January 6, 2023 | By Jay Ashbaucher
Another new year has begun. I have heard “Happy New Year” from many friends and well-wishers. I say it to many people as well. Also, my computer is loaded up with new ads from various companies wishing me a “happy new year” and telling me that buying their products can make me happy. No doubt new products can make us happy because they help fulfill wants or needs. Many people, when a new year begins, will feel like it gives them a chance to start over by leaving behind certain bad experiences from the past. So they make promises or vows to do something different to make their lives better. That’s a good thing. Sadly, for many of us, we start out with great intentions, but those intentions often get dropped, or become unfulfilled, and not much changes. I would like to place an emphasis on the word “new”, and on the God who said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). He is The God of the new. If we feel like a failure, or if we have broken relationships, or if we have people against us, or if we are weighed down with depressive circumstances, we can have a new beginning, or a new perspective on our troubles, or a new life, or a new hope for a great future, because there is a God who can make new and good things happen.
Speaking of new perspectives, Dave Galloway, in his book “12 Ways to Develop a Positive Attitude”, told the story of a contractor building a levee along a riverbank. Then a storm and flood came, burying all his earth-moving equipment and destroying the work he had done. His workers became despondent when they saw the damage and the seemingly hopeless situation. The boss asked why they looked so gloomy. They said, “Can’t you see what happened and all this mud covering our machinery?” The contractor replied, “What mud? I see a blue sky and sunshine. I never saw any mud that could stand against sunshine. Soon the mud will dry up and we will be able to start up again.” It’s amazing how getting a new focus can change our attitudes and give us renewed hope. If we have done much reading of the Bible, and have seen how God views the world, and what His plan is to renew all things, we can gain a new perspective that can encourage us and keep us going through the difficult situations we face.
Do you, or have you ever felt like a failure? Have you heard the phrase, “the agony of defeat”? It applies to an athlete who fails to perform in a chance to win the game. The game could have been won, but he or she failed the team by making a mistake. What agony can set in, beating up on oneself and feeling like a failure. Persons may have to live with those memories the rest of their lives. How do they feel good about themselves again? It seems all of us have to come to terms with being ok that we are not perfect. I have let people down, people I loved who trusted me, and I failed them. We must learn to live with regrets, and “if only I had done such and such”. We can’t change the past and we can’t be perfect.
Some people can’t let go of what they have done. Can God help us? Can God make my past failures go away. Can I start new again without self-blame or guilt? Can I accept the fact that I am not a perfect person? Someone once told former missionary, pastor, counselor, and author, Walter Trobisch that “God is not All-Mighty because he is not able to cause what has happened to ‘unhappen’.” Trobisch was a young Christian and this statement bothered him. But as Trobisch grew in his faith, he came to see that this is exactly God’s work. He realized that God can make what has happened “unhappen” through forgiveness. “I have experienced it myself”, he said, “It has wiped out my past, and made possible a whole new beginning.” Although God cannot undo what has happened, through forgiveness or resurrection power, he can reverse, or make the past, “as if” it had never happened. We find this to be true in our human relationships. We can start over with new life and restored relationships. We can forget what’s behind and move forward (Psalm 103:10-12; Philippians 3:12-14).
God’s people, the Israelites, were often very rebellious and turned away from God. The same is true of people today. We have in the back of our mind that there is a God, but we live as if there is not (Romans 1:20-21). God longs for us to have a relationship with him and so made a promise to his people long ago when he told them that he will forgive them and give them a new heart and new spirit by putting his Spirit within them to enable them to love him and walk in his ways (Ezekiel 36:25-27). When we humble ourselves before God, realizing that we do not want the life we have been living, and we turn to him, desiring a new life from him, he is willing to give us what we need and desire. When we trust our lives into his hands by faith in Jesus, God’s Son, and receive his Holy Spirit, we become a new creation, and everything becomes new. As God’s word says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We can experience God’s new things.
To conclude, something else is ours from “The God of the New”. When we go through hard times in this imperfect sinful world, and we suffer from various afflictions, and feel depressed, rejected, without peace and happiness, and our strength is fading away and we feel helpless, God gives us something else that is new, something to help us through those tough times. When Jeremiah, one of God’s godly prophets, felt down and desperate, he prayed to his God, “Remember my affliction and my wandering…my bitterness.” He told God how terrible he felt, and then he remembered, “This I recall to mind, and I have hope. The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in him.” In Lamentations chapter 3, Jeremiah pours out his heart to God and God is faithful to give to him each day, his mercy, love and compassion, as needed to enable him to get through his sufferings. His focus is taken off his troubles and his focus is on what God promises and can give him. “You drew near when I called on you”, says Jeremiah, “You said, ‘Do not fear!’ O Lord, you have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed my life” (Lamentations 3:57-58). May God’s mercy become more real as you grow to know him.