Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Resolved

As this year comes to a close and the New Year begins, people around the world will be in full celebration.  I have often thought it a strange practice to revel over the passing of one year and the beginning of another.  I suppose it has more to do with the secular world being relieved that they successfully made it through the previous year, rather than rejoicing that God has given us more time on this earth.

Whatever the reason, streets around the world will be filled with partyers drunk on the fruit of the vine and the idea that the resolutions they have made will be fulfilled, making the New Year more prosperous and giving them a better life than the year before.

Looking back on 2011, there is much that could be grumbled about.  In 2008, the citizenry had naively voted in a President that promised "change," but the "change" that came was not what most expected - or wanted, for that matter.  As the worldwide economy continued its downward spiral, 2011 proved that the ideology that Obama brought to Washington D.C. would only compound the problem here in the United States.   Jobs were lost, unemployment soared, savings dwindled, and homes were foreclosed upon.  Political squabbling became the norm as we watched those who had created the mess unsuccessfully attempt to undo it.

Prices continued to rise, unrest and wars escalated in the Arab nations under the ruse of "democracy," and men turned on each other in the form of class warfare that was being perpetuated by the current Administration and tearing this nation apart.  Capitalism, that had built this nation, was under attack.   Socialism and Marxism were slowly being introduced and accepted by the ignorant mainstream who were struggling to keep their heads above water and fearful of tomorrow, viewing those more fortunate or industrious as wicked and greedy.

Although some, including myself, had legitimate gripes, protests and violence broke out across the nation.  Stirred up by outside influence with an agenda to bring down capitalist America, the altruistic and agenda-driven liberal left rounded up the uneducated and uninformed and squatted in filthy and dangerous encampments.  The have-nots wanted to take down those who did have, with the exception of a elite "few" that they deemed worthy of keeping theirs.  Slowly but surely, the bloated Federal government is sucking Americans dry, stifling industry, discouraging risk, robbing citizens of their rights, and instilling a mindset in the complacent and apathetic that it knows what is best for them and will take care of their needs.

This all sounds pretty dismal, doesn't it?  It sure has given us plenty to gripe and grumble about.  Considering all that I mentioned above, it is no wonder that people will be celebrating the end of 2011 as the ball drops at midnight in Times Square, New York.  They are hoping that 2012 will bring a renewal of hope and prosperity and allow them to forget about their worries and woes.  But, all pessimism aside, I am betting that the things of 2011 were only the beginning of trouble and that mankind's grumbling and complaining will only grow worse as the problems in the world are carried forward into the new year.

I am just as guilty as the next for whining about my life and the perception I have for the things it lacks.  This past year, I have fought envy over others and what they have and I don't, hatred for the world and its depravity, and a multitude of other unhealthy emotions.  I certainly didn't gain anything by thinking or behaving that way.  In fact, I would say with all conviction that I lost out on a great deal, wasting my time looking at the world and grumbling about it instead of knowing God is still in absolute control and counting the things that He has blessed me with in 2011.

I'm not hungry.  He has filled my stomach.

I'm not homeless.  He has provided a roof over my head.

I'm not alone.  He has surrounded me with family and friends to be loved by and to return my love upon them.

And I am sure that if I took the time and you weren't bored into leaving, I could continue to write an endless list of things to be thankful for.

However, the greatest gift God has given me is Himself.

I will go so far as to say that when you have Jesus Christ in your life, He faithfully provides for you in ways we refuse to comprehend.  Although we don't see it this way, nothing else is needed.  I have learned the hard way that all of my grumbling and complaining is sinful and that an attitude adjustment was in order.

When we gripe and complain, we are telling Him that we are not grateful for the things He has given us.  We become like the Israelites wandering in the desert, never mindful of the constant "cloud" in the daytime that hovers protectively over us and the "pillar of fire" in the nighttime that leads us through the darkness of this world (Exodus 13).  He causes water to "spring" up to quench our thirst for Him and feeds us His "manna," the Word of God, through faithful shepherds like my own.  And when we feel as though His well or His table is emptying, He refills them, satisfying our hunger and thirst and strengthening us to finish well this race we call "life."

My beloved Pastor Paul Guay recently reminded and convicted me of how unfruitful my grumbling can be.  In his sermon on Philippians 2:17-18, Paul preached on his namesake, Apostle Paul's, letter to the people and how his desire was that they would "joy to share in the midst of sorrow."  Although the apostle was facing a certain death, he asked the Philippians to rejoice with him, even as he was being "poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice" and to share that joy with others.  Pounding home the meat (or gristle, as my sister, Dana, called it), Pastor Paul exhorted his listeners that we are to share not only in the suffering of others, but also in their joy.  And we are to do it exceedingly so, for we "enhance" each others joy when we do, becoming the sharers of God's grace and mercies that are shed so broadly upon all of us.  

If we attempt to flee from and avoid suffering as the world does (and which we all have done at some point in our lives), we are avoiding profound joy in being found worthy to offer ourselves in sacrifice to God.  What more could we do for Jesus who was so "violently torn asunder" for the sins we have committed in order that we would not have to suffer the Father's wrath?  How selfish we are in our suffering and joy by not sharing it.  As Philippians 1:19-20 reveals, our greatest joy comes from our greatest suffering because, as the Apostle Paul so clearly demonstrates, the reward for doing so will be unequaled.  The day we stand before our King and LORD  Jesus Christ and cast our crowns at His pierced feet will be a day of rejoicing unlike any we have ever experienced.

As the year 2011 comes to a close and 2012 begins, I am more determined to grumble less and rejoice more.  We have no clue what will come in the following months.  But one thing we do know is that God is still God, even in times of trouble and tribulation.  He is still LORD of the universe, holding dominion over all of creation.  Whatever man may bring upon the world will never diminish that truth.

Therefore, my hope for 2012 lies in Jesus Christ and what He has promised me.  With His help, I will grumble less and rejoice with exceeding gladness, knowing that a day will come when we will truly know peace and prosperity. 

To all my readers, may you be resolved in this New Year to continue to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, of Him crucified, risen, and seated at the right hand of the Father.  And may you also share in each others suffering and joy as we patiently await His glorious return!


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