The very first words of Scripture “In the beginning” mark the origin of time, and immediately a cyclical span of time extending from the beginning of one evening to the beginning of the next evening was established, giving the basic measure for tracking the passage of time. A few days later, on the 4th day of creation, the temporal span we know as a “year” became fixed, corresponding to the cyclical pattern of solar insolation intersecting the earth in its orbital motion around the sun. Now, during the week before us, we as finite creatures in God’s created cosmos are positioned to inaugurate another year in God’s sustained ordering of time. More particularly, we are set to leave behind another year in God’s defined plan for each of us in our time, and move forward with anticipation into a new year which moves us inexorably closer to His promised consummation of this age.
As we anticipate a new year, realizing that all of our times are in God’s sovereign disposing of time, it behooves us to engage in at least a measured retrospective review of the past year as well as a prospective consideration of the time God will be sovereignly allotting to each of us. So, standing at this ‘transitional vantage point’ in time, I purpose to offer a few guiding thoughts that might be helpful in our remembrance of the past year (i.e., our engaging a reflective, backward glance) and a preparatory, forward-look with respect to the coming year. To this end, I have chosen to center our thoughts just briefly using two Scriptural texts and the words of two hymns.
“Many, O Yahweh my Elohim, are the wonders which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; if I would declare them, they would be too numerous to count.” Ps. 40:5
“Praise Yahweh! I will give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of Yahweh; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work; and His righteousness endures forever. He has made is wonders to be remembered;” Ps. 111: 1-4a
A Biblically-Encouraged Exercise for Saints
Reference: “Count Your Blessings”, a hymn composed by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (also composer of “Higher Ground” and “No Not One”)
Recommended Action: Exchange discouragement and hopelessness for an uplifting surprise. How? Count your blessings, identifying many by name.
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings – name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Recommended Action: Replace your burden of care and doubt with a soul-uplifting song. How? Count your many blessings, identifying many by name. Also, open a hymn book regularly for a re-centering of your God-ward thoughts, and encouragement in your pilgrimage.
“Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings – every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.”
Recommended Action: Substitute earthly disappointments with eternal prospects. How? Count your many blessings, identifying many by name.
“When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; count your many blessings – money cannot buy your reward in heaven nor your home on high.”
Recommended Action: Amid present conflict, open your eyes to omnipresent sovereignty and sustaining grace. How? Count your many blessings, identifying many by name.
“So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings – angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”
Recommended Action: Set aside some private moments to scroll through your mental archives, pausing frequently to remember with studied reflection, seeing God’s gracious providences in hindsight, and then exercise your counting skills … and, of course, let your mind stimulate the heart to offer a “sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips giving thanks to His name”.
“Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings see what God hath done; count your blessings, name them one by one; count your many blessings see what God hath done.”
A Biblically-Rooted Perspective
A helpful retrospective when glancing backward across a challenging past year, and an anchoring prospective as one looks forward to the coming year, is offered in the following hymn.
Reference: “What God Hath Promised”, a hymn composed by Annie Johnson Flint (also composer of “He Giveth More Grace”).
“God hath not promised skies always blue, flower strewn pathways all your life through; God hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain.”
“God hath not promised we shall not know toil and temptation, trouble and woe; He hath not told us we shall not bear many a burden, many a care.”
“God hath not promised smooth roads and wide; swift, easy travel, needing no guide; never a mountain rocky and steep, never a river turbid and deep.”
“But God hath promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way; Grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love.”
Larry Redekopp – TBBF Elder Chairman