May I wish all who from time to time drop into this blog a Happy and Prosperous New Year. It is a belated wish I grant. I hope for you the New Year holds many blessings. It is right of course to look forward in hope. Hope, in a rather hopeless world, is a profoundly Christian blessing.
For many, the future, looked at without Christian hope, is fairly bleak. Even in our cushioned West, future well-being is anything but certain. The economic slump (self-inflicted it would appear, as most of our woes self-evidently are) promises a difficult year. Add to this the normal vagaries of life and Christian hope is vital to combat a sinking pessimism that life itself can so easily inflict. I need only glance at the lives of various friends to see how the New Year promises fresh troubles. Some have health problems, others marital problems or money problems, others church problems, and in many cases no obvious solutions present themselves. For these folks hope must lie outside of circumstances and personal understanding. Their hope must lie in God.
And to have our hope in God is to have it precisely where it ought to be. True wisdom teaches us to trust in God and lean not on our own understanding. God, is the God of hope (Roms 15), who as we share in the hope he holds out for us in the gospel (Col 1:23) fills us with joy and peace in believing (Roms 15:13).
The gospel is God’s message of hope. In the gospel promises that sustained men of faith since the beginning of time are fully revealed and realized. Every possible source of joy is promised and perfected in the gospel. For the gospel is Christ in whom all God’s promises find their confirmation and certainty. We are blessed, the gospel reminds us, with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Everything the human spirit could intelligently desire and hope for is found in Christ. God gives us Christ and with him freely gives us all things that are for our good and blessing.
Life in a world East of Eden, is hard. It is a valley of disillusionment and death. Despite advancing technologies man that is born of woman is still of few days that are full of trouble. To say this is not to be pessimistic, but realistic. More than that, it is to think biblically. Hope, believers have always understood lies only in God. In Christ we find ourselves rejoicing in the ‘hope of the glory of God’ (Roms 5:2). Our hope is no small thing for God’s promise is no small thing. It is no less than sharing in God’s own glory. Glory, indescribable glory, is my hope.
Nor is this hope mere wishful thinking for it is a hope we have already begun to realize in our hearts through the Spirit of the indwelling Christ; Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith is the hope of glory; its first instalment.
How will this New Year be for us ‘happy and prosperous’? Through faith that lives in the hope of the gospel.
When I get out of bed each morning I can live with myself, my failure and sins because of the gospel. I rejoice that my sins are forgiven and that one day soon I will no longer have sin in my members staining my humanity but I will have a body of glory where sin is banished and no more. Never again will I be tempted to that which destroys happiness but will delight eternally and fully in God. I go out and face the frictions of life, the family squabbles, the theological wars, the opposition of the world knowing that these are not forever, but only for a time. ‘Forever’ is a new world where heaven and earth are one, where the dwelling of God is with men and he shall be our God and we shall be his people, where wars of all kinds shall cease and weapons of war will be turned into tools for prosperity. This body that each morning tends to drag me down with its frailty and fragility will have given way to a body of glory without corruption or weakness. My hope in Christ is of a future without fear, failure, fragmentation, fatigue, futility and folly. Weariness and wastedness will be no more. This is the hope that lies before and nerves me today to run the race.
I invite you this year to live in this hope. Such hope fills us with boldness (2 Cor 3:12) for the glory is not simply ahead it is realized by faith now as I lift my eyes from the difficulties and traumas of life and see Christ in heaven, reigning and glorified. My spiritual intelligence tells me my sins are gone, my life is secure and safe in him. I wonder and rejoice at the glory I see there. Here there will be troubles and disappointments, many tests of faith, but when, even through these, I look up at Christ I am consumed with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And the joy of the Lord so experienced becomes our strength. We weaken because we fail to nourish our souls in Christ.
Happiness and prosperity of spirit is realized as by faith we meditate upon Christ in glory. This is what I wish for us all in 2012. May we who have hoped in Christ (Eph 1) have the eyes of our understanding opened to see the hope to which we are called and the inheritance that is ours in Christ (Eph 1:18) and as by faith we experience these just now may we also with patience await their full realization (Roms 8:24). May we continue steadfast in faith not shifting from the hope held out in the gospel (Col 1:23). This is the victory that overcomes the world in all its forms, even our faith (1 Jn 5:4). And what is faith but ‘the assurance of things hoped for and the realizing of things unseen’ (Hebs 11:1).
1John 3:1-3 (ESV)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he [Christ] is pure.
Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.