“January 1st is just another date on the calendar.” I have heard several people repeat this phrase as last year concluded. However, the challenges, issues, and problems do not suddenly disappear when you throw out the old calendar and hang up a new one. It is understandable that there is a sense of renewal when the old year ends with short days and the new year gradually brings longer days. But the events in the world around us are a reminder that all that has happened was a changing of the calendar. Little else has changed.
We should be encouraged at some of the things that have not changed. Jesus is well and alive yesterday, today, and forever. We worship and serve he who was, who is, and who is to come. Our Lord inclines his ears to the prayers of his godly ones. Our Lord is with us even to the end of the age. He who began a good work in us is continuing to complete it. His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and the gates of Hades have not and will not prevail against it. With the rising and falling of nations throughout history, his Kingdom continues to thrive. He will set up his heavenly kingdom after he has abolished all rule, authority and power. We will reign with him forever and ever.
Jesus said this in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Amid the world’s troubles, which are to be expected, we have peace. We are not ruled by fear, but by faith in our King who has overcome the world.
I am reminded of a letter Paul wrote while he was in prison due to his commitment to Christ. Being in prison for doing the right thing could potentially be faith destroying without the right perspective. But we need to remember that Jesus said we will have trouble in this world, and that he has overcome it, bring us peace. The letter Paul wrote from prison to the Philippians is full of joy and rejoicing. Paul was not weakened, but strengthened due to the perspective our King on his throne gives us. Here is his instruction:
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4-9).
Two phrases stand out. “With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Thanksgiving as a discipline shapes our outlook on life. It is a reminder that our blessings always outweigh the problems. It gives us the ability to focus on hope and to take hold of the joy that strengthens us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is not escapism but is merely standing back and looking at the true and larger picture. If all we do is focus on the tiny smudge at the edge of the plate, we miss out on the magnificent feast that our Lord has prepared for us.
The other phrase that stands out is, “…if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This goes hand in hand with thanksgiving as a discipline. Another word for thinking is meditation. Meditate on this passage. In order to do so, it is necessary to turn of the T.V. and put down the newspaper and pick up God’s word. It will remind us that we are and always will be blessed in the Lord, not in the world. We need to as Paul said in Thessalonians, encourage one another with these words.