5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and cue the fireworks!
Happy New Year, everyone! It’s finally out with the old year, and in with the new — 2022 is here!
Speaking of the New Year, I’m reminded of some conversations I’ve had with several friends on the topic of travel prior to 2022. Especially with the lengthy lockdowns, it’s probably no surprise that many want to spend the New Year elsewhere while celebrating with family and friends overseas. But unfortunately, with the rising COVID cases and the resulting risks posed, many trips have had to be delayed, shortened, or even cancelled, much to my friends’ disappointment.
However, something they don’t realise is that even with these trips being cancelled, there’s a journey that will never stop, not even because of COVID or whatever the new year brings. And it’s a journey that we all have to take — the journey of life.
As the New Year rolls in, we’re still travelling. But even though we all seem to be walking in the same direction, there’s a massive difference in the paths trodden on by those of the world and those who follow Christ.
New Year, New Light?
Perhaps it’s just me, but New Years always seem like the ideal time to recall nostalgic memories of the year past. Recently, I’ve started to reread one of the books I had a while back, ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ by John Bunyan. Most of us would have probably already read this or watched any one of the various film adaptations. Despite being such a famous Christian allegory, I hadn’t read this book for over a year and, as a result, forgot quite a bit of the book. However, I found that a certain small part of the allegory still stuck with me even today.
In the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, the first glimpse we get of the main character, Christian, is in his hometown, the City of Destruction. Obviously, Christian is not a happy man, but is in fact, terrified! Why? Because he has read about the inevitable death and judgement, he must face, and he knows that by his own strength and with the burden on his back, he cannot survive.
But then we meet another character — Evangelist. Unlike the rest of the citizens of the City of Destruction that Christian previously tried to warn, Evangelist directs Christian, giving him instructions to “flee from the wrath to come”. Not understanding, Christian asks how he shall do such a thing. It’s this quote which first comes to mind.
“Then said the other [Evangelist], Do you see yonder shining light? He [Christian] said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto”
Evangelist’s instructions to the despairing Christian also applies to us Christians, in the year 2022. The shining light that Evangelist points to is not a lamp that flickers or goes out. It is the living Word of God. And what’s more, it cannot and will not change, even with all the change around it. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
What a promise! If like the Psalmist in Psalm 119:105, God’s Word continues to be the lamp to our feet and the light to our path, then we will still be able to persevere and press on towards Celestial City, no matter how narrow or rough the road becomes.
And so, like Christian, we must continue to ‘keep that light’ in our eyes as we carry on life’s journey into the year 2022.
New Year, New Joy?
In theory, it seems pretty easy to fix our eyes on God’s Word, but in real life, it’s a whole different matter. Believe it or not, our eyes so often stray.
As teenagers, we’re one of the most vulnerable to all the new things that each New Year brings. Not only do we face countless physical and mental changes — our appearance, personality, and for a few lucky ones, our height — but we also face new responsibilities, relationships, and even new values.
Despite the benefits that the new ‘things’ in 2022 introduce into our daily lives, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of idolatry. Who knows what new technologies, new philosophies and new ideologies will be ushered in and who knows if they won’t tempt us to fall?
One thing’s clear — no matter what you place in your heart to replace God’s throne there, it can’t satisfy. It may give you comfort for now, but as soon as another New Year approaches, we realise how temporal these earthly things are. And this will always be the case, because we, as human beings, are both flesh and soul. While our physical desires are satisfied with the new things of the world, the wants of our souls are left neglected.
What, then, is able to both satisfy and sustain us as we make our way through the New Year? Richard Baxter puts it rather simply: “Unbelievers seek their happiness in things of the world. Believers find their happiness in God.”Whatever change this new year promises, the only way we can strive on is if our happiness is firmly grounded in Him, who is unchanging and all-satisfying.
“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
New Year, New God?
As the New Year goes on, we also must go on. We may not know what “rivers of trial” we’ll have to cross or what “Alps of life” that we must pass over, but what we do know is that we won’t have to walk alone. God doesn’t just give us instructions, a to-do list, and a first aid kit and expect us to make the journey. In fact, He goes with us.
In Spurgeon’s 1892 New Year sermon, he addresses the congregation with the following statement. “I see … a Guide provided, as our companion along the way. To him we gladly say, ‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.’ He is waiting to go with us through every portion of the road. ‘The Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee.’ We are not left to pass through life as though it were a lone wilderness, a place of dragons and owls; for Jesus says, ‘I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:18)’”
God never promised us a prosperous and comfortable road trip to the Celestial City. In fact, it’s very much the opposite (see 2 Timothy 3:12). What the path of 2022 will hold is still yet unknown, but we can be certain that He will walk with us even to the very end.
A month after making this sermon, Spurgeon completed his own journey of life, fully dependent and trusting in his faithful Companion. On the path of life of a true Christian, there will always be two sets of footprints. And at the times that only one pair of footprints are visible, we can be certain that it was then, God carried us.
May God continue to guide us on this journey as we enter the New Year of 2022.