year to stand for and validate truth and to resist lies that increasingly surround us. Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The ordinary man may not be able to overturn the kingdom of lies, but he can at least say that he is not going to be its loyal subject.”
Just as God’s grace abounds in response to our sin and need, so God, who works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, gives us abounding opportunities to enjoy Him and the good gifts He has given. Here are just a few:
11. Opportunities will abound to know God’s peace. The first verse I learned as a brand-new baby Christian was Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
12. Opportunities to treasure family, our most important earthly relationships. Author Fleming Rutledge wrote, “The destiny of the universe is found in the destiny of families.”
13. Opportunities are always present to resolve brokenness in ourselves and our relationships. Jesus prayed for our unity in His prayer in the garden before His death. His last words should be our most important goal.
14. Opportunities to grow in prayer. God has invited us to talk to Him, to hear from Him and to walk closely with Him. May this year be a year for knowing Him more than ever.
15. Opportunities to rejoice and thank God for the vaccine. We could still be waiting.
In the months and years after Jesus ascended to Heaven and the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell in Christians, many trials and persecutions descended on the believers. In the context of the reign of Nero, who burned Christians as torches to light the city of Rome, Peter wrote to the believers scattered in what we now know as the Middle East. He reminded them of what was true about Jesus and about their faith, consoled them in their trials, and then boldly said, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
These words, “set your hope fully … on Jesus Christ” are the need of our day.
Our hope cannot be in Washington or in state leaders, or in any institution, circumstance or person, but in Christ alone.
Happy New Year everyone!
May your heart be ever His.
For more of my New Year’s thoughts, check out these past blog posts: