Can you remember the message of joy and peace that emanated from the Christmas Season less than a week ago? You're surely familiar with the message - "Peace on earth, good will to men"? It seems to have been doused almost overnight. On Christmas Day this year,over 8 years after the terror of 9-11, air safety dominated the news as a man attempted to blow up an aircraft landing in Detroit. As troubling as that event was, the man boasted that he is not alone and that a virtual army of men just like him await the right opportunities to rain fear and death on travellers around the world. On top of that, the H1N1 virus seems to be running rampant. My sister-in-law informed me that in parts of Vancouver, BC, Canada, people are wearing masks in fear of contracting the disease which is spreading among the population there at a troubling rate with no one being certain of how severe its damage will be. And, if that weren't enough to disturb one's sleep, if the Mayans, Nostradamus and the History Channel are correct, we only have a little less than 2 years to "enjoy" our time on this planet anyway, since according to "prophecies" the world is going to end on December 21, 2012! Happy New Year, right?
The world is certainly filled with trouble and problems that can dash the hopes of even the most optimistic souls. When one's optimism is based on circumstantial evidence, disappointment is bound to occur and hopes are destined to be destroyed. When I reflect on last year's hopes for a Happy New Year, I cannot help but remember the untimely passing of two friends and good men, Jeff White and Paul Sorce, whose deaths remind me that tomorrow is not promised and even the highest of hopes can be laid low by the crushing realities of life. Nevertheless, even in the face of such loss mixed together with the sober perils of a fallen and mixed up world, I do have great hope and inner peace. How is this possible? The Bible abounds with answers. In one of the great Christmas verses not often associated with Christmas, the Heralding Angel informs Mary that the Lord is with her in her coming trials and that "...nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:33). Jesus reminded the disciples that the world is full of tribulation but not to live timidly when facing life's dangers. He said, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He further encouraged them to understand and distinguish God's Peace from man's peace. In John 14:27 Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." With God, it possible to achieve the impossible - peace of mind and spirit though the storms of life rage about us!
The apostle Paul offered a tremendous reminder of where our peace lies and what our attitude should be as we are beset with life's troubles:
2 Corinthians 4:7ff
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
18. while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
As a Christian, I am called to spend myself to make this fallen world a better place, to champion peace, to spread hope and to defend the helpless in every way that I can as long as I have breath. Nevertheless, the reality is that evil exists, death doesn't sleep, and tragic setbacks riddle our everyday lives with pain and suffering. But, I won't give up or cease to try to do good and neither should you. Why not? Because, as the apostle Paul said, this is not all there is. We are more than visible flesh and life is more than tangible experience. There is an eternal and loving God Who cares for us, even as we have rebelled in our freedom against Him, and Who continues to reach out to us as the folly of our ways and the inadequacies of our wisdom play themselves out time and time again as history marches on. There is an eternity that will be inherited and for which each of us must be prepared. The great news is that God through His Son has made The Way for us, so that no matter what we experience today or might experience tomorrow - good or bad - We can have peace and hope knowing that His Power can be shown in our suffering and His love can be realized through our refusal to be ruled by our circumstances.
With the future totally unpredictable, but with God firmly established on His throne and completely reliable, I wish you His peace, His love and His joy knowing that with Him all things are possible and through my faith in Jesus, I can truly extend to you real hope for a truly "Happy New Year!" Keeping the faith and keeping true hope alive, until next time...