God has placed us in a world that's got a rhythm to it. Each day has a sunrise and sunset. Each week has six days of work and a day of rest. Even the four seasons rise and fall with a predictable pattern.
This same rhythmic quality comes into play at the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another. The end of a year provides a natural opportunity to look back and remember the ups and downs of the year and all the grace received. The beginning of another provides us the opportunity to look forward to what God will do in you and through you for His glory.
To look back and remember requires faith. It requires believing that God sovereignly determined everything you experienced this year. Such exercise of faith is easier to say than to do.
In fact, knowing that God was behind everything that happened this last year is the kind of answer that raises other questions. For we don't just want to know that God was behind it all; we want to know the purpose behind what He did. We want to know the reasons for the tragedies and heartaches. We want to know the meaning underneath the joys and triumphs. In other words, we want to know the why behind the what.
Though we know something of the reasons behind what happens in our lives, we will never have the full picture in this life. John Piper was right when he said, "God is always doing 10,000 things in our life, and you may be aware of three of them." In saying that, Piper is acknowledging that God is infinite and we are finite; that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are past finding out (Psalm 145:3; Isaiah 55:8-9). Because God is God and we are not, the happenings of our life will always at some level remain mysterious.
That is not to say, however, that we can't know anything. As Piper noted, we can truly know the two or three or four things that God is doing in our life at any given point. We can know these things because God has given us His Word.
For instance, we can know that those tragedies and heartaches from this last year are to produce character and hope, for Paul tells us that, "...suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character; and character hope" (Romans 5:3-4). We know that the joys and triumphs are intended to produce thankfulness and worship to God. Paul writes, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus," (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and Moses writes, "You shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God is given you" (Deut. 26:11).
When our life experiences are brought into relationship with the truth of Scripture, the light of God's purposes begin to shine.
But what are we to make of the mysteries of life? How do we process the things we can't seem to understand? The Scripture helps us here, too. For even though we don't know the "why" for everything that happens, we know the Who behind it all. And this is the greatest assurance of all.
We know, for instance, that God is always merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love toward his people (Psalm 103:8). He will be for us a stronghold in the day of trouble and will provide a refuge for us (Nahum 1:7). Ultimately, we know this is true because He's given us an eternal refuge in His son (John 3:16), when He offered him up on the cross for our sins while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Therefore, we can rest assured that he will give us all good things (Romans 8:32) according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
As you look back over the past year and find yourself puzzling over why God did what He did, turn from what happened to the Who behind all that happened. This will strengthen you as you press into the new year before you. And when you hit confusing trials in the year ahead, and begin to doubt the goodness of God, pause and remember all you know about Him, for He is infinitely worthy of your trust.
You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up . . . we'll find you.All very mysterious. Or not, now that we know that Machine exists, after a fashion. What is particularly interesting is that, at one point, Finch admits to creating Facebook as a means of gathering the data needed to fuel the Machine's calculations. The essential premise was that it is amazing how much information people will give if you ask, and it is much simpler than trying to extract or extort it by other means.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You. (Ps 139.7-12)But furthermore, God is not Big Brother, because God is Father. The incarnate Son of God condescends to call us brothers (Heb 2.11-12) but that does not make him Big Brother. The Holy Spirit is not the Ghost in the Machine, taking up residence to spy from within. The Triune God already knows all things, and that knowledge is directed ultimately to the glory of his name and the good of his people: we are and always have been his perpetual persons of interest.
I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.You cannot walk rightly in this matter or any other without heavenly wisdom, and it is both given by God and to be nurtured by men. All we need is available to us.
I have not departed from your judgments, for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps 119.101-105)
The apostle takes occasion from this discourse to lay down a rule for Christians' conduct, and apply it to this particular case (v. 31, 32), namely, that in eating and drinking, and in all we do, we should aim at the glory of God, at pleasing and honouring him. This is the fundamental principle of practical godliness. The great end of all practical religion must direct us where particular and express rules are wanting. Nothing must be done against the glory of God, and the good of our neighbours, connected with it. Nay, the tendency of our behaviour to the common good, and the credit of our holy religion, should give direction to it. And therefore nothing should be done by us to offend any, whether Jew, or Gentile, or the church, v. 32. The Jews should not be unnecessarily grieved nor prejudiced, who have such an abhorrence of idols that they reckon every thing offered to them thereby defiled, and that it will pollute and render culpable all who partake of it; nor should heathens be countenanced in their idolatry by any behaviour of ours, which they may construe as homage or honour done to their idols; nor young converts from Gentilism take any encouragement from our conduct to retain any veneration for the heathen gods and worship, which they have renounced: nor should we do any thing that may be a means to pervert any members of the church from their Christian profession or practice. Our own humour and appetite must not determine our practice, but the honour of God and the good and edification of the church. We should not so much consult our own pleasure and interest as the advancement of the kingdom of God among men. Note, A Christian should be a man devoted to God, and of a public spirit.So in this flood of data which we are called upon to surf, with its endless demands and vast opportunities, we cannot afford to engage thoughtlessly and carelessly. Like food offered to idols, our use of social media reflects on our profession of following the Lord and therefore, ultimately, it reflects on the Lord God himself.
How glorious is the thought that there is a family even upon earth of which the Son of God holds Himself a part; a family, the loving bond and reigning principle of which is subjection to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so embracing high and low, rude and refined, bond and free, of every kindred and every age that have tasted that the Lord is gracious; a family whose members can at once understand each other and take sweetest counsel together, though meeting for the first time from the ends of the earth - while with their nearest relatives, who are but the children of this world, they have no sympathy in such things; a family which death cannot break up, but only transfer to their Father's house! Did Christians but habitually realize and act upon this, as did their blessed Master, what would be the effect upon the Church and upon the world?David Brown, The Four Gospels (Banner of Truth), 76.
It is to be feared the old puritanical way of devoting ourselves wholly to be the Lord's, resigning up our bodies, souls, gifts, time, property, with all we have and are to serve him, and frequently renewing these covenants before him, is now awfully neglected. This was to make a business of religion, a life's work, and not merely an accidental affair, occurring but now and then, and what must be attended to only when we can spare time from other engagements. Few seem to aim, pray, and strive after eminent love to God and one another. Many appear to be contented if they can but remember the time when they had such love in exercise, and then, tacking to it the notion of perseverance without the thing, they go on and on, satisfied, it seems, if they do but make shift just to get to heaven at last, without much caring how. If we were in a proper spirit, the question with us would not so much be, "What must I do for God?" as, "What can I do for God?" A servant that heartily loves his master counts it a privilege to be employed by him, yea, an honour to be entrusted with any of his concerns.When each day dawns, will you ask, "What must I do for God?" or "What can I do for God?"