What difference does a new year make? When we come to the threshold of a New Year, many people make a cynical assessment that the difference between a few minutes on the clock isn't really that important. Yet there is no question that the minute before and the minute after certain events represent a radical difference in the lives of people. Consider the minute before and the minute after responding to the gospel and receiving the gift of salvation, or entering the waters of baptism.
We aren't superstitious people living in the empty supposition that everything changes because we flip the page of a calendar. But we do know that the Lord is faithful to steward whatever is given to Him. Just as surely as a transaction takes place by the Holy Spirit to, in one moment, transfer a life from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light, when we come together on the brink of a New Year and declare our commitment: "Lord, we're giving ourselves to You as we step into a New Year," we can be confident God will honor that.
His Word provides us with a framework for making and keeping that commitment in the first verse of Hebrews chapter 12:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. - Hebrews 12:1
The practices of the ancient athletes included training with heavy clothing or weights that would be taken off before the athlete actually participated in the event. This reference made by the Apostle Paul is to the runner setting forth on a course and laying aside the things that would hold him back and slow him down. “Baggage” that would hinder his pace and keep him from accomplishing the goal. This passage of Scripture draws our attention to three things that will help us to stay the course:
1. See those that have gone before
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..."
This is a direct reference to the "gallery of faith" in Hebrews 11, which speaks of the great people who succeeded in pursuing what the Lord intended for their lives. Their stories demonstrate how God rewarded their faith with triumph.
2. Set aside anything that would hinder
"...Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us..."
The Bible says, as we look at the lives of those who have gone before us, let us lay aside anything that might drag us down or hold us back - anything that would keep us from running our best. Keep your eyes on Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith.”
3. Recognize that the course has already been set
"...Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
We are not setting out on an uncharted or uncertain course. As we embark upon a New Year, the Lord is calling us to a place of beginning fresh with Him; a place of moving on with faith and certainty. There's a way set before us with clear boundaries in which the Lord wants each of us to run. He is the One who sets the course. We can trust following Him, and we can step confidently into the future with Jesus, as Scripture tells us He is "the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” and He is ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" (Revelation 1:8). Jesus can prophetically say to us: If you'll just run the race I've set before you, you can't lose.
Come to the Lord's Table at the start of a New Year
When we come to the beginning of a New Year, it's been our tradition to partake of the Lord's Table to remember Him and the blessings given to us through Jesus' victory at the Cross. When you partake, imagine yourself - in the Spirit - dropping any baggage or bondage that has been holding you back.
The Lord wants you to know that as you come to His Table, He will break every bond to the past so that you may enter the New Year with a sense of freedom and victory.
As this New Year begins, I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit fill you afresh and drive out any oppressive works of hell. Welcome the oil of rejoicing be poured over your head, and enter this New Year as a runner, fit to run the race, with all eyes on your loving Savior, Jesus Christ.