Victory in the New Year

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  1 : 1-11
Subject: New Year; Christian Living
Introduction

It is God's will for us to live victoriously in this New Year, and we can! We can live without hopelessness, fear and utter frustration in the New Year if we are committed to Christ and confident of all His promises to us. To live in victory in 2019 we need to follow God’s plan for us, because the Christian knows that each day is really about a living in a relationship with the living Savior!

It is fascinating to look at how different societies attempt to ensure a great New Year by doing some very strange things. For example, on New Year's Day people in Japan eat fish which are able to swim against strong currents, believing that this will enable them to move against the strong currents which they anticipate will face them in the coming months. People in Hungary eat roast pig with an apple or a four-leaf clover in its mouth, believing that this will bring them good fortune and health in the coming year. In another part of the world, women eat chicken gizzard thinking that the act will make them beautiful during the New Year. If chicken gizzards could improve a lady’s complexion, I’d invest in the chicken gizzard futures right now!

In America a lot of people eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day in an attempt to ensure a year of health and wealth. I knew someone who did that every single year, and I asked, “You seem to be doing fine but your have some health problems and you are not financially independent, so why do you keep following this practice every year?” The person answered, “Yes, that is true, but just think how bad things would be if I didn’t eat black eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day every year!”

What can we do as we face an uncertain future? Surely we do face an uncertain future right now in our world. Terrorists are planning every day of the year how to kill us and how to destroy America’s freedom. Horrible terrorist attacks have occurred in France and Germany in recent months. Our nation is  $20 trillion dollars in debt and we have made promises to Americans that will cost over $100 trillion dollars in coming years. We are told that there are viruses occurring for which we have no known vaccine. Natural disasters, like great earthquakes and powerful rays from the sun can devastate our nation within hours. We all face trials and problem on a personal level that can easily distract us from faith, unless we guard against it.

I want you to look with me at a man who faced crisis after crisis and yet found the inner strength and peace to rejoice in every situation. He was able to carry on this way because of his unique relation with the Lord. So, let’s get a grip on some truths today that can help us make 2017 our best year of service for our Lord.

Note with me the text for today - 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. 8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does[a] deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, 11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our[b] behalf for the gift granted to us through many."

In this text, you will note that Paul deals with the subject of suffering, and certainly he knew about the subject personally and frequently. So, exactly how did Paul continue victoriously through every hardship? In viewing this, we can learn how we too can face the future with assurance and peace.

There are several things we need in our lives to ensure a great New Year in 2017.

I. We must have Salvation

Paul relates how he has been going through a great deal of suffering, and it is apparent that the previous year had not been an easy one for him, but note that he has not lost any hope of salvation. Why? He is confident because our salvation is not dependent on the conditions under which we live. You see, Paul had something that the world could not take from him because the world had not given it to him.

Do you have the assurance of salvation? You can and certainly God wants you to be saved and to be assured that you are kept in His hand of security. Once we know that we have redemption in Christ, we can face the New Year with  assurance because our salvation is anchored in Christ who is at the right hand of God the Father.

Note with me Romans 8:28-39:

"28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

'For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Clearly the Lord means for us to be assured of His presence, His power, His plan and His permanence in our lives. Nothing - absolutely nothing - can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

In Philippians 4:4-13 we discover anew that the peace of God is ours - a peace which goes beyond understanding; and furthermore, the God of peace Himself is with us:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Some years ago, while I was pastoring in South Carolina, I received a call stating that one of my church members had lost everything in a fire. Indeed, the home and all their personal belongings burned to the ground. It is hard for any of us to imagine how that must feel - only someone who has experienced it can truly grasp it. Yet, that family had not lost everything. The dad and mom were saved, and their two small children were safe and unharmed. Most important, they had something that a fire can’t burn, a storm can blow away, a thief cannot steal and time cannot erode. They had Christ and they shared what a comfort that fact was to them!

We do not lose our salvation, even when we are disobedient. Aren’t you glad! A farmer in Kansas had just gone through a terrific storm and had an insurance adjuster who arrived to survey the damage to his property. The adjuster noticed that the wind had lifted the roof of the farmer's barn and placed it on the ground  about fifty feet away from the original site. The agent remarked, "I see you lost the roof to your barn.” The farmer answered, "No sir, it's not lost, it just ain't where I want it to be.” Likewise, we may not be were God wants us to be or even where we want to be in our walk with Him, but we haven't really lost what He gave us. Our salvation is assured, sustained and kept by the Lord.

As a Christian, you can live in the New Year knowing that you’re salvation is secure in Christ. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you can do so today.

