2009: A new year

Do not boast about tomorrow,For you do not know what a day may bring forth. (Proverbs 27:1)

Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.
(I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, Ira Stanphill)

I’ve considered the 70 Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. While I consider these worthwhile, I stumble at “Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week”! I do find # 17 very instructive: “Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”

Several years ago, someone recommended Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year:

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

While all 10 above are very good, # 6 seems very concrete – what can I do to help my church!

Often at the end of a year I reflect on that year’s surprises: I think of 9/11 (in 2001), the collapse of the financial markets this year, or the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake & tsunami. These events (and of course so many trillions and trillions of small events) catch men completely by surprise. Christians rejoice that we have a God who not only knows “from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) but “declar[es] the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). This doctrine of God’s sovereignty is worthwhile considering often, but particularly at the start of a new year. What is God’s sovereignty?

Sovereignty—What It Is

It is the right of absolute dominion. The right to act in reference to oneself and others according to the dictate of our own will. It is thus among men. An absolute sovereign is an autocrat; a ruler whose will is law, which no one has a right to dispute or to disobey. This does not imply that any ruler has a right to do wrong; to violate the eternal principles of justice and mercy. But it implies that the ruler is responsible for the wisdom and justice of his acts to no one on earth.

So when we speak of the sovereignty of God, we mean his right to work all things after the counsel of his own will; to do what he wills with his own; that he has in reference to the whole universe the most absolute dominion and right to deal with his creatures just as seems good in his sight; to allow them to sin or to prevent their sinning; and when they have sinned, to allow them to perish or to provide salvation; and, if salvation be provided, to reveal it to one nation and not to another; to apply it to one person and not to another. Of course he has an equal right to determine their destiny on earth, whether it shall be civilized or savage, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, healthy or infirm, happy or miserable.

The sovereignty of God supposes that the whole plan of creation, providence and redemption, was adopted on the ground of God’s good pleasure; that the carrying out of that plan in all its infinitude of details is determined by his absolute will. So that if it be asked why Adam fell; why salvation was provided for man and not angels; why that salvation was revealed first to Jews and not to the Gentiles; why now it is made known to us and not to the Chinese; why you and not others are made partakers of this redemption; why one man is a noble and another a peasant; one sick and another well; one happy and another miserable; we have nothing to say but “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”

This sovereignty of God is not what the schoolmen meant by absolute power; which supposes that God could make sin, holiness, and holiness, sin. For although there is no being above God to whom he is responsible, and no eternal principle to which he is subject, yet it is involved, in the idea of God as a rational and holy being that his acts are subject to his reason. Infinite reason cannot be unreasonable, nor can infinite holiness be unholy. (1)

As this chapter of history ends, I offer these suggestions for the new year:

  • Be a Christian! If you are unsure or need instruction I suggest reading the New Testament. The article “What is Life’s Most Critical Decision?” is helpful (select the “Gospel” tab on this website!)
  • Associate and be faithful to a local church where the Bible is taught and where you may fellowship with other Christians. Make attendance at worship services a priority.
  • Pray. John Piper has an excellent article entitled A Good Start on Prayer in 2009. Note his “Promises of Answered Prayer to Encourage Us to Pray with Hope”.
  • Read your Bible. Biblegateway provides multiple Bible reading plans.
  • Rest in God’s Sovereignty

1. The Sovereignty of God, by Charles Hodge. Another helpful article is Resting in God’s Sovereignty (Proverbs 16:1-4, by: J. Hampton Keathley, III