We stand in the first days of the year of our Lord 1998. The future is unknown to us. We can never know beyond the moment of the present. And the future may appear dark and perilous.
Do you have any insurance which will prevent you from being flat on your back, from being struck dead the next time you get into your car? We do not know whether our worst fears will take place-whether there will be a recurrence of cancer, whether there will be prosperity in business, whether there will be mental health or breakdown. We simply cannot see beyond the moment of the present.
But there is one sure light which is able to guide us inerrantly-a light, says the Word of God in II Peter 1:19, which shineth in a dark place whereunto ye do well that ye take heed. That light is God’s Word in our darkness. We read in Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
I want to use that figure of God’s Word as a light to our path to bring to you several familiar truths which you must keep constantly before your heart and mind in the coming year. The figure of the light that I now want to use is not the figure of one big dome light, a flood light, but lights for our pathway. Think of those ground lights along a sidewalk, perhaps from the garage to the front door, which keep you from stumbling; or lights on a runway, which guide the plane to a safe landing; or lights intended to mark out a path to keep you from getting lost or falling into a ravine. Familiar truths, then, of God’s Word, which are to be received by faith, which become as lights upon our pathway in 1998. Truths of the Word of God which you believe. Not simply verses stuck away in the back closet of the mind, but truths which are made powerful by the Spirit of Jesus Christ-a lamp which is lit.
So the Word of God, which has now become a flame lit in your heart by the work of the Holy Spirit.
The first light for our pathway in the coming year is this. Nothing will come into our life but that which is ordained for our greatest good. The Word of God says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I did not say that. That is the very word of God. We know that all is ordained for the highest good of those whom God has eternally called to Himself. We know that. Not, we feel; not, we see; not, we would like to think. No! We know. We know all things work together for good. Everything! No exceptions. Everything will work together for, will lead to, will be subservient unto good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Now, either God is a liar or that is true. You may stand upon the threshold of the new year and declare “nothing will come into my life but that which God ordains to work my highest good.” When everything seems to be coming apart at the seams, when unknown things come into your life which apparently would wipe away every smile on your face-sickness or death, whatever-it will be ordained of God to work your good.
That is a light upon your pathway for the coming year.
There is a perfect illustration of this found in Genesis 50:20. I will not tell you the whole story, but you remember that Joseph was sold by his brothers as a slave into Egypt and that God had led him out of the prison to become the second ruler over Egypt. And you will remember that when the brothers reported not only Joseph’s death, but then later on reported that their brother Simeon was in Egypt’s prison and that Benjamin (Jacob’s loved son) had to go with them back to Egypt, Jacob responded this way about all the things that were happening: “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36). And yet, we see that God was working out a marvelous way for His people, that all things were ruled by the sovereign God for good. For Joseph says at the end of it all in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”
Our greatest good will be that we are weaned from the world and are conformed to Jesus Christ. Our greatest good will be that we will be made to be desirous of heaven. We may be assured that nothing will come into our lives but that which is ordained of God for our greatest good.
But there is another light (light #2). Nothing will come into our life but that God Himself will be with me as I face it.
We read in Hebrews 13:5, 6 where the apostle quotes from Joshua 1 and assures us that God’s promise is this: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” The Hebrew Christians were facing tremendous difficulties in the way of their attachment to Jesus Christ. They had lost goods and possessions. They had been cast out of their families and were being persecuted. Paul says, “Be content with such things as ye have, because God has promised that He will be near to you. He will never leave you and He will never forsake you.”
Paul learned this truth in Acts 18:9, 10. There the Scriptures tell us that Paul was in Corinth, which was a pagan city, filled with fornication. He was opposed by the Jews, who never gave up hounding him. He was faced by all kinds of opposition in bringing the gospel to that city. Then God came to him with a word of consolation. And God said to him, “For I, even I, am with thee and no man shall prevent thee. I have much people in this city.” God was saying to him, “Paul, no matter what you experience in opposition in the days ahead, don’t hold back. Preach the gospel, for though I am now absent, I am not afar off. Not only have I ordained your good, Paul, but I will be with you.”
What are the lights for our pathway?
First, all that comes to us in the coming year will be ordained by our God for our good. Second, God has sworn that He will ever be with us.
