Remember January 2020? A new year, a new decade, full of promise, potential and mystery! If you're like me, you were fairly optimistic as we started into the twenties, believing for another boom of human flourishing, similar to the "roaring twenties" of the 20th century. And then, by the end of the first quarter, it was apparent that this was going to be an unusually challenging year, to say the least.
After a year like the one we just had, it wouldn't be a mystery why one may have lowered the bar on their expectations for good things in 2021. It wouldn't be hard for someone to find room to be excused if they'd become slightly more jaded moving into this new year.
I get it. You might be struggling to get your confidence and expectations up for this new year if you're basing it on how last year went for so many people. It's the classic "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" scenario. No one needs to be criticized for learning from their past, right?
Now, I could talk about why last year was actually good, but we will save that for another time. I want to suggest to you today that you have great reason to get your hopes up, to allow your expectation to soar, and to give room for the desires of your heart to fill your mind with new visions and dreams for what good things this year could potentially hold.
I want you to know and believe today, that you have GREAT and GOOD reason to be confident for good things to happen to you this year.
The reason you can be confident is not your ability or work ethic, although those are good things to take into a fresh start like a new year. It's not your understanding or intelligence to see beyond the temporal into the bigger picture of existence that should give you confidence, although, again, expanding your scope beyond the immediate is also a great practice! Our reason to be confident is not found in human progress, politicians, science, vaccinations, or technological advancements, which, again, can be great things worth celebrating and hoping for. None of these are the reason to have confidence for good things in 2021. If 2020 taught us anything, it's that we humans are much more frail, incapable, and vulnerable than we'd like to think.
The reason for confidence is simple; God is great. God is good.
Sometime in the late 50s (not 1950s, the FIFTIES, as in AD 50), the Apostle Paul wrote a letter of instruction and encouragement to the disciples of Jesus who were living in Rome at the time. Now, if any group of people had ample reason to be on guard, with low expectation for good things to happen, one would think it to be them. At that time, they were harshly persecuted by the Romans, to the point of torture and death. And yet, his instruction to them was, get your hopes up, raise your expectations, because, despite the fact of your "present sufferings," God has chosen you, justified you, called you His own through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
What is Paul saying? He is imploring us to realize that, no matter the reasons against us that would cause us to fear, wince, hold back, or hedge when it comes to high expectation for good in 2021, there is one, huge, overarching reason to have all the confidence in the world, and the Heavens. It is that God is for us. And if God is for us, who can be against us!?
And this is not simply some nice thing to say that sounds good, but in actuality carries no weight. God is, indeed, for us, and He has demonstrated it in the giving of His Son, Jesus.
Theologian John Stott said it like this; "The God of whom we ask whether or not he will give us all things is the God who has already given us his Son. The cross is the guarantee of the continuing, unfailing generosity of God."
The cross proves God's ultimate goodwill toward us. We have reason to be confident because the cross emphatically says to us, "God is great, and God is good." It says God is aware of our struggle, able to conquer all that seeks to conquer us, and so good that He's willing to do it...indeed, He already has in the most ultimate way.
May you get your hope sky high in 2021.
May you trust the God who is able to cause all things to come together for your good.
May you expect nothing less from Him than the most glorious riches in the universe given over to you.
Because that is what you have been given in Jesus.
Holy new year, everyone.