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 4:23 – Above 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.
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.
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 22:37-40 – Jesus 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.
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Thank you for sharing. So many important things to take into the next year with us! God bless.
Thank you for reading and sharing your feedback, Hope! I appreciate your kind encouragement. May God bless you and draw you ever closer to His heart in the year ahead!
Amen. Draw near to God. He will provide comfort in every situation. He loves us.
Wise words, Melissa! God alone is our hope, strength, comfort, joy and portion. May we draw ever closer to Him. God bless you in the year ahead!
Thank you for the wonderful words of hope you offered in this post. So many people have placed their hopes in the new year instead of the one who truly gives hope. Thanks for sharing Melissa.
Like you, Yvonne, I have seen so many people based their hope in the year, in our circumstances or in worldly conditions. But our true hope is in the One who holds all time in His hands. God bless you and your family in the year ahead!
You are so right Melissa…love is everything. When we act in love as we have been taught, we follow Jesus. We walk the walk that we were called to walk. The Good News is that we never walk alone: the love of God abides within us and allows us to carry on at all times. Wishing you blessings this New Year! Thank you for your inspiring post…wonderful start to the year 2021!
Thank you, Linda, for the kind words of encouragement. Glory to God! He is a God of truth, justice, holiness and overwhelming love. It is His love that draws us to repentance. May His love fill us and splash out to refresh those around us. God bless you and your family in 2021!
You provide good admonitions for what may lie ahead. This past year was difficult, but we were all in it together. None of us understood anything happening around us, but we did know that we were all suffering loss and hardship. We had commonality that is rare.
Now, throw into that mix the possibility for political upheaval such as we’ve never seen before, for resurgence of an even more lethal version of the virus, and slow moving vaccinations. Hatred and/or death may indeed be on our horizon for any of these various reasons. This prayer from Ephesians is such a blessing, for it provides Holy Spirit inspired words to use in addressing our beloved Father. Thank you for sharing this focus on love, rather than hatred today. God bless you, sister.
God bless you, too, dear Melinda. As we are surrounded by ever increasing fear and hatred, this is our chance to shine ever brighter as a beacon of Christ’s love and peace. May this prayer from Ephesians be our daily prayer. For we need the love of God to survive this world and the next. Fill us with your love, Lord Jesus, that we may love others with a heart of heaven.
Love binds us in perfect unity. God’s love is what makes His Church a community. God bless!
God’s love is at the core of our salvation in Christ. For God so loved….
May we be filled with His overflowing love, that the world around each of us will be touched by God’s love more than shaken by hate. God bless you, Nancy!
I am so deeply grateful for the steadfast love of the Lord. Your post is an excellent reminder of that and aren’t we blessed to belong to His family? Praying into the New Year… “love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13:8.)
Yes, Lisa, we are blessed to receive God’s amazing love through Christ Jesus and now be adopted into His eternal family! May this overflowing divine love, lift our vision above any storm waves that come, so we do not lose heart. For Christ our Savior has come and He is coming again! His love never ends.
Melissa, such a wonderful post and thought that we are marked by His love. I believe God’s love in us and for us always spills over onto others in our thoughts and actions. So, this is good, “The outgrowth of God’s love is evidenced in our lives by a robust harvest of the Fruit of the Spirit, God’s Spirit.” Amen and Happy New Year!
Thank you, Karen, for your kind words of encouragement. May our hearts never grow cold, despite the frigid hatred blowing around us. We carry the fire light of Jesus. May His never-ending love keep our hearts flaming for Him and others.