(December 4, 2021) Brian Bell seriously considers some 2022 resolves…

As we enter the month of December 2021 with its Christmastime highlights, I find it exceedingly difficult notto think beyond Christmas to the New Year. One reason for that is because January 1 is my birthday – perhaps someone else reading these words shares this birth date.

Another reason is those traditional New Year ‘resolves.’ Despite the title of this meditation, it has never been my practice – as some like to do – to make ‘New Year resolutions.’ But that does not mean I am without resolve.

Let me begin with these thoughts…

As we approach 2022, maybe you look back on a difficult life experience in 2021. Amid the uncertainties of life perhaps a situation injured you, people may have hurt and or disappointed you. Do you feel you have failed the Lord in some way or that you made a poor decision and think he won’t forgive you?

There can be a tendency for us as Christian believers to feel difficult circumstances must be an indication of sin in our lives, or that we have displeased and or failed the Lord.

While there may be times when we may have made choices that have contributed to our circumstances, we need to remember the varied, changing and indeed difficult circumstances of life are common to believer and non-believer. The Lord Jesus himself reminds us that ‘the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45).

So, there is every reason to ‘resolve’ with great hope how we as believers may go ahead as the Lord enables us in 2022.These remarkably simple thoughts about how I see my 2022 resolve may also encourage you:

1. My resolve to pray
Joseph Scriven’s composition ‘What a friend we have in Jesus..’ came about after he’d had an exceedingly difficult personal experience and the phrase ‘O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer’ ring true for me… and maybe for you.

The Lord Jesus loves to hear us speak to him and especially if we are injured, or feel we can’t go on, to tell him what has happened and why or how you feel. To pray even when you don’t feel like it.

Jesus encouraged his disciples that they ‘should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). These serious words do not, of course, mean we need to leave aside all the demands and responsibilities of life and devote our time only to prayer! No, they speak about being in an attitude of prayer! You can be in prayer as you carry out household chores, as you travel to work, or even as you train in the gym!

And it is especially good to meet with others for prayer, even if in those situations where you do not pray audibly. Listening to others pray and agreeing with their prayers by saying ‘Amen,’ you can bring encouragement and strengthen your own soul.

2. My resolve to read scriptures
I don’t consider myself to be a ‘biblical scholar’ in any formal accredited sense. An old children’s song has the words ‘read your Bible pray every day if you want to grow.’ We all need to see God’s word as in our Bibles not only as a book to be read but as food to be digested!

We eat food to satisfy our appetite and maintain our physical strength, but God’s word is food for our souls and spiritual life. Sometimes we may experience a poor spiritual appetite, persevering with ‘little and often.’

The Lord will speak to you through his word, very often by reminding you of some truth you already know or the application of a verse of scripture in specific circumstances. Listen to what he says, even if it means you must change in some way, or take action based on his word.

3. My resolve to fellowship with others
Jesus told the Samaritan woman he met at the village well in Sychar (John 4) that the time had come when worship is no longer ‘tied’ to a specific place. So, we are not limited today as to where or how we engage in fellowship.

Hebrew 10:25 Message encourages us to be ‘not avoiding worshipping together as some do but spurring each other on.’ How interesting that a purpose in meeting together is to spur each other on; this has the sense that we are all running in the race and cheering each other to keep going.

We don’t have a blinkered vision, we know people (and that includes me) are flawed and sometimes sadly, we don’t live in love as we ought. Paul was encouraging the Hebrew believers – as the Message version puts verse 24 – to ‘see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.’ Now there is a challenge – Paul is basically saying find new ways to encourage loving and helpful relationships. Have yougot any new ideas?

Meeting in fellowship together gives us an opportunity to share our burdens with other believers who can help us. May 2022, Lord willing, see us able to maintain this vital aspect of Christian practice.

4. My resolve to encourage others
Proverbs 11:25 reminds us those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.’

I believe, and have proved as others have encouraged me, that one of the most vital ministries is to be an encourager.

Someone has said ‘In God’s economy our generosity can be demonstrated by the measure of our love for others.’ This means being generous in spirit and in our attitude to others, treating people as equals and with respect (especially if you have a leadership role). This does not mean shying away if problematic issues arise need to be dealt with, but in those situations we should always speak the truth in love.

If you are able to meet with a fellowship of believers then, as far as possible, make every effort to be present when they meet for prayer, Bible study and or Sunday services. These are opportunities for believers to meet together, encourage one another, with the objective of all we do being to reach out in Jesus’ name.

5. My resolve to ‘hold the fort’
I am conscious there are differing ‘end time’ views and I respect those who see things differently to the perspective I share here. Paul’s firstletter to the Thessalonians chapter 4 is one of my favourite passages about end time perspectives.

I see and understand the Lord’s coming in the context of what Paul describes as a ‘coming to the air’ to ‘call’ or ‘rapture’ believers from the earth – as distinct from the events described in chapter 2 of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians which I believe are also the subject of Revelation 19.

Paul tells the Thessalonians he is sharing that which is ‘…directly from the Lord.’He talks about the:

  • Certainty of the Lord’s coming.
  • Context of the Lord’s coming.
  • Comfort to be found in the Lord’s coming, and being…
  • Caught up at the Lord’s coming.

In 1 Thessalonians 5: 1- 4Message Paul talks about ‘how and when’ this event will happen and tells us ‘the day of the master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars.’

My wife Eveline and I try to ensure all our most important engagements are written into our calendar in an effort to ensure we won’t forget – and that is what I understand Paul is saying – it is not a question of us pinpointing a specific date relating to the Lord’s coming (known only to the Father), rather an encouragement not to forget and to live in light of the promise of his coming.

So where are we now in relation to this promise some may ask? It seems to me that the impact of the Covid virus and other recent world events have caused many believers to ask if they are ‘signs’ relating to the ‘nearness’ of the Lord’s ‘coming.’ I remember the words of a hymn which I’ve not heard for many years:

‘Ho my comrades see the signal waving in the sky,
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.
Hold the fort for I am coming, Jesus signals still,
Wave the answer back to heaven, by thy grace we will.’

Daniel F. Zanuck’s film The Longest Day depicts a screen version about some of the ‘D-Day’ events of June 1944. In one scene, British troops were tasked with taking and holding the strategic Pegasus Bridge – the ‘field orders’ given to their commander were ‘hold until relieved.’

In the endeavour to carry out that order, things were getting exceedingly difficult, and they were being hard pressed… but then they hear the sound of the bagpipes as the relief troops arrive.

Like those Thessalonian believers, we are still in a spiritual battle. In following our ‘field orders’ we are fighting a ‘holding action’ as Paul writes in 2Thessalonians 2:15 ‘…stand firm…’

In 2022 we may be hard pressed by the enemy as we seek to go forward in kingdom service and uphold kingdom values, but… the Lord is coming and until he does, he calls us, as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians, to resolve to hold our ground.

Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. He describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’

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