“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvelous things!”Joel 2:21
Thoughts on the New Year
January 2020. A new year has begun. If we stop for a moment and think back to the turn of the millennium, two things become apparent: how quickly the time seems to have passed, and how we—and the whole world—have been transformed by everything that happened and changed in that time.
It is January 2020, and we cannot know what the future will bring. Many people will respond to this uncertainty with fear and anxiety. Perhaps you, too, see a difficult path ahead, whether in terms of your personal life; of our society’s political, moral, or spiritual outlook; or of the state of your local congregation or the Church of God as a whole. But did you know that this depressive fear paralyzes us and saps our strength, and that fear is one of Satan’s most effective tools for weakening our spiritual power and sowing destructive doubts about God in our hearts?
Let us meet all these alarming thoughts at the start of this new year in faith and with a trusting “nevertheless” (Psalm 73:23). We do not have to overcome all of the challenges and crises the future holds through our own strength and wisdom, because the eternal God, in His immeasurable might and majesty, carries the entire universe with His strong will. Our lives—yours and mine—are in His hand as well. Under His protection, we can enter this new year in joyful anticipation by entrusting ourselves to Him.
The Power of God
Can you mark the limits of God’s power and might? Is there any problem that He cannot solve or any suffering that He cannot heal? The psalmist tells us, “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). The Bible is brimming with evidence of His immense power. Take the account of Israel’s escape, fleeing Pharaoh and his warriors through the desert—straight toward the Red Sea. We can imagine the fear that these mothers and fathers must have felt, with all earthly hope lost. But then Moses called out to the people: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13–14). When their need outstripped the bounds of human help, God stepped in to demonstrate His divine might. Some 725 years later, Jerusalem was suffocating, surrounded by the Assyrians’ superior forces. Under existential threat, King Hezekiah brought the enemies’ mocking message before God in His sanctuary. We read, “Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven” (2 Chronicles 32:20). They had no doubt, each knowing, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). God rewarded their faith in spectacular form, sending a single angel to slay 185,000 warriors in one night. God is able. The Word of God proves this for a fact.
Do we sometimes make the mistake of imposing the limits of our own imagination on the might of God? You would not be the first to think, “Not even God can help me this time.” But what does the Son of God say? “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). When God promised Abraham a son, He asked him, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Today we know that Isaac was born a year later, exactly as God had promised. Job recognized that God is able to do anything and that nothing He chooses to do is hard for Him (Job 42:2). Through His prophet Jeremiah, God asked the people of Israel, as He continues to ask us today, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
The virgin Mary was unexpectedly visited by the archangel Gabriel, who announced the birth of Jesus to her. It is easy to understand her bewildered reaction as she asked, “How can this be?” And Gabriel explained, concluding, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). And Jesus Christ, from His birth to triumphant ascension into heaven, proved through His life: God is able!
The Power of God in My Life
You might think, “Sure, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah, Daniel, Paul, and many others experienced the powerful working of God, but my case is different.” It may, in fact, be true that something differentiates you from these heroes of the faith. If your experiences differ significantly from what the Bible reports, what is the cause?
Has God changed, or has His power receded? No. God is unchanging, from eternity to eternity (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17). Do we live in a time so godless that God’s power is inhibited? If we study the Bible, we see that the sinful world has always been evil. In Noah’s time, things were already so bad that God responded with a severe judgment (Genesis 6:5–7). But this fact did not prevent Gideon and Daniel from experiencing God’s great power at work. If the reason can be found neither with God nor in our surroundings, where can the fault lie? Are we perhaps just too weak or too simple? Do we lack insight into God’s promises?
In his old age, James wrote a letter of encouragement to the Jewish Christians, making the point that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Why did he find this so important? God created us as unique beings, as people with different strengths—and with highly individualized weaknesses. He lets us enter this world as helpless infants and calls us home in our equally helpless, infirm old age. Even in our prime, we are still weak and dependent on help. We need God’s power in every moment of our lives to nourish and carry us in the fullness of His mercy and grace. Once we have acknowledged this dependency, 2 Corinthians 12:9 yields a promise of encouragement with the words, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The more we are aware of our need for help, the better God can let His glory shine in our lives. Our human weakness is therefore not a barrier to God’s glorious manifestation in our lives.
The real obstacle to experiencing God’s power is revealed to the disciples by Jesus Himself: “Because of your unbelief” (Matthew 17:20). The quality of your personal faith opens or closes the door to God’s power in your life. If you believe in God and His Word, if you know His promises, if you accept that they apply to you personally, and if you claim them in child-like faith, you will experience God. Jesus says to us, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). In other words: If we fully trust in God, even the inconceivable can become reality in our lives.
The source of power is unalterably with God. Throughout the coming months, God wants to reveal His glory to the people in your life. He wants His omnipotence to become evident in your life, so do not be afraid of storms or disasters. The darker the night, the brighter the beam of the comforting light. Think of the three young heroes in Babylon who had to choose between worshiping an idol and being thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). Take a moment to truly place yourself in their shoes. See how they looked past the seemingly inevitable torture to the One who holds all power, saying to their earthly king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.” And then hear their faith soar triumphantly as they conclude, “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17–18). They had surrendered all human protection and given themselves over fully into the hands of the eternal God.
Yes, God is able—and God is willing. He wants us to experience His glory anew every day of our lives.