And the third light is this: There will be nothing in the coming year to separate us from the love of Christ. Perhaps the passages already come to your mind. Romans 8:34-39. Paul has issued a challenge in verse 31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” God is utterly committed to saving us. Paul goes on in verse 32 to show what God has done: He has not spared His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. Christ has risen and is at the right hand of God and makes intercession for us. All this God now has done. And since God is committed to our salvation and has done all this for us in Christ, Paul goes on to issue the challenge: “Who shall separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ?” He gives a list: Who? Devil? What will you use to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ? Tribulation? Distress? Persecution? Nakedness? Peril? Sword? Paul says, “I am persuaded!” Not, “I feel.” Not, “I like to think.” But “I am persuaded!” A judgment has taken place. “In my mind of faith (and it filters down into my heart) nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
One thing is certain in the coming year! The thing that is certain is, yes, we will sin, we will stumble, we will fall, we will be made to know our weakness and unworthiness. But this also is certain: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. That is not presumption. That is the blessing of faith. To those in Jesus Christ the greatest burden is their sin, the greatest longing is to be holy, the greatest yearning is to be like Christ. To such, justified sinners, the word of God is: Nothing, nothing in this year, nothing in heaven above or hell below or on earth can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
There is another light for our pathway. It is this: Nothing will be expected of you but that God, in His grace, will give you strength sufficient to do it. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” He says it again in II Corinthians 12:7-10. With reference to the thorn in the flesh that so troubled him, he had learned to hear God say, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Perhaps as you look out into the coming year you say that there are things that will be too heavy, too dark, too unthinkable. You dread the coming of another day. You say, “How shall I be able to cope?” God says: Nothing will be set before you in the will of God which you will not be able to do by His grace. In Philippians 4:13, where Paul makes that wonderful statement, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me,” he is speaking out of the context of a prison, out of the context of hunger, out of the context of the lack of earthly things. He says he had learned to be content. He could do all things by God who strengthens him, and he blesses God.
As I said, in II Corinthians 12 he speaks of the thorn of his flesh over which he had prayed three times, three distinct times, that God would take it away. He had concluded at a certain point in his life that either that thorn in the flesh must go away, or he could not go on as an apostle. And he heard God’s answer, “My grace is sufficient. The power of My favor shown to you in Jesus Christ is sufficient. Paul, I will not remove the thorn. It has its purpose. It is working My will in your life. But I will give you grace in order that you might do the will of God. I will show you the favor that is yours in Jesus Christ. I will reveal to you the grace and power of the cross which will be sufficient for every need.”
You face problems and tears and struggle in the coming year? Remember this: God will give you grace sufficient to do His will. When the way is steep and lonely and heavy and weary, mark this down in your soul as a light to guide your feet: God’s grace will be sufficient.
There is still another light to guide us in the coming year. That light is this: Nothing will frustrate the purposes of God in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that there are real forces, strong and relentless forces, evil forces, which we cannot see or touch, but real forces, set against the gospel of Jesus Christ and against everyone who will confess it. Forces which are filled with a hellish rage. We read of them in Ephesians 6:12 and in other portions of the Bible which tell us that we fight against principalities and powers, against the wiles of the devil. There are forces which are at work and seeking nothing less than spiritual genocide of the church of Jesus Christ and the people of God.
But they cannot frustrate the saving work of God in Jesus Christ. They cannot bind the Word of God. They cannot take one little one from the hand of Jesus Christ. They cannot keep Christ from saving His own. Matthew 16:18: “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Ephesians 1:20-22: All things are placed under the feet of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church. I Corinthians 15:25ff.: “For he (that is, Christ) must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” Not, He shall reign when He hath put all things under His feet, but He shall reign till He hath put all things under His feet. God’s saving purposes in Jesus Christ will never be frustrated.
We are called to be faithful. We are called to bring the Word of God. We are called to live a Christian life. We are called to use the means that God has given that we may be assured that all those forces which oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ, which are, indeed, mighty and cruel, are under His control. Psalm 97:1, 2: “The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice.” Nahum 1:3: “The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” The Lord had His way in the whirlwind.
In the coming year nothing will frustrate the work of God in Jesus Christ.
There is one more light upon your pathway that I would give to you for the coming year. It is this: Each passing moment will bring us closer to the return of Jesus Christ.
We know that the day of our redemption and salvation is closer than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11). We know that each passing day brings us closer to the day when Christ shall appear upon the clouds of glory, to the day when the heavens shall part and Christ shall appear and every eye shall see Him, and the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised. And all men shall be gathered before the great white throne, Christ will divide them as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, the wicked and the Devil shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and we will hear the words of our Father, “Come ye blessed of My Father; enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Are you ready for that day? Is this what you are looking for? I do not know when that day will be. No man does. The Scriptures say: Be ready; for ye know not the hour that the Son of Man cometh. But this much I know: it is the wicked servant who says, “My lord delays his coming.” It is the righteous servant who prepares himself for the Lord’s coming, who stands on spiritual tiptoes looking, ready, eager for Jesus to come.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
I have told you nothing new. I have brought to you principles and truths of the Christian faith which rest upon the Word of God, which have been confessed by the people of God throughout the ages. But, as we stand at the beginning of the year with all of its uncertainties, let us take the Word of God as our light.
1. Nothing will come in this year but what is ordained for my good.
2. Nothing will come but that God will be with me.
3. Nothing will separate me from the love of Christ.
4. Nothing will be expected of me but that God’s grace will be sufficient.
5. Nothing can frustrate the saving purposes of God in Christ.
6. Each moment will bring me closer to the moment when I shall see my Savior.
Take the Word of God as your light. Shine the Word of God into this coming year. Walk according to its light. You shall walk surely. You will not tremble in fear. Then it may be said of you, as is written in Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the just is a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
May God take this Word and bind it to our hearts.
Let us pray.
Father, give us obedience now to take up the Word of God as our light and lamp. By Thy Holy Spirit kindle the flame of Thy Word in our hearts and teach us to live our lives and to guide our steps according to the sure promises of Thy Word in this coming year. Do it, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.