What Good Is a Year?
by J. Randal Matheny, editor
We stand again at the door of another year. It’s become old hat. I now go to bed and sleep in the new year, rather than staying up to usher in Day One of the newborn. Though the ceremony has lost its luster, the excitement and trepidation of using a new year for the Lord continue to stir the imagination.
I went to the New Testament and asked, “What good is a year?” Here are a few items to consider as 2010 nears.
It’s good to think of a year and what we can do with and for the church.”For a whole year [Barnabas and Saul] met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26 ESV). Meeting and teaching for a year. Not a bad start.
A year can be a time of testing faith, as Abraham and Sarah discovered when the Lord told them, “About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son” (Romans 9:9). More than faith-building, that year was one of promise, the great Hope when God overruled in the affairs of men and brought to earth the product of his working. So we can make 2010 the year of spiritual promise rather than the year of the flesh and carnal attempts to advance the kingdom of God.
A year’s span may mean it’s time to wrap things up. In Corinth the disciples had proposed helping the poor saints in Jerusalem. But their good intentions bogged down. So Paul told them,
“And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have” (2 Corinthians 8:10-11).
They’d made a resolution that had gotten dusty. Maybe we need to resurrect some of our good spiritual plans and make sure that in 2010 they get put into action and come to fruition.
Last, the famous browbeating by James about how to make plans is a must-read at this time of year. Make those plans, yes, even for a whole year, but don’t forget the essential element:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say,’”If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:13-17).
This is even a business plan, and James doesn’t criticize capitalism and free enterprise. He does condemn acting as if time and life are under human control. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
Early on in his ministry, Jesus stood up one day in the synagogue and read from Isaiah about proclaiming “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). He then declared the fulfillment of that prophecy in himself. That was the messianic year. As an extension of that, the year 2010 can also be the year of the Lord’s favor, when he comes into hearts that have been empty of God’s presence, and when faithful saints excel more and more in their holiness, love and action (see 1 Thesssalonians 4:1-12).
In the year of the Lord’s favor he makes things happen because he finds people willing to submit and be used for his purpose. Let’s be those people.
Come December 31st, I’m going to sleep on that.