The following piece was originally written by Pastor Stephen Spinnenweber (MDiv ’19) for his congregation, Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Jacksonville, FL. It has been lightly edited and posted here with his permission.
As we begin a new year and decade, I am reminded afresh that all people in all times have had an eye on the time. One example of such time-awareness is found in Roman mythology. The Roman god Janus was the god of endings and beginnings. If you look at a statue of Janus you will immediately notice that he has two faces, one facing backward and the other forward. One face reflects upon the past while the other ponders the future.
On the eve of another new year I find that many of us are like Janus. We look back on the past year – some of us with joy, some of us with regret – while simultaneously we look forward to the year to come – some with hopeful expectation, some with fearful anxiety. And if we were not mentally drawn and quartered enough already, most of us assume all four attitudes at once! Seldom do we feel in black and white.
We almost always experience a mixture of joy and regret, of hope and hopelessness: a dizzying combination of responses to the new season into which the Lord is bringing us.What then should our perspective be in this season of endings and beginnings? As we have one foot in the wilderness and another on Jordan’s banks, how do we live as becomes children of God in the new year? To answer this question I would point you to two places in Scripture.
First, in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 the Apostle Paul writes, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” To say that Paul had a past would be an understatement. He was the early church’s most hostile persecutor. He did not deny this. Such being the case, it would be easy to let his past haunt him, to hang his head in despair and shame. Yet while Paul did not deny his past, he neither denied the operative grace of God in his life. “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul’s mind snaps back to the present in verse 10.
We cannot change what we’ve done, all we can do now is give thanks to God for his grace in making us who we are now. How does Paul use the past? As a springboard for thanksgiving, thanksgiving for God’s past and present amazing grace. Use your past that same way. Don’t live in the past; live in the now with thanks.
Second, in the book of Revelation, the Apostle John receives a series of apocalyptic visions from the Lord. John is exiled on the island of Patmos, persecuted along with the seven churches to whom he is writing. He is their partner in the tribulation (1:9). In order to comfort his brethren who were fearful of the future, John committed his visionary sequence to writing. He reminds his readers that though the days between Christ’s first and second coming may grow increasingly dark, Jesus is presently ruling and reigning at the Father’s right hand. He always was, is, and will be in control.
In his greeting to the seven churches, John writes, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (1:8). This is the first of three times that John records the title, “Alpha and the Omega.” He is the beginning and the end: a divine title which expresses God’s sovereignty over time.
John’s comfort to his readers was that God always has been and always will be. Life circumstances may change, but God is absolutely changeless. Much may change for you in this coming year. You may welcome the birth of a child, or you may have to bury a loved one. You may encounter tremendous success in your work, or you may need to move to find new work. Whatever the future may hold for you, take comfort in God’s secure grip on your future. The needle of God’s love for his church, for his chosen, for you, never moves. Christ has promised that he will be with us “even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Be comforted knowing that whatever tomorrow may bring, Christ is already there working all things to the end of his glory and your eternal good.