Last Wednesday did you hear the radio interview between Prince Harry and Barak Obama? Here was a younger royal interviewing the former president of the USA. It was a revealing insight into being in office and now out of office. A reflection on past responsibilities and the demands of public life; and now the freedom and opportunity to respond to new challenges. The president spoke too of how much he valued the support and companionship of his wife, Michele.
Tonight, we too look back and look forward. Our lives and our experiences are far removed from that of the president of the USA, but we can all be open to how the LORD will lead us and direct us in the year ahead. We may be glad that 2017 can now be put behind us and we are ready to face the new challenges and opportunities of the year ahead. Of course we are the same person – like a snail we carry our shell with us – but we can learn from the past and channel the best as we move forward into the future.
We can get some practical direction from the book of Proverbs. The text of the book is Proverbs 1.7: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom". Not of a reliance upon human wisdom (which is limited and variable) but upon the steady rock of divine wisdom (which is warm and generous and life-changing and life-enhancing). In the book of Proverbs we have the insight, the life-experience, the reflection, the advice, from the wisdom of the wise - from the old to the young – from the teacher to the pupil –from the man to the youth.
Following divine wisdom is the best path to take; following human wisdom is limited and is described as folly. Notice the challenges to us in Proverbs 3.5-11. What is said here is obvious, but it's worth being reminded of. Particularly as we begin a new year:
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart … acknowledge him … fear the LORD … honour the LORD … submit yourself to the LORD'S discipline …"
(vv.5, 6, 7, 9, 11)
These are not options, but commands!
Trust the LORD.
Do this completely with your heart and mind. Not half-heartedly but completely. 100% and not 10%. Don't rely upon your own limited resources, but trust God in all circumstances. Day by day.
Acknowledge the LORD.
God's ways are best. Acknowledge him (that is to know him, to be aware of him, to be in fellowship with him). Seek to acknowledge him in all circumstances. Don't pretend … but look to him. Day by day.
Fear the LORD.
Not in a cowering, hiding-in-the-corner sort of way – but of a reverential fear before him. A recognition of whom God is and what he is and of what he has done for us in Christ. And as we come before him we stand before the all-holy God. Day by day.
Honour the LORD.
He who honours me I will honour. The LORD promises blessing to the believer. Not in a slot machine, prosperity gospel sort of way; but of blessing that follows trust and obedience. Day by day.
These words speak to each one of us here tonight. To unbelievers and to believers.
Are you an unbeliever? As yet uncommitted to Jesus Christ as your LORD and Saviour? Then for you – trust the LORD, acknowledge him, recognise whom he is and what he has done for you in Jesus. Remember, that the year to come without him will be hopeless: so trust in him and believe in him!
If you are a Christian believer, you can be in step with the LORD or easily out of step with him and his will. We can so easily drift out of fellowship with him – and walk in step with the world (with its godless values and outlook). We can compromise the faith we profess and act like those around us. Sadly there are even some who deliberately choose to go their own way and turn away from the LORD.
So what is it to be with you as we enter the New Year? Is it with the LORD – following him, trusting him, believing in him – or living without him and ignoring all that he has done for us?