Thought for the Week - 29th DecemberVanda Hopkin
A few weeks ago I found myself reflecting on 2019. It was a good, fruitful year.
A New Year is a good time to look back at the year that has passed, and to be thankful. At work and school we have regular meetings to see how we’ve done – where we’ve done well and what areas need improvement. Reflecting on 2019, as a church we have done well:
- We saw 18 new people join our congregation
- We saw both them and their families blessed by God
- Lives and relationships were restored
- 2 new babies joined us
- We saw a Marriage and an Engagement
- People bought houses
- We held new alpha courses
- It was the 2nd year of holding meetings at the Bible College
- We opened God’s pantry, which was blessed
- We saw God heal and restore
- We experienced excellent leadership
- Our involvement in the Prison fellowship was blessed
- People were healed from smoking
- Fears, anxiety and phobias were dealt with by God
These are many things, and much more that we don’t necessarily know about; hidden things that are too personal to share in wider company.
That’s a lot of blessing for one small church!
There were also things that we didn’t see:
- Relationship issues
- Mind struggles
- Breaking free from the past and establishing self in God
- Maturing of God within our lives
In 2019, God poured out His best. He poured out His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness. There was not a hint meaning or a hint of Him holding back. He has given us of His very, very best. He’s been generous in abundance. He’s given us that life in abundance.
I was looking at Luke 15 in a Daily Reading, where the prodigal son goes away. When he comes back, he’s humble and repentant for the things he’s done wrong. He realises that he cannot live as he wants to live and recognises he cannot be self sufficient without his father and cannot do things himself. He realises without his father and the blessings of his father, how poor he his. He comes home to his father.
When his father sees him from afar, his father says to his servants to bring out the best robe to put upon him, to bring out a ring to put on him, and sandals for his feet. He says to bring out the fatted calf, as he’d been lost but was now found.
I’d never realised before the words used. The father says to bring out the best robe. God has done that with us. He gives us the best. He brings out the best for us – the best robe of righteousness to wear, the best of gifts, the best of ministries, the best of relationships etc.
God in his generosity gives us the best robe of righteousness for us to wear. Sometimes because we’ve lived in a fallen world, and have lived sinful lives, so often we are happy to settle for less than His best. We take the scraps than the very best.
When He gives of Himself and of His gifts, He gives 100% goodness. You are worth more than just the scraps to God. You are worth more than just a bit that is thrown at you. You are worth the very best to God, and He comes to give you the best.
Don’t settle for anything less than the best.
We give of our best – we give to God of our best, and He gives the best to us. He wants the best for us. Don’t give him the leftovers and the scraps. He wants us to be drinking from that fountain and bringing to Him our concerns, our fears, our weaknesses, our loneliness, our heartache, our illnesses etc. He wants us to bring these things to the foot of the cross.
When we hold onto them and ask Him not to take them away from us because it’s all we have, He asks us to give it to Him so that’s He can give us better; so that He can give us the best that He has.
Sometimes we don’t have to wait or to suffer. He tells us that we have to wait His timing. It took the prodigal son until he was on his knees and so down that he was dragging himself back to his father.
God says we don’t have to wait to be there before we come back to Him. He’s there for us with an abundance.
We don’t know what 2020 will bring. We may have come from 2019 in a good way, or in a struggle. But He says when we come it doesn’t matter how we come. It doesn’t matter if we come and say we’ve failed and messed up, as long as we come. Whatever state you find yourself in, whether you’ve been good or bad, faithful or not, obedient or rebellious.
It doesn’t matter, because the prodigal son came with a humble and repentant heart. That is what He looks for. He looks for humble and repentant hearts; people who realise that they’re weak and sinful, people who realise that they can’t do anything.
We need God, and He says come.
None of us know what 2020 will bring. We’re hoping it will bring good things. But we don’t know. It could bring illnesses and death, we don’t know. It could wealth or poverty. It could bring anything at all. But as we go the year, He asks us to put our hand in His hand to go forward.
When the Queen was 13, she gave her father a poem. Her father, George VI, then gave it as part of his Christmas during the first year of WWII. It’s called The Gate of the Year and is by Minnie Louise Haskins:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
Some of us are perhaps not knowing what 2020 will bring, and feel that we’re going into the unknown darkness. But God says go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way. It’s better to go out in the darkness with God than unto the light without God.
God will be faithful to us and He will be with us every step of the way if we keep our hand in His hand. He will guide us. He will guard us. When it’s dark it can be difficult to find our way, but God will lead us through. He will show us the way because He will carry us through.
Don’t let the darkness of the enemy frighten you away. Don’t let the things the enemy puts in your mind frighten you from going on with God this year.
He gave us the best last year and He’ll give us the best this year.
The New Year Word for 2019 was:
See I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.
And that is what He has done for everyone who’s put their hand in His hand this year. He’s led us and brought us safely into the place that He’s prepared. He’s prepared a place for you.
God isn’t a God of accidents or coincidence. Everything is perfectly and strategically planned. Every hair on our head is known. It was planned by God. He knows you. He knows your weaknesses and strengths. Nothing is by accident.
This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hearereth us (1 John 5: 14-15)
And this is what we have seen in 2019. God answered many, many prayers for us. Is 2020 going to be any different?
Whatever we’re lacking, or whatever we need. The answer maybe just right around the corner. Sometimes we need to carry on praying in faith, and sometimes we just need to plead with God. Sometimes it comes from the practical things – going to meetings and doing the things we don’t want to. When we kick against the goads and start to be rebellious, we miss so much of God.
Make 2020 the year when you do His will.
There is a promise for us in Revelation 2: 12-17 spoken by an angel to the church in Pergamum. We read:
To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.
I was curious about what that white stone was. When I researched it, there were a couple of explanations:
- In Ancient Greece when a jury decided on a prisoner, they showed a black stone for someone who was guilty or a white stone if someone was to be acquitted. Christ comes to us and He shows the white stone! We’ve been acquitted. We’ve been saved from our sins and saved from the pits of hell.
- In Pergamum, all important buildings were made with white marble. In front of the temple there were white marble pillars engraved with names of the people healed and saved by God.
- In the Old Testament, the High priest had 12 stones, each one was different. There was a name on each stone of one of the tribes. As the High Priest ministered in the temple, He brought the stones – the names – into God’s presence.
- There was an ancient Roman custom of awarding white stones to the winners of athletic games. The winners were awarded a white stone with their name engraved on it, and this served as their ticket to go into a special awards banquet.
We’re invited into our own awards banquet – the eternal victory celebration in heaven when we meet Christ. We will have a white stone with a name on it specific to you. A name known only to you.
Those who are rejected, He calls beloved. Those who are called cast aside, are called wanted. Those who are called naughty, will be called good. Those who are called whatever it is, there will be a new name that will be special. A name like no other. A name special to you.
His love pours out for every single one.
Feel it and experience it. Know it for yourself. Hold onto it. Proclaim it.
Maybe that you find it difficult to feel loved. Perhaps you’ve not felt loved over the years. God’s love is there for you. God’s blessing is there for you. God’s mercy is there for you.
Not just for today, but going into 2020. All you need is in Him.