Great Expectations 2019
In some ways, crossing the threshold into a new year is an artificial construct, it's just a number on a calendar. But for many people, a new year represents an opportunity to assses what was good and bad about the previous year, make adjustments, and chart a new course. Following are three biblical perspectives to inform the way we think about the future.
1. A Posture of Expectation
The Lord speaks through Isaiah, saying 'Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?' (Isaiah 43:18-21). The idea that God may be up to something new, or invite us to have faith for something new, is challenging. We are hard-wired to assume that what God does in the future will be the same thing he has done in the past. Or, said differently, we tend to doubt that our life in God will be any different in the new year.
Some of us are hesitant to believe for good things because 'we just don't deserve it'. It has nothing to do with deserve. Remember:
Great expectations don’t reflect what we deserve;
great expectations reflect our confidence in God.
The Lord invites us to expect something new. Because his 'mercies are new every morning' (Lamentations 3:22-23), every day is an opportunity to experience God in a fresh way. Because we have often been dissappointed, it's easy to adopt an 'expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised' posture. Rather, the Lord beckons us to a posture of expection.
2. A Practice of Seeking
A consistent theme throughout scripture is the call to seek the Lord. David writes, 'You have said, "Seek my face". My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, I will seek"'. The word translated as face is sometimes translated as presence; God invites us into personal relationship with him where we move from acquaintance to friend. What would be it like to be a friend of God? What would it be like to know God - not just about God - but to know him personally? So many scriptures echo this call: Jeremiah 29:13; Isaiah 55:6; 1 Chronicles 22:19; Psalm 105:4; 1 Chronicles 28:9.
Maybe you're wondering, what's the payoff? Here's the deal:
Intimacy with God/knowing God is a function of seeking;
you can know God as well as you want.
Jesus put it like this: 'Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you' (Matthew 7:7). Whatever else you do this year, make 2019 the year you developed the practice of seeking God.
3. A Preparation for New Beginnings
Many people use the new year to set resolutions, which are simply an informed, firm decision to do (or not do) something. For those who like to set resolutions, much guidance is available on how to set good ones. For example, a good resolution is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
I would suggest, however, that more powerful than resolutions are habits, defined by Google as 'a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up'. Habits are powerful; habits are destiny. They take us places whether we want to go their or not. The bad news is that habits are hard to break; the good news is that bad habits are breakable; the best news is that new habits can be created.
We see this in the life of Jesus (Luke 4:40-44): after having spent 40 days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness (described at the beginning of Luke 4), he begins his public ministry. He teaches, he heals people, and draws amazing crowds. But after a night of ministry, rather than going to bed, he got up to go be with his Father. He went to a lonely place - he needed some solitude to stay focused.
The crowds found him, and invited him to stay in Capernaum - they want him to stay and be their rabbi. He could have easily established the first mega church. But Jesus said 'No'. He had to stay on mission. Because he had developed the habit of saying no to lesser things, and the habit of fellowship with the Father, he was positioned to say 'yes' to his mission.
We prepare for new beginnings through the habit of prioritising God's mission. That habit is connected to the habit of saying 'Yes' to God's purpose and 'No' to the things that would take us away from that purpose, good as they may be.
Like every other year I've experienced, I anticipate that 2019 will be a mixed year - a year of blessing, and challenge; a year of difficulty, and great opportunity. Let's cultivate the habit of seeking the Lord so that we are prepared to step in to the new things God has for us.