The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church, December 31, 2014:
God is the giver of many wonderful new things.
He gives us a new birth (John 3:3), He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), a new life (2 Cor. 5:17), a new hope (Rom. 5:2), and a new task (Matt. 28:19-20). Finally, when our heart has beat its last, He will give us a new body in a new home called heaven. In fact, God says “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
And now, for those of us here tonight, God has given us another new year. Tonight contains an opportunity that never comes again until another year has passed us by.
There are two main things that happen tonight that normally do not happen any other time during the whole year: reflection, and anticipation. Reflection occurs as we think about our year’s past; Anticipation occurs as we think about our new year’s future.
I would like us to turn to a text in Scripture where this phenomenon takes place. A passage of Scripture that describes this idea of reflection and anticipation.
There was someone in the Bible who reflected on not just his past year, but his past few years and they were very dark—very full of sorrow. In fact, it was the worst few years he had probably ever seen. This person was Jeremiah, and he pens a 5 chapter book, lamenting and sorrowing over what had happened to the nation of Israel.
Israel was in some deep sin, and God sent Jeremiah the prophet to them to call them back to Him in hopes that they would repent and remain faithful to God again. However, Israel did not heed the warnings of Jeremiah to repent and turn to the Lord, so they were destroyed by Babylon. Jeremiah writes the results of this destruction in the book of Lamentations.
But as he describes Israel’s death, their starvation, and their weeping—he pens something that shines brightly, like a brilliant light in a dark, wet, solitary cave; and tells us something about reflecting on the past, and anticipating, looking forward to the future:
“21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Jeremiah 3:21-23, ESV)
I. Jeremiah Reflects and Anticipates
In v. 21, it is easy to see that two things are taking place: Jeremiah is remembering, and Jeremiah is anticipating.
Notice that he is reflecting/remembering: “But this I call to mind.” He is remembering something—that’s what he means by “this I call to mind.” When something is called to your mind, it is brought to your attention again.
Notice also, that he is anticipating: “and therefore I have hope.” Hope is always for the future—hope is what we need for the future; for the future, unlike the past, is not fixed. Things happen in the future that are unexpected because they are in the future—which we do not know.
II. The Object of Reflection and Anticipation: God’s Faithfulness
So Jeremiah is reflecting on the past, and what he remembers is what gives him hope for the future. But what is it that he is reflecting and remembering? And what is it that gives him hope for the future? Well it isn’t difficult to find the answer if you look at what he says next: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (v. 22-23).
Jeremiah had seen the destruction of Israel—he had seen the families who were killed, the people who had been starved, and their weeping and affliction—but in light of that, Jeremiah had hope for the future: God was a faithful, loving, merciful, covenant God. He writes about four truths that give him hope for the future:
1. Jeremiah says that God’s love never ceases. His love doesn’t end because your love for Him isn’t what it should be—God’s love never quits or gives up—that’s one thing that gave Jeremiah hope for the coming days and years.
2. Jeremiah says that God’s mercies never come to an end. God’s compassion and forgiveness never runs out—God’s mercy is not measured by some amount, in fact, it cannot be measured. Everything else can be measured; you can measure lifespan, temperature, blood cell count, distances, time, etc. It’s not that God’s mercy can’t be measured because it doesn’t exist, but it cannot be measured because it has no beginning and end.
3. Jeremiah says that God’s mercies are new every morning. He makes a comparison—just as each day presents new opportunities, so every day is an opportunity to experience the grace of God—and this grace will always be there, just as the sun rises every day to usher in a new day—so God’s grace will always be there, and you can trust it just as you trust the sun to rise.
4. Jeremiah says that God’s faithfulness is great. This is a summary statement to everything he has said about God’s love and mercies—“great is your faithfulness.” God’s faithfulness and promise-keeping remain intact no matter what happens.
III. Our Reflection and Anticipation
We are now reflecting on our past year—we are thinking about all the troubles we had been through—how we didn’t expect them to happen.
We are reflecting on our failures and sins that we struggled with this past year—and how we wish we could go back in time and rewrite our history. We are reflecting on the past New Year’s Resolutions that faded out within the first two months, and we regret that. But according to the Bible, if we want true hope for the future, and power to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions, we need to be reflecting on the faithfulness of God to us in the past year.
Name one time God failed you this past year—can’t do it; because He never failed. God kept every promise to you this past year—He has sustained you and brought you through all of our failures and all of your difficulties and trials you endured this past year. Something that should boil up praise in every Christian is reflection on the faithfulness of God in the past.
Are you pondering, as Jeremiah did, on God’s faithfulness in the past? In what ways did God prove His faithfulness to you this past year?
Not only are we reflecting on our past year, but we are anticipating the one to come. We are anticipating new goals to be fulfilled. We call those New Year’s resolutions, sometimes we even pray for God’s help in fulfilling those resolutions—I read a prayer once about someone who wanted God’s help in fulfilling their resolutions: “Dear God, my prayer for 2015 is a FAT bank account and a THIN body. Please don’t mix it up like you did this year.”
But we are anticipating new opportunities, new relationships, new ministry opportunities, and so many things. But like Jeremiah, we need to anticipate God’s faithfulness in the future. It is always a challenge to trust God for the future, because we don’t know the future. But that’s the awesome thing about God—He knows the future; and calls us to trust Him as a loving Father with our futures. With a new year comes new problems. New difficulties. New troubles. Things that are going to happen to us that we never could’ve imagined on this night. But we need to put our trust now, daily, and throughout the year, in the One who knows our lives (including our futures) from beginning to end. Are you trusting God for the future now? When you think about the new problems you will face—and when they come your way, say with Jeremiah, “This I call to mind, therefore I have hope.”
The hymnist, Frances Havergal penned these words in 1874:
“Another year is dawning;
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.”¹
As we celebrate a new year, let us reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past, and anticipate God’s faithfulness for the upcoming year as we trust Him for whatever we may encounter.