The beginning of a new year is a time when in a certain sense we can start afresh about things. It ought to be a time when we aim higher, reach further, dream bigger, and believe stronger. As Henry Ward Beecher said, "Every man should be born again on the first day of January and take no interest in the things that were and are past."
While most of my goals were met this last year, I found the week before Christmas it would not end as complete as hoped.
While speaking to the Lions Club at a breakfast meeting I began to have extreme pain and hardly concluded the address. Later it subsided until in the mid-day, while in a filming session at Parkland Hospital for Charter communications, my pain returned as I stood during the interview.
Afterwards, I headed upstairs to my doctor and suggested, “This pain is from more than a pulled muscle!”
After an hour the report from the MRI revealed I had a disk laying flat on my spinal cord and within minutes I was headed for BJC in St. Louis where an operation was scheduled.
At 4:30 I was moved into the waiting area and prepared for an 8 pm operation. At 9 pm my wife was approached by the head surgeon who announced “Your husband is paralyzed and I haven’t even made an incision. After he returned to the Operation Room, it was discovered the remaining surgical team had awaken me from my sedation and asked me to see if I could move my toes, feet, and legs. I did and then I was put back into darkness awakening in recovery at 4 am to discover my body was painless and the enlightenment that the device used to monitor my responses had malfunctioned.
Once again I learned that the same God who has sustained me, not just from my various operations since 2006, but for the previous 72 years.
As we face a New Year there is no guarantee that we will not face difficult experiences. I wish I had it within my power to wave a magic wand over each of you that would place about you a shield that would guard you from anything distressful, disheartening, disagreeable, disconcerting, and disconsolate.
This Year may have brought things that we never expected or anticipated. There may be things that will happen that will break our hearts. The very foundations of our life may be washed away by some storm of adversity. There may be great days ahead, but it is also possible that there are grievous days ahead. There may be much to make us glad, but it is also possible there may be things ahead that will make us sad. Difficulties are not out of the realm of possibility.
As we come to the end of 2009 and stand on the threshold of 2010, I think of the words of the hymn writer Francis Ridley Havergal:
Another year is dawning,
Dear Father let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with thee.
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.
Another year is dawning,
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for thee.
As another year is dawning, I want it to be one that richly counts for God. I want it to be a spiritually prosperous and productive year. I want it to be the kind of year that I will look back in the years to come and view it as one of the best years of my life as far as eternal things are concerned.
An unknown author has written:
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Jonathan Edwards, the great American preacher from the 1700's, was known for making covenants with God. He referred to them as resolutions. He had 70 such resolutions that he made when he was age 20 and read them once a week. For example, resolution number three read, "Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again."
In a similar fashion David had made certain covenants or resolutions. In Psalm 39 he is recalling those resolutions. We read in Psalm 39:1, "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me." David had made certain resolutions. One, he had resolved to take heed to his ways.
A poem suggests my strength:
Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold
Is this Book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.
I mentioned the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. Let me give you a couple more of his 70 resolutions. Resolution number six was, "Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live." Resolution number seven: "Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life." Those would make good resolutions for all of us.
Someone has said, "Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new."
We need a burning heart to keep us from getting complacent, from becoming satisfied with things as they are, rejecting what could be, and accepting the good instead of the best. A burning heart will keep us reaching higher, aiming further, seeking more, and going forward. It will keep us growing.
You will notice the source of David's burning heart. He says in verse 3, "While I was musing the fire burned." It was while meditating that his heart began to burn. Meditation is a match that ignites a fire in the heart. Meditating on God's goodness and grace, His word and work, His power and plan will create a spiritual heartburn.
Gypsy Smith was once asked why God had used him in the way He had through the years and his answer was, "I never lost the wonder of it all."
Vance Havner said, "They were right in their chronology and in their theology, but they had no doxology." The fire had gone out in their heart.
A. B. Simpson said, "Our God has boundless resources. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking, our praying are too small, our expectations are too limited."
Let the words of the hymn writer Edwin Hatch be your prayer:
Breathe on me, Breath of God;
'Till I am wholly Thine:
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.