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Another Year is Dawning


First Scripture Reading:  1 Timothy 1:12-16


Each New Years seem to have an era of their own.  2020 started out optimistic but soon it turned to a bad year for a number of reasons.  Optimism gave rise to frustration and confusion.  Remember how 2000 began in fear and dread that all the clocks and computers in the world would fail, but then resounded with joy that the worst did not happen.  To me, 2024 seems to be a mediocre year.  It has come in the midst of troubles of all kinds, and few seem to feel that anything changed except the calendar on the wall, if we still use that “outdated” media.


And for many of us, who have seen more New Years than we have to look forward to in the future, it seems that days follow days; months follow months; and years follow years.  We see, as the Christmas jingle says “. . . what have we done, another year older, and a new one just begun.”

I think that this melancholy attitude is all too pervasive in our world, and even among Christians, because many of us have lost our purpose in living.  Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  How do we live in this world?  It almost seems as if we have returned to those “hippy” days when people were trying to find themselves, only now we lack the optimism that there are answers out there to address our situation.  Therefore, our world says, “don’t worry, be happy!”


The Apostle Paul, in our scripture reading for today, could have had the same attitude.  1 Timothy is one of his three last books.  He is an “old man” by his own admission.  But instead of sitting back and saying, “OK Tim, its your time to take over, I’m retiring,” he views this season of life as another opportunity to do something in service for the Lord.  His letters of this era no longer talk about travel and evangelism, but rather about helping younger men standup and take their place as leadership in the ministry.


First and foremost, Paul looks at the present as another challenging step to find God’s purpose for him at this time and in this place.  Look again at 1 Tim 1:12-13.  He praises Christ Jesus who gives him strength to serve Him.  God had appointed Paul to his particular service at this particular time.  This is not just an appointment that God makes for His leaders.  He “appoints” each one of us an assignment of “service” at each step of our lives.  He gives us a purpose to live and assignments to complete, and the ability to do them.  The reason we are alive is to carry out His ministry.  That may be by leading some great crusade, or just praying for His work or advising and encouraging those who need our help.  We should never get to the point that we feel our time is up and we have nothing left to do.  As long as we are alive, God has a purpose for us, in our own development and to spread His love and concern to whomever God brings in out path.

 

A little over a year ago, I attended a funeral of a man in his nineties, who had Parkinson’s.  He had been a professor of French in a of couple universities and was a joy to know.  We used to sit and talk about life and history, and so on, by the hour.  Just over a year before he passed, his brain gave in to his disease, and he was no longer coherent.  He was confined to a bed in a rest home, and he sometimes did not even recognize his wife of 70 plus years.  One day a couple of foreign young men from French Africa were cleaning the rest home and speaking their “first language,” French, to each other.  My friend, in a simi-coma state, greeted them in French and carried on a short conversation with them before falling asleep.  Over the next few weeks the young men had several conversations with my friend.  They were born Muslim, but were of no particular religion.  Both became Christians shortly before the death of my friend.  They spoke briefly at the funeral.  God was not done with my friend, and God put him in the right rest home at the right time to meet these two French speaking African men.  When the mission was accomplished, it was time to come home.

 

Paul had found his place, training younger men in ministry.  Each of us have our own particular personality, background, experiences and skill sets to do something in ministry for God.  Paul, confident in his present place, looks back to see what God has done in his life.  Paul briefly summarizes his BC (before Christ) days.  His faults or offenses include blasphemer, persecutor, and violence (1:13).   While our own list may not include these particulars, they include many offenses done against God, some may even be “post-conversion” offenses.  We could easily say, “Oh my, my past eliminates any possibility of God using me to do anything.”  We could get despondent, and depressed.  But no.  God shows mercy.  Mercy means “not getting what we deserved.”  It is the opposite of grace, which “is getting what we do not deserve.”  God will use you even if you, like Paul, formerly used to jail and whip Christ’s believers.


The other part of looking back is seeing what God has done thru you (1:14).  Keep in mind, it is not because of you God did this or that, but rather because of God. He allowed you to do this or that.  We serve because God allows and enables us to do so.


So, because of the past, we are confident in the present.  God has a purpose for each of us this very day.  We look back and see how God has used us in the past, despite our own failures.  Therefore, we face the future knowing that God is ready and willing to use us today, just as we are, and right where we are.  Let’s look forward to how God is going to use us in 2024.

God Bless.  

CH Jim Odell

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