Friday, December 30, 2011

Courage to Face the New Year

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you: (II Chronicles 20:15, 17).

For many people, the new year brings feelings of optimism and hope. For us with ongoing health problems that may not be the case. We may have a “vast army” of problems, and unless God performs a miracle, the new year will bring more of the same old battles and perhaps new ones. Trying to be optimistic is indeed a challenge.

I think the word “battle” is very appropriate to describe ongoing problems with pain. I experience exhaustion and depression from the battle of trying to stay on top of whatever problems are troubling me at the time. When I think of battle, negative words come to mind, such as fear, weariness, and fighting. But there is a positive word as well - courage. A few months back I read this quote on my daughter’s Facebook page: “Courage does not always roar; sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’ ” (Mary Anne Radmacher).

As I look to this new year, I may feel I don’t have the strength to enter it with a “roar” of boldness and faith that I will triumph valiantly every day. Yes, God is more than able to bring me through in that way but many times my faith and trust in Him wanes. I can however choose to remember God’s omniscient grace, love, and power. I can say, “Yes, Lord, I begin this new year humbly and quietly looking to You for the courage to try tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. This battle is not mine. It is Yours, and no matter how overwhelming the year may look, I can face it because of Who You are – the Lord, mighty in battle.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You and thank you that I can enter this new year with courage, knowing that along with Your blessings, You will bring me through every battle I will face. Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Christmas Gift of Sacrificial Praise to God

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).

I usually associate the word sacrifice with Easter, remembering Christ’s death on the cross for our sins.  At Christmas I may think of giving in a financially sacrificial way to an individual, cause, or organization.  However, reading the definitions of the word sacrifice changed my thinking this Christmas season.

To sacrifice may mean not only giving something up but also foregoing something valued for the sake of something else or permitting injury or destruction to.  The holidays are a mixed blessing for me.  I want to enjoy and appreciate all of the good things and yet I struggle with limitations such as being unable to do as much baking, socializing, or decorating as I would like, or eating all of the beautiful sweets that I love.  But I can forego these pleasures and give these desires up as a gift to God.

I also pondered the fact that God the Father made a huge sacrifice of love for us that first Christmas.  He willingly allowed Jesus to leave the splendor and majesty of His heavenly home to live in poverty and rejection.  This sacrifice involved 33 years of separation and a life of pain and suffering for His Son, culminating in death on the cross.  If Father and Son both gave so sacrificially for me that first Christmas, surely I can give up whatever desires I have this holiday season that will not be fulfilled.

God has allowed me, for whatever reasons, to have these physical trials.  I can become angry, depressed, or frustrated this holiday season and feel sorry for myself, or I can choose to willing yield whatever I must for the sake of His perfect will, knowing that the celebrations in heaven will more than compensate for my disappointments here.  And hopefully the gift of sacrificial praise that I give this Christmas will not be a one-time gift but an ongoing one, a small token of my thankfulness and love to Him who gave so much.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you for all Your wonderful blessings.  I willingly choose to offer you my gift of sacrificial praise through this Christmas season.