I don’t know about you, but on New Year’s Day, I felt a sense of relief. 2020 was a tough year for obvious reasons and going into 2021 there was a sense of optimism and hope. Yet here we are in February, in another national lockdown. The news is still pretty bleak every day and we’re not so sure when things will be back to normal. Perhaps you feel a similar way to how I have sometimes felt in the last couple of weeks – a bit discouraged, lethargic, and fed up. Perhaps your new year’s resolutions which you were so hopeful of staying on top of, have disintegrated.
As we think about the year ahead, especially in light of the past 12 months, I want to share a few simple points which I’ve been reflecting on recently. In times of discouragement, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself of the following three scriptural truths, each from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Bear in mind that in this short piece I am just going to pick out a few nuggets from the book of Colossians, I’d encourage you to read the whole letter to get the full context and be enriched.
Christ is totally sovereign.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
We find these wonderful verses in a section of the letter in which Paul is encouraging his readers by reminding them of Christ’s sovereignty – and just as the Colossian Christians needed this reminder, so do we, regularly. Nothing in your life has taken place outside of God’s sovereign will, which is perfect. We don’t know exactly how things will pan out over the next few months, but with this knowledge as a foundation, we can trust the one who does. Even in the midst of pain and confusion, we can look ahead to the rest of this year (and our lives) with hope and optimism. Whatever your circumstances, entrust them to Christ, who holds all things together. Rest in him, soak yourself in the word and be at peace.
We are to walk in Him.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”Colossians 2: 6-7
Paul then goes on to encourage believers to continue walking with God. What does this involve? It means actively maintaining a relationship with him. Hearing him speak to you through his word, responding to him in prayer, and seeking to obey him in every area of your life. As verse 7 reminds us, it’s important that we are continually thankful to God, even in difficult circumstances – in Christ he has blessed us beyond our comprehension.
I’ve been challenged recently when thinking about how I’m using the extra time afforded to me by the lockdown. I’m aware that not everyone has more free time than usual, but if you do, it’s a unique and valuable opportunity to spend more time searching and meditating on the scriptures, and more time in prayer. As we do this, we become “built up” in him, growing in spiritual maturity. Be encouraged that although we naturally struggle to be disciplined in this area, we have the Spirit helping us as we exercise these means of grace.
As we walk with him, we become ever more equipped to deal with the challenges this year will throw at us.
We are to work for Him.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”Colossians 3:23-24
Think back to some of the goals and resolutions you set yourself for this year. One question is “how are they going?” A more important question is “what is your motivation behind setting these goals?” It’s so easy to slip into a mindset of achieving goals for the sake of self-improvement, or working to please others, or both – but Paul so clearly shows us that ultimately the one we ought to be striving to please is the Lord. With this mindset in place, our day-to-day work becomes so much more meaningful, and so do the goals and resolutions we set for ourselves.
You may find your work particularly mundane at the moment, especially if you’re working from home. However, I have personally found it really helpful to actively remind myself who I’m ultimately serving. It makes work feel more fulfilling when you know it is serving a heavenly purpose. As we stare at the remainder of 2021, whatever it holds, let’s consider afresh that Christ is totally sovereign. Let’s resolve to continually walk in him, and in whatever we do this year, to do it for him.