Let’s begin by considering what the following people have in common:
• Adam and Eve faced with living with the consequences of their disobedience.
• Noah and family endured the taunts of their ungodly neighbors.
• Moses confronted two hostile nations — Egypt and Israel.
• Joshua entered the promised land with Moses’ challenge in his ears.
• David heard God’s judgment because of his adultery and murder.
• The “prodigal son” found himself feeding the pigs.
• Peter denied Jesus the third time, and then looked into his eyes.
• Saul (Paul), blinded physically, was given real spiritual sight.
These all found themselves at a crossroads in their relationship with God. For good or bad, they are typical of all who face life’s opportunities, obstacles and temptations. Like them, we can accept or reject God’s efforts to help us mov forward and upward in his will as we face the future.
King David wrote in his penitential psalm,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you" (Psalm 51:10-13).
Most of us realize that, regardless of how well or how poorly we’ve done spiritually in the past, we can still improve! As we enter the new year, think about three things as we seek to do better.
First, remember that even the best among us are faced with the temptation to sin — some more often than not. In fact, there are no unusual temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13a). Further, as the apostle wrote in his letter to the church at Rome, “all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Satan is at war with us. Living for God isn’t easy, as much as we would like to believe otherwise.
Additionally, we are sometimes tempted to “rest on our laurels” of service to God and others. But those who want to be his disciples must deny themselves and take up their crosses daily and follow him (Luke 9:23).
Second, be assured in your mind and heart that, even though we do sin, God still loves us, and wants us to ultimately and finally win the victory over Satan, the “enemy.” He has given us every spiritual blessing and provided us with the offensive and defensive weapons we need to overcome temptation.
One of the greatest of these (and perhaps most ignored) is his provision of “a way of escape” when we face our sinful desires (1 Corinthians 10:13b).
In every situation, God gives us the help we need, as we “fix our eyes on Jesus” in faith (Hebrews 12:2). As Jesus taught in one of his parables, our heavenly Father is waiting and longing for us to come back home.
Third, if we are to be victorious, we must be faithful in the opportunities God gives us. He has already won the victory over Satan through the redemptive work of Christ and has made it possible for us to be obedient.
Even when it is hard, and everyone and everything seems to be against us, we can persevere. “If God is for us [and he is], who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
David prayed for God’s spirit of renewal to be present in his life. We should pray for the same spirit as we face the challenges of this new year, and of the years to come.