As we begin a new year, we do so with the hope that it will be better than the last. We hope that COVID will be stopped; we hope that the unrest in the world due to race and politics will settle down; we hope that all of the drama will cease. Are we being naïve in thinking this will happen? Perhaps.
As Christians, however, we know that God is still in charge, and our faith should sustain us when it seems like everything is going wrong. When it seems like there is no “normal;” when it seems like our world is turning upside down, our faith sustains us and helps us to know that God is in charge – we just need to look to him for the peace that we so crave.
When we go through these times, it should also cause us to pause and consider that we often get too “comfortable” in our world today. Normal, to us, is comfort. Yet, Christians should not love the world (1 John 2:15), and the things of the world, for this is opposed to God and what he wants and expects. And, as we look through Scripture, we see that often God allows things to happen, or encourages some to step out of the “normal” and truly walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Think with me about those who were encouraged to walk by faith – Hebrews 11.
Noah was told to build an ark because God pronounced judgment on a world that had left God to live life there way. Think about how Noah walked by faith, and built the ark, when his neighbors and others may have mocked and sneered at him. Yet only he and his family were spared when the flood came. Peter reminds us that scoffers had come, God had sent the flood, and only Noah and his family were saved. What was their “normal?”
Consider Abraham, the “father of the faithful.” He was told to leave his family and home and go to a land that God would give to his descendants after him – and Abraham would not live to see these things (Genesis 15:16). Abraham was not perfect, but he walked with God and was justified by faith (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). What was his “normal?” Walking with God!
Consider Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob (Israel). His life was great; he had the favor of his father, but his brothers hated him because their father showed him more favor than he did not with them. They sold him into slavery, and Joseph rose to become the second man in Egypt, besides Pharaoh. Joseph learned humility in prison; he kept faith in God, and God used him to do great things. Did he ever have a “normal?”
Moses, perhaps because of the way he had been delivered from death, and protected by Pharaoh’s daughter, thought he was destined for great things. According to Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7:23-29, Moses thought the Israelites would understand that he was going to lead them out of the land of Egypt and deliver them. Yet things did not turn out that way – he had to spend the next 40 years watching sheep in a desert and making sure they were provided for. His “normal” had been in Egypt, then as a shepherd, when God called him in Exodus 3-4 to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. By that time, he argued with God about his role in delivering Israel from Egypt. And by the time it was over, he was not allowed to enter the land of Canaan because of his failure at Kadesh as recorded in Numbers 20. What was “normal” for Moses?
For four hundred years the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt. It was not what they wanted; it seemed that the promises God had made to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were never going to be fulfilled. They did hang on to the hope, but as each generation passed in Egypt the promise seemed more and more unlikely. Thus, when the time came for them to be delivered, they were not ready – they did not believe that Moses would deliver them (Exodus 5). In fact, things were made worse. Their “normal” worsened, and they complained to Moses. This set up a pattern that they perpetuated for 40 years in the wilderness. The “normal” of complaining denoted a lack of faith.
The children of Israel did enter the promised land, but over the centuries their sin against God caused them to be taken into captivity. It wasn’t like they weren’t warned – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many of the minor prophets had foretold of their captivity. Their “normal” of sin and lack of faith in God caused them to be punished at the hands of the Assyrians (the ten northern tribes) and the Babylonians. God, because he had so promised, did bring back a remnant of Israel to their former lands (See Ezra – Nehemiah). And their “normal” had changed again!
Sadly, their history has been repeated so many times by humans and serve as a warning to all of us. “Normal” is not “normal” for long. Things change (Ecclesiastes 3) and for God’s people, the only thing to do is to look in faith to God.
JESUS came to “change” the world, and he did so by offering God the perfect sacrifice to save us from our sins. Since that time things have never been the same – we have an eternal hope that one day we will not be in a world such as this, and the new “normal” will be in a place where there is no sin! No more pain. No more heartache. No more division. No more of the things that divide us from one another or take our peace.
God gives us new starts all of the time. History is replete with them. And for the Christian, every day we have is another day in which we can start again.
If you are not a Christian, you can have a new start by becoming a Christian and developing a relationship with God. He loves to give new starts! If you are a Christian every day is an opportunity to become closer to him, to serve him with your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Praise God for new starts!
2 Corinthians 4:9-10 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So, then death is working in us, but life in you.
Perhaps one of the most powerful weapons Satan has is discouragement. Military leaders know the importance of morale for without it armies would be defeated. What is the key to overcoming discouragement?
REMEMBER THAT THE POWER IS OF GOD, NOT OF US! (2 Corinthians 4:7) Many times, we try to hold our feelings in. We want to rely on ourselves. The power is of God and not ourselves. 1 Peter 5:6-7 states, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” God can help whatever problem we may have. Yes, HE IS ABLE.
REALIZE THAT EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT (2 Corinthians 4:14-15 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.) Not everything in this life is good, but all things work together for good. Look for the good in everything. Romans 8:28 states, ” And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.”
RENEWAL. Paul declares that we need to be renewed daily. We are renewed through worship, prayer, and Bible study. We must take time to be renewed daily. 2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
TEMPORARY. The things that we face are only temporary. They not only seem to be temporary, but they are. Our focus should be on things that are eternal, not temporary. This earth is going to pass away according to 2 Peter 3:10. God has prepared a wonderful place for his people. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
Discouragement is powerful, but our Heavenly Father is greater than anything we can face. Remember the power of God when you are discouraged. Everything is going to be ok. Take time for renewal and focus on eternal things.