Thoughts For 2019

A new year has begun. It is now AD 2019: the Two Thousand and Nineteenth Year of the Lord. Did you celebrate the arrival of the year? It is not wrong to do so. Our fathers, both in the faith and outside the faith, have done so since the beginning of time. Of course, the New Year fell on a different day depending on which calendar was in use. But regardless, the arrival of what is recognised as the New Year always invokes celebration, reflection and resolutions.

Yes, some of us who tend to be more cerebral may consider celebration to be superfluous. Yet let us not neglect to do some meaningful reflection and resolutions. But where do we begin? Well, let me recommend that we begin where Providence has led us, namely to the Lord’s Table and to the beginning of 2019. Let us, may I suggest, as such, reflect on the four digits that makes up the numerical denotation of the year and see where we are led by the Spirit bringing to remembrance things old and new. So let’s consider what Two, Zero, One and Nine remind us.

Two

The number two reminds me that we are created with two eyes. This is, no doubt, so that we may have stereoscopic depth perception. But for that to happen, both our eyes must look at the same object at the same time. If that is so, how is it possible for one eye to cause offence so that we may pluck it out? “It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” says the Lord (Mt 18:9). Of course, the Lord is speaking metaphorically. He is not teaching self-mutilation; so He is not saying that we can literally sin only with one eye. But I am intrigued by the illustration; for is it not true that the Scripture speaks of our having two eyes: one physical, and the other spiritual? Matthew 6:22 is certainly about our spiritual eye.

I am reminded of an occasion when I was running in the dark along a poorly lit path. I was keeping pace with a brother who is much fitter than myself, and so was perspiring profusely. At one juncture, sweat got into one of my eyes, and so I closed it instinctively, and almost immediately, tripped and stumbled! If I had both eyes opened at that moment, I would have noticed the slight change in inclination on the path. But with only one eye opened, I was not able to perceive depth and was therefore not prepared for the little incline!

And so it is in our journey through life. If we have only our physical eye open, we are bound to stumble and fall. But if we keep our spiritual eye open too, we shall make the journey with the guidance of the Spirit of Christ and the joy and wisdom of God to cheer us along the way.

Shall we not, beloved brethren and young people, resolve to keep both our eyes open this year. Neglect not your spiritual eye in your decision-making and plans this year. Avoid making plans with only the earthly life of you and your family in view. Rather seek to make plans as citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20) who are in this world, but not of this world (Jn 17:11, 16). You may not be able to avoid seeing the wind and the waves, but keep an eye on the Lord Jesus.

Zero

The number zero reminds me of three things. First, I am reminded that our debt has been fully paid for. Christ zeroed the debt we owe God by our sin (Mt 18:27). We are to live our life not as debtors trying desperately to clear our debt; but only as debtors of love and gratitude. But secondly, I am also reminded that as God forgave us our debt for Christ’s sake, we must forgive our debtors (Mt 6:12). To forgive, we must, as it were, zero the account of our debtors or those who have sinned against us. Have you done that beloved brethren? Are you still bearing a grudge against anyone? Will you not seek the Lord’s grace to clear the account even as you come to the Lord’s Table today to begin the New Year ahead of you? But thirdly, I am conversely reminded that we should seek to owe no one any debt. “Owe no man anything, but to love one another” says the apostle Paul (Rom 13:9). Paul is, of course, not saying that it is a sin to owe any debt: else no Christian can out of love lend to another without provoking sin. What he is saying, rather, is that we should seek to clear all debts that we are expected to clear by those to whom we are indebted to. This is what the Lord Jesus means when He says: “if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mt 5:23-24). Brethren, seek God’s grace: Do what you can to clear your debt which is demanded of by anyone who has ought against you. If possible, clear it before you come to the Table; if not seek to clear it as soon as possible that you may enter into the year without the burden of a debt-guilt.

One

The number “one” reminds me that we should have one chief goal in life, namely to glorify the one living and true God. The Lord Jesus says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33). Each of us has entered the year with a number of priorities. We may even have made resolutions around them: I want to finish my MBA; I want to run the marathon; I want to make twenty-five sales; etc. But let us remember that there is one goal we must never set as number two, or else our first goal will become our idol. May we, therefore, resolve to put Christ first in our life! Let us make godly resolutions which we intend to keep. The Lord helping me: I want to read a chapter of the Bible everyday; I want to pray for at least one person every day; I want to attend prayer meeting and evening service; I want to tell someone about Christ every week; I want to do something good to someone for Christ’s sake every day, etc. These appear to be many goals, but they are all centred on the one chief goal of glorifying God. If we can give priority to them, we will surely find ourselves running more purposefully and joyfully in the coming year.

Nine

What does nine remind us of, but the nine lepers that did not come back to thank the Lord? “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” asks the Lord (Lk 17:17). What is the significance of the fact that only one out of ten came back to the Lord to thank Him? Surely, it reminds us of how rare the virtue of gratitude is. Too many of us are quick to desire help and blessing. Too many of us are ready to murmur and complain when we do not get what we want. Too many of us remember only the negative things that happen to us. But too few of us remember to thank God for every blessing and to praise Him even for trials that cultivate our souls. Oh will you not take an honest look at yourself. Rather than assuming that you are represented by the one leper who returned, remind yourself that unless you walk circumspectly in the fear of the Lord, you are more likely to be represented by the nine than the one.

As you partake of the Lord’s body and blood broken and shed for you today, will you not stir your heart to remember the Lord’s love for you? Will you not consider what a great sacrifice He made in order that you might have life? Pray that the Holy Spirit will search your heart and smite your conscience if you have been ungrateful like the nine. Pray for grace that you may be truly grateful; and pray for faith and strength to walk gratefully before the face of God day by day in the year ahead.

—JJ Lim