Monday Morning Devotion-January 3, 2022
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. Habakkuk 3: 18-19
Beginning another year is always exciting. There is an air of mystery about what God's gift of a fresh, new, never- before-experienced-in the-same way 365 days holds for us. We know that our life will be different at the end of the year than it was in the beginning of it. But, in what way(s) that is the question?
Before looking ahead, I usually look back and revisit some of the memories that were fresh, new, and hopeful in the past. In doing that I have the benefit of hindsight. I look at how I hoped things would unfold but can see how they did happen.
For this devotion let's revisit the New Year 2012. It is interesting when searching for a devotional idea for the first one of 2022 I discovered this devotion written two years ago looking back on 2012 and remembered that 10 years ago I was called on to deliver the first sermon of the New Year at my church, Good Samaritan. Now10 years later, with a new pastor (Michelle) I was also asked to preach the first sermon of the New Year at GSUMC. So, with even better hindsight today let's look back at what unfolded ten years ago.
January 2, 2012
On New Year's Day I was privileged to be the guest speaker at my own church Good Samaritan of Tallahassee, or as we fondly refer to it, Good Sam. I spoke at quite a few different places in 2011 and enjoyed each one.
It's always fun to meet new people and share the love of the Lord with fellow believers. But speaking at your own church is special and I thank my Pastor Betsy Ouellette (now Zierden) for the opportunity.
When you speak before the home folks, you have to be at your best. Gotta mind your P's and Q's. They know you well, so you can't 'pull a fast one' on them. Not that I ever do on any other congregation, but whatever you say at home you know you are going to have to live up to it. They'll hold you accountable. It's cliché but true that you have to practice what you preach.
It's also true that as friends and fellow servants of the Lord they are the most forgiving as well. They realize that nobody is perfect, and we all struggle in certain ways.
So, in crafting a talk for Good Sam, I felt it was important, on the first day of a brand-New Year to encourage my friends to take a look back at 2011 then move ahead and plunge into the New Year with boldness, supremely confident that the Lord would be our guide.
On January 1 optimism usually holds sway over our attitudes and approaches maybe more than at any other time. I wanted to call attention to that and to get folks looking ahead in a positive manner. So, in the next few minutes I hope you will come along for the ride as well.
Here's the way it unfolded. I referred to this new year in the way an artist approaches a painting. He or she starts out with a totally blank canvas. The tools for making it into a work of art are beside it, lots of different shades of color available, the brushes are there as well as other things that the artist needs.
For us the New Year represents a blank canvas. No artist jumps in and paints the whole picture in one sitting. It usually takes time to complete. Analyzing how the painting is turning out in comparison to how the artist envisioned it is important. Making adjustments is necessary or else the final product may turn out to be completely different from what the painter expected or wanted.
So, it is with us. The 2012 (insert 2022) canvas of our life is gaining color and definition each day. By December 31st it will be complete. How will it look then? Will it be what we anticipated? What we wanted?
Like the artist we must pay attention, day-by-day as to how this painting of our life is unfolding. By making the necessary adjustments we direct the flow of our life in a positive direction. Sure, there may be some dark colors, some gloomy days, that need some lighter colors added, a ray of sunshine to break through and uplift us.
But I think the first thing we need to do each morning before going to work on the painting is to give thanks to God for the gift of a new day. No one knows how many of those he or she will receive so it is good to give thanks for each one. It paints the early part of the morning in a bright color even if outside it is dark and rainy---the kind of a day that easily brings depression with it.
The prophet Habakkuk was a man who refused to accept depressing circumstances in his life and let them darkly color his own canvas. He sought answers. He wanted things to change. Why was evil winning out in so many different ways? He asked God difficult questions. He bitterly complained. He did not take life sitting down.
"How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen. Violence! I cry, but you do not come to save." (1:2)
Habakkuk didn't like the way the canvas of his life was turning out. Too much dark paint on it. So, he went right to the store where the brighter more colorful paints of optimism and happiness were stored. He lifted his plaintive message up to God. He asked for answers. He showed faith that he would get solutions and he did.
"Then the Lord said to me, 'Write my answer in large, clear letters on a tablet, so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else. "But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed."
You see God had a plan for that canvas of Habakkuk's life on which more dark and foreboding colors seemed to be creating a story of gloom and despair. His plan for the prophet, just as his plan is for us, is being painted on a much larger canvas than the one representing year 2022 in our life.
This is only one picture that will be fitted into a much larger picture that includes all the canvases from all the years you live. For that to be a beautiful, finished product we must do what Habakkuk did.... Have Faith!
Having faith means not just asking the hard questions of God but listening closely to what the answers are that we are receiving. Not just what we want to hear, but what God is telling us. Even if it means taking what we see as a wrong fork in the road on our life's journey. The more difficult path. It could be the one God is directing us to because at the end of it the dark depressing colors will be bright and happy ones.
Remember that this canvas, depicting the year 2022 is being painted each day. It is important to consider what you do every day as being important to the completion of the whole picture. Keeping the faith is the key and at the end of this year's journey on December 31st you will feel what Habakkuk felt when he said: "I will rejoice in the Lord."
The rejoicing will come because with the Lord's help you will have painted a true work of art... a Masterpiece. Happy New Year!
Prayer: Lord thank you for a fresh, brand-New Year. Lead us through it in the way you would have us go. Amen!