FROM THE DIRECTOR'S DESK

Just a Minute is Mike Burnard’s monthly column

JANUARY 2018: 10 THINGS GUARANTEED IN 2018

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We do not know ALL that 2018 will hold, but we do know that it will contain almost ALL that we can imagine.  In order to prepare our minds for a new year ahead of us, we need to take the advice of Peter (in 1 Peter 4:12) to heart, Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 

Here is a list of TEN things we can expect to face, in one form or another, during the next year, and how we should respond.

There will be times of concern. FEAR NOT

Genesis 26:24 “… Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” 

The one command in Scripture given by God more frequently than any other is, “DO NOT BE AFRAID” – “FEAR NOT”.  Depending on which translation of the Bible you use and what phrase you are searching for, the phrase “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” appears at least 130 times in the Bible (not 365 as many would like to believe).   This is the one CHARACTER TRAIT that GOD wants to instil in His followers, more than anything else.  The reason is obvious. God knows that fear paralyses.

There will be times of silence. LISTEN

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

It is in the times of revelation that we need to obey and in the times of silence that we need to listen.  We often live within a spiritual paradox that views times of silence as times of abandonment, instead of times of intimacy.  Loneliness refers to a state in which you are unhappy about being alone. Solitude, however, is an aloneness in which you find strength. Christ often pursued solitude in order to spend time with the Father (John 16:32 “A time is coming… when you will leave Me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for My Father is with Me”). By using His times of solitude wisely, Jesus was able to use the times of isolation as opportunities to prepare Himself for the cross ahead.

There will be times of lack. TRUST

Psalm 31:14 “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God’.” 

One of the silent predicaments of our time is for Christians to discern between faith and trust. These two virtues are often confused: many who proclaim a FAITH in an omnipotent, spectacular God do not TRUST in His involvement or abilities, setting Him aside as an impotent, spectator God.  During 2018 we should not only express the belief that God is sovereign, we should act like He is still in control of our lives, our nations, our finances and our families.  FAITH is believing in God. TRUST is believing the God we believe in.

There will be times of abundance. SHARE

2 Corinthians 8:13 “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”

If you are blessed at any time during 2018 with more than your immediate need – share!  According to Scripture, God’s economic guidelines promote neither wealth nor poverty. The Bible promotes contentment (Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content”), generosity (2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion”) and equality (2 Corinthians 8:13 “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality”). These are the three pillars of abundance that should be our guidelines for 2018.

There will be times of waiting. ENDURE

Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.”

A popular tongue-in-cheek bumper sticker reads as follows: “Patience is such a waste of time”.  At first, this statement seems to contradict James’ instruction to be patient and to stand firm. But, as with most things in life, our perceptions are mostly determined by our definitions. If we define patience as ‘waiting’, it is indeed a waste of time. But when patience is understood in a true Biblical context, as ‘the position of endurance under difficult circumstances’, it becomes the sustaining force enabling perseverance in the face of delay. The journey of faith during 2018 will require this virtue in large quantities and at frequent intervals.

There will be times of disappointment. REMEMBER

Psalm 77:11 “I will remember the deeds of the LORD.”

No matter how difficult 2017 was and how challenging the new year might be:  Remember Jesus.  Call to remembrance the faithfulness of the Lord.  The fact that you can read this means you still have eyes to see, a brain to comprehend, a voice to pray and a heart to love.   Psalm 77 is clearly divided in two parts: depression and victory, and the only action that divides the two is the action of verse 11 “But I will remember…”  David speaks very specifically of how his soul refused to be comforted and how he fell into a pit of despair, depression and hopelessness.  But then comes a clear change in his spirit when he chooses to remember – he makes an intentional decision, he says, “But I will remember”.  Make this year a year of choice.  Choose to remember the goodness of the Saviour.

There will be times of failure. RISE

Proverbs 24:16 “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” 

During 2018 we will all face the challenge of ‘image maintenance’.  We all work extremely hard to maintain the perceptions other people have of us – we do this more than working on who we really are. Once the perception of who we are is dented, we experience failure. The response should therefore be to find our identity in Christ, how He sees us and how we find our righteousness in Him, not in success or failure as determined by others.  We will make mistakes in 2018.  This is a given.  There will be times of failure.  This we know – Rise!  Not because you are perfect, but because you are in Christ.

There will be times of joy. GIVE THANKS

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

The Bible makes a clear distinction between happiness and joy. Joy is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22[1]), and since it takes seasons and time for a tree to develop ripe fruit, the implication is that joy is something that must also mature over time. There is also a Biblical “fullness of joy” that only occurs in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11). Joy is therefore linked to the foundation of our lives and not the circumstances of our lives, and Paul tells us exactly what this foundation is: Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11[2]).  For this we should give thanks daily.  This saying applies to 2018 as well: know God-know joy; no God-no joy.

There will be times of sadness. HAVE HOPE

Psalm 39:7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” 

No matter what 2018 might throw at us, we all have this blessed assurance that, even though we might be depressed, saddened, disappointed, rejected and isolated by man, we will never be abandoned by God.  Nothing, not “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword can separate us from a loving God… nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is already found in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). This is a powerful Scripture to remember in times of sadness – it is not the promise of a fallible human being, but the words of One who has proven His faithfulness by dying on the cross. Jesus is loyal in times of loneliness not because He said so, but because He proved so. This allows us to have hope in our times of sadness: hope in the knowledge that nothing will separate us from the love of God, and hope in the promise that Jesus will always be with us, to the ‘very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:19).

There will be times of victory. STAY HUMBLE

James 4:6 “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble’.” 

The biggest challenge for the new year will not be to remain faithful in our times of defeat, but to remain humble in our times of victory.  Nowhere in Scripture do we read that the Lord despises those who fail, or scorns those who makes mistakes, or abandons those who doubt.  But we do read that the Lord opposes the proud.  Be careful how you receive, acknowledge and report your success.  Give God the glory in 2018.

May 2018 be a season where we all discover the transformational power of Christ Jesus in new ways and may this lead us to explore new horizons for His glory.

[1] Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”

[2] 1 Corinthians 3:11 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

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