By Melissa McLaughlin

The Gift of a Year

As we close out one year and look ahead to a new one, we can be thankful. For we have been given the gift of a year. As long as our hearts are still beating, God isn’t finished with us yet. And that alone is reason to give thanks. May we see God’s hand of grace drawing us unto Himself through it all.

While reminiscing, may we meditate on this simple, yet profound Bible verse:

Proverbs 4:23Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

One reality we have all faced this year is an increase in division, enmity, violence and hatred.

Where does this begin?

In the heart. One heart at a time.

When Jesus foretold signs of the end times, He warned of this very thing, recorded here in Matthew 24:10-13 – And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

God’s Timeline

Though our culture believes history repeats itself, this is not what God teaches in His Word. The Bible is clear. In the beginning, God created the heavens, the earth and all living things. And God will bring it all to a close, according to His timeline and purposes.

Though from the start, mankind rejected God’s order and rule in the Garden of Eden, still God sent Jesus Christ to redeem us. To pay our sin-debt and reconcile us back to God.

One day, God will bring this world to an end and bring forth a new heaven and new earth, where He will rule in righteousness and truth forever. Of this we can be certain, for God’s Word will stand after the last opinion of mankind has crumbled to dust.

Thankfully, those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD are assured a place with Him in heaven forever. With every beat of our hearts, we are one day closer to that fearsome and glorious end.

What can we expect as we wait? What can we expect in the year ahead?

Do not be surprised at trials we may face in the year ahead.

1 Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Do not be surprised at trials. Remember trials are vastly different from temptations. The Lord does not tempt us to sin. That’s our own sinful nature and Satan desiring ungodly things.

However, God does allow trials in our lives. Trials help us recognize the futility of our own prideful self-reliance and instead remind us to humbly draw closer to our Savior. God’s greatest gift to us, in any year, is the gift of Himself. Trials enable us to find our sustenance in Him alone.

Trials also provide an opportunity for pruning the unsightly swelling of our self-centered nature, that we may more freely grow into the graceful image of Christ.

So, no matter the joys or trials up ahead, let us be ready to draw near to God. And let us put on love.

Colossian 3:12-14 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Why love?

Because that’s part of who God is.

Psalm 86:15 – But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Why do we love?

As God has poured His love into us through His Son and His Spirit, our heart response is an overflow of that love. Since we are now filled with God’s love, God then commands us to love others.

Matthew 5:44-45a – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

1 John 3:23 – And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

How can we tell that God’s love is flourishing within us?

The outgrowth of God’s love is evidenced in our lives by a robust harvest of the Fruit of the Spirit, God’s Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

It is important to note, we cannot wish for more of the fruit of the Spirit or drum up more love from within. We just don’t have it in us. We must abide in Christ, soaking in the love of our Father, through Bible reading, prayer, songs of worship and connecting with other believers. Then we are filled with the measure of the fullness of God and have Godly love to give.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 – May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Much as we strap a watch or Fitbit on our arm each day, so may we bind God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to our hearts.

Proverbs 3:3 – Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.

Holy Spirit, we ask you to so deeply embed God’s love and faithfulness in us, that it is permanently imprinted, forever etched on the tablets of our heart.

Marked By God’s Love

Whether the year ahead brings the exuberance of running on heights

or the dread of trudging through valleys…

Whether we are showered with kindness from others in the year to come

or surrounded by cold, hard-hearted hatred…

May it be God’s steadfast love and faithfulness which marks us in the year ahead.

May God’s love mark our hearts, as it marked Jesus’ nail-pierced hands.

Come what may, let us be marked by God’s love.

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Matthew 22:37-40Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Pray with me, please~

Ephesians 3:14-21 – For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Additional Resources:

New Year, New Life By Melissa McLaughlin

6 Simple Things to Know About End Times By Melissa McLaughlin

Let Jesus Love You By Melissa McLaughlin