II. We must have Determination

In the book Quo Vadis, Peter is fleeing the persecution in Rome when he comes upon Jesus on the road. He calls out to Jesus saying, "Quo Vadis" or "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replies that he is going to Rome to stand beside His persecuted saints. In the book the author has Peter turn back and stand by his Lord in Rome despite the danger looming before him.

If you will keep your God-given responsibilities in the forefront of your mind and in the depths of your heart, it will help keep from concentrating on the negatives you face in life. You see, when we are walking with Jesus, doing His will, and bringing Him glory, a peace surrounds us that mankind, life itself and no hardship cannot steal from us.

Paul had faced a very difficult period in his life before writing the letter from which we are reading today. Yet, in the midst of all his troubles, he writes with confidence and determination. He does so because He has been walking with Jesus.

Doing God's will can help us look at the needs of others even when we are facing trials. A man in New York committed suicide. His financial books were in good order and so was the rest of his life. He left a note that read in part: "Not a word of encouragement in thirty years. I'm fed up.” Somebody is waiting for you to share an encouraging word. In order to encourage others, as Paul is doing in 2 Corinthians, we must get our mind off ourselves and see our service to Christ and others as a sacred responsibility. Doing this will not only bring us joy and peace, it will help someone else who is suffering.

An attorney gave his son a gift of one hour a day and he kept his New Year promise to the boy throughout the year, and then he renewed the gift and promise each year as the boy grew older. In Moody Monthly the son wrote that that gift from his dad was the greatest gift his father ever gave him.

When we get our minds on our Lord, our family and others we can live with confidence in every situation. This is a commitment we must make if we expect to give our best and experience God's best in the New Year.

III. We must have Appreciation

Paul speaks of the God of all comfort and uses the word "paracletos," which means the God who stands beside us. Paul rejoiced in every situation because he knew that God was with him. William Barclay reminds us that between verses 3 and 7 in our text today the noun "comfort" or the verb "to comfort" occurs nine times.

Dear Christian, we must have an appreciation of all that God has done, is doing and has promised to do if we expect to live in victory. With appreciation comes  adoration, worship and praise, and when we lift up our hearts in gladness we overcome the drag that can come about through hardships. We have the comfort of our Lord with us at all times. What a peace this brings to the heart of the child of God.

No matter what the New Year holds, God will be with us. That give us cause to rejoice. I can live without fear in the New Year because I am blessed by the comforting presence of my Lord! As David penned, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1)." David goes even further when he writes of the valley of the shadow of death. No one desires to go through the valleys of life, but the truth is you never know just how comforting God’s presence is until you are in a deep valley - a place where the world cannot help you. It is in these valleys that we learn the meaning of David's words: “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me.” Yes, we have a friend closer than a brother - our Lord is with us and is touched with the sorrows and hardships we face.

IV. We must have a Dedication

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, but they don’t keep them. That diet you committed to last year only lasted a few weeks - or maybe a few days - or perhaps only a few hours. It is strange, but a New Year's resolution can feel like a cement block tied around the neck. Most resolutions don’t last more than three weeks into the New Year.

As Christians, we don't need to make a resolution for the New Year, but rather we must have a new dedication to keep our commitments to God each day as believers. Make this commitment - to live all year in 2017 totally dependent on the Lord. Think carefully about what this means. It means that we place all we are, all we have and all we hope to be at His feet. We cast our cares upon Him, just as He told us to (1 Peter 5:7). This requires that we make up our minds to trust Him through it all. We can do that because He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

I read a poem some years ago, and I have long forgotten where I read it. But, I have not forgotten the words:

"Life is a book in volumes three
The past, the present and the yet to be
The first is written and laid away
The second we are writing everyday.
The next and last of these volumes three
Is hidden from sight - God holds the key."

If I live, God is with me; if I die, I am with God! I was not born to lose; I am born again to win and even in my daily life I will win as I am fully submitted to the Spirit of God.

Conclusion

A man was working on a building one night when he slipped and fell, but he was able to hold on to a concrete lip on the building with the tips of his fingers. He cried for help, but amid the noise of the equipment no one could hear him. Finally, in total exhaustion, he let go and plunged six inches to a ledge that he did not realize was just below him. The man was only six inches from peace and yet he was holding on in dreadful fear.

Are you and I doing living as if we are holding on by our finger tips? There is no need for that. Just let go! God is there and you can live in peace. You may say, "Preacher, you don't know what I'm going through." No, I don't, but I know who is with us as believers. I know He will never fail us, and I know we are "going through" and not standing still! If we do these things, we can and will have victory in 2017.

Now let us come to Him! He is calling.