by Steven Chan
As we begin the New Year of 2016, we are thankful to have the opportunity to enter into another year in this life, to enjoy the fellowship of brethren, family and friends, and to complete whatever goals that we have yet to accomplish.
It is also another year of opportunity to “love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt 22:37-38) Jesus said in John 14:15: “”If you love Me, keep My commandments”. In 1 John 5:3, the Bible says: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
Loving God is more than just saying in our mind or with our mouths that we love God. It is to be shown by our keeping of His commandments. In the coming year, as in the past as well, there will be those who will teach erroneously that loving God means accepting that His grace is sufficient and that there is no need to bother about trying very hard to keep His commandments. The Bible clearly and unequivocally teaches otherwise.
The Bible teaches in 1 John 5:1-2: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” It is not too difficult to declare that one believes in God or to say that one loves God. But the Bible says that the one who professes to believe in God and professes to love God, needs to demonstrate his love for the children of God (fellow brethren) and that love is manifested by one loving God and “keeping His commandments”. Earlier in the same epistle, the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:16-19: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
Let us resolve in 2016 to love God more intensely and to manifest our love and concern for our brethren in a more overt manner. When the needs of our brother are met, he will be strengthened. Likewise we, as the body of Christ, will also be strengthened (Eph 4:16). Let us resolve to do that which was taught by the apostle Paul: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”(Phil 2:4)
It is true that God’s grace is sufficient to help us in our time of need. The apostle Paul wrote thus in 2 Cor 12:9-10: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The people of God have always been encouraged to rely upon God for His strength, guidance and deliverance. The Bible declares in Jer 10:23: “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” Likewise, the wise King Solomon penned this important exhortation in Prov 3:5-8:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. 8 It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”
The Psalmist declares in Ps 37:23-26: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. 25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. 26 He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed.”
As we enter the New Year of 2016, there will be challenges that await us all. We do not know what they are. So, it is important that we learn to trust God to “direct our paths” and to allow Him to “order our steps”, always bearing in mind that although there may be instances that we may “stumble” and “fall”, yet we are assured that the Lord will “uphold us with His hand” and we shall not stay fallen.
Let’s resolve to live closer to our Lord as our shepherd so that we can say with King David, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”