As we look back over 2020, we see the good and the bad things that have happened, the exciting times, the challenges. As we look forward into the New Year, we see – – well, that’s just the trouble, isn’t it? We can’t see. It’s a bit like the children of Israel all those years ago, at the border of the Promised Land. I’m sure they were filled with hopes and dreams, probably unrealistic expectations – maybe fears and worries about how everything would work out.
I’ve always admired people who emigrate to settle in a new land – sometimes with people who don’t even speak the same language. Of course the good thing about the New Year is that it is unspoilt, a bit like those exercise books at the beginning of the year – no mistakes – no messy corrections!
I couldn’t help thinking of God’s people at the border of the Promised Land. God had brought them out of cruel slavery in Egypt. They’d spent 40 years in the desert because of their rebellion and unbelief, but all the time God intended to bring them into a good land – the land of Canaan – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ the Bible says.
God has a wonderful plan for each of our lives – it all depends on our response to God and our co-operation with Him, how well and how easily we enter into God’s plan for our lives and whether we reach our full potential.
Our message really begins towards the end of Deuteronomy, where Moses, at God’s direction – hands over the leadership to Joshua. Then all the way through the book of Joshua we see how God’s people entered Canaan and actually took possession of the land God had promised them. It’s quite a story! There were glorious victories. There were many, many challenges – but through it all God fulfilled all of His promises just as He will do for us.
In Deuteronomy 31:19-21 we see that God knew ahead of time what the people were thinking and what was in their heart and He warned them in advance to stay close to Him or they would find themselves in big trouble. He says the same to us today.
In order to enter into God’s potential for our lives, of course, we have to make some changes. And let’s face it – that’s not so easy to do. Old habits die hard. For instance, God wants us to be kind and forgiving to our families and to love and care for our neighbours! Often we would rather look after ourselves. Isn’t it the truth?!
Those people back then were in many ways just like us. They had families to look after and provide for. They wanted to be ‘successful’ in their own way. They wanted peace and security in their hearts and homes. Really, they were just like us. Think of the different types of people.
- There were the positive ones. ‘Let’s get on with the job’ they’d say. ‘Let’s get rid of our enemies and get settled in this place – eager to do whatever had to be done to make it work.
- Then there were the negative ones – always had to have something to complain about. ‘Well it’s all very well we finally got here, but what about all the problems? Yes, there’s food, but it’s a huge job starting from scratch to set up something permanent. And how are we supposed to drive out all our enemies? I’ve never fought in a battle before.
- The fearful ones – ‘did you hear there were giants in the land’? ‘It’s enough to give the children nightmares’.
- Then there were the ‘slackos’! They’re the ones who go along with what God wants, just as long as it fits in with their ideas. When God’s way doesn’t suit them, they just drop out and do their own thing.
- Then of course there are those who are dedicated to the Lord. They understand that God’s way is best even when it seems very hard and very challenging. They understand that they don’t DESERVE God’s blessing, so they really appreciate every good thing that comes their way and are always thankful. They are also the ones who are confident in God. They understand that in themselves they are not good enough or strong enough or clever enough to win the battles of life but that with God on their side they cannot lose.
WE probably know what WE want in the New Year.
Good health. Enough money to pay the bills. Safety in our land. Some measure of love, joy and peace in our lives. Salvation for our families.
But what does GOD want?