Happy New Year: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives

What can we learn from the difficult year of 2020? How can we recalibrate our minds and spirits in light of it? And how can we live this year as if it might be the last?

Recalibrating Our Perspective

The voyage of life often surprises us with unexpected turns, as many of us were reminded in 2020. But the fact is that we are all living on borrowed time to accomplish unfinished business.

Creation itself continually reminds us of the inevitable pattern of birth, growth, decay, and death—from the progression of the seasons to the rise and fall of nations. All we have, then, is to live in this precious present.

Watch Ken teach on the spiritual implications of Thomas Cole’s painting series The Voyage of Life.

The question is: What worldview will guide us on our brief earthbound sojourn?

This year, do not be shaped by a materialistic worldview, which cannot sustain the weight of human aspiration and hope. Instead, allow something more transcendent to guide you.

Our Culture and Our Calling

Not only did 2020 remind us of the unexpected turns of the voyage of life, but it also confronted us (as does every year) with the darkness of our times. The loss of a shared cultural value system is tangible, and it has led to the elevation of the autonomous self above all else.

As a result, what we are seeing is that we have great power through things like technology and social media, but not the moral virtue and character to sustain their proper use. Not only this, but diverging views over the right response to Covid-19, along with other politicized topics over the past year, have led to widespread hatred and polarity in our culture. This type of reaction has at times even taken hold among fellow believers in Christ.

What then is our response?

Philippians 2:15–16 gives us a wonderful guide for how to react in times such as these. First, it encourages us to develop a character that is “blameless and innocent” and “above reproach.” This is no easy task, because our context is immersion in a culture that is “crooked and perverse” (v. 15).

Our character and culture relate to the second exhortation of the passage, which is our holy calling to “appear as lights in the world” (v. 15) that we may illuminate the path for those who remain in darkness. Finally, we have hope as we fulfill our calling because of the assurance that it will end with the coming of Christ when He will receive us into His glory (v. 16).

This response is only possible, however, when we approach the world with a Christ-centered rather than a materialistic worldview—that is, when we grasp who and Whose we are.

Navigating this Temporal Arena

As we enter this new year, know that fulfilling our calling as disciples of Jesus does not come naturally. It involves training in the Word of God.

Fortunately, our God has given us all the resources we need to pursue Him. He has given us His infinite Word, manifested in the general revelation of creation. He has given us His inspired Word in the pages of Scripture. His inspired Word also points us to the incarnate Word in the person of Jesus Christ. And now, because Christ has reconciled us to God, He has given us His indwelling Word in the Holy Spirit.

This year, keep these four aspects of God’s Word prominent in your life.

Here are two examples of how you can do so:

  1. Make an effort to notice the wonders of the visible world. When seen through eyes of faith, this will enhance your appreciation of the invisible world. When Job questioned God about his difficult circumstances, God pointed Job to the grandeur of His creation (Job 38-42). Job did not possess a fraction of the understanding we have of the intricacies and magnitude of the universe, yet this brought him to his knees. How much more should creation now point us to the Creator?
  2. Pray Scripture back to God. Start with the Psalms, which are meant to be a prayer book for God’s people. Then go on to other passages as well, turning the truths God reveals in them into your own prayers.

Want guidance in praying Scripture back to God? Try out Ken’s resource Handbook to Prayer: Praying Scripture Back to God

Purpose in the Journey

We are on a soul-forming journey. Because of this, we must remember that we are not defined by the uncertainty, doubt, despair, and regrets of this world, but by what these things will produce in the life of the believer (Romans 5:3–5).

All things will find their purpose in Christ. He will even use the pain of the bounded past as material for the glory of our unbounded future. May we therefore live every day in light of that Day.