When I took American History in high school, we spent a whole chapter just on the year of 1968 because of all that happened in 1968. I get the feeling in future years, 2020 will be a similar year in history classes across the nation and maybe around the world. A global pandemic affected a lot of people this year around the globe. Shut downs, masks, quarantines, curfews, and the list goes on of the measures taken to end this pandemic. It’s been a crazy year and it’s finally coming to an end. Now, I don’t want to be so naïve to claim that with the end of 2020, even with the rise of new vaccines for the coronavirus, that the pandemic is coming to an end. I hope it is, but I’m not sure.
As we move from 2020 to 2021, I hope the new year does bring some relief, some optimism, and even some joy into your life as we begin another chapter in history as God continues to work. Most years, around this time, people are making resolutions and promises to make the new year the best it can be. Maybe that’s you. I hope whatever you seek to gain in the new year, you are able to obtain. Most of all, I hope that we all can grow closer to God in 2021. That’s God plan for you in the new year. He is in the business of making all things new, and that starts with you and me. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” We are called to be made new by God, to put on a new self, to be like God.
This is no easy feat. It takes time. I’m over 10 years into my walk with Jesus and still have much to learn and grow in. But this is what God wants for you in 2021 and in 2022 and all the rest of the years of your life. He doesn’t want us to dwell on the past or to dwell on the hardship because that prevents us from becoming like Him. That is a way that Satan keeps our minds fixed away from God. If we are to truly be Jesus’ disciples, then we must fix our eyes on Him. Not on the problems in our lives. Not on the “what if’s” of time gone past. Fix your eyes on Jesus and He’ll give you what you need.
This is a hard thing to do. How can we fix our eyes on Jesus in times like these? In my Revelation study, we just talked about Revelation 20, one of the hardest, if not the hardest chapter in the Bible to figure out, between the 1000 years, the imprisonment of Satan and eventual judgment, and a final battle between Satan’s forces and God. But in Revelation 20:9, we’re told that God’s people are in a camp, which is the city he loves. The picture of the campsite takes me back to the wilderness in Exodus-Deuteronomy. Israel was wandering through the wilderness for 40 years before reaching the Promised Land. It was a time of depending on God for their needs, between the manna from heaven, water from a rock, and a pillar of cloud/fire to guide them. But also, it was a time that they were incredibly vulnerable to attack from enemies. Revelation 20:9 is calling us to be vigilant in order to not fall into the power of Satan. How do we do that? It’s actually fairly simple, and is the same way we fix our eyes on God. Read the Bible. Pray. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and help you in your walk with God.
The more we have community with God and his people, the easier it is to keep our focus on Him. Paul and the apostles went through a lot of hardship. 11 of the 12 disciples (Substituting Matthias for Judas) were killed for their faith. The only one that wasn’t was John, who was exiled to Patmos. Despite their trials, if you read the letters in the New Testament, there is encouragement and joy and instructions to continue to seek God. It’s through doing these simple things that kept the disciples and the early church joyful in times of trouble. It’s what God wants us to do today. He wants you to be different that you used to be. He wants you to be a new creation and that only happens by being connected to the true vine so that we continue to bear fruit and be pleasing to God.
I don’t know what to expect in 2021, but I do know God isn’t done and that one day all will be made new and life will be extraordinary. Keep your chin up and your eyes fixed on God and let him take your burdens and give you joy and peace in 2021.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" -2 Cor. 5:17 (NIV)