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Looking Back, Moving Forward

The previous year brought new, unexpected challenges to our lives, affecting our individual and collective faith practices in ways no one could have predicted.
By DALTON HENLEY
Read Time: 5 minutes

As we reflect on 2020 and move forward in this new year, here are ten thoughts with a Biblical perspective regarding humanity in general, the ecclesia and ourselves. Hopefully, we can take away some action items from these thoughts to help us grow in our faith and become more like our Lord Jesus Christ.

ADAPTABILITY

God gave us the beautiful gift of adaptability

We were all put in a horrible situation for a far longer time than we initially imagined. This virus has taken an immeasurable toll—death, sickness, job loss, isolation and mental challenges. Yet, despite the difficulties, here we are, enduring.

If you had known what you would have to endure for the last 12 months or more, you may not have thought you could do it. Maybe, just maybe, you’re getting through it better than you might have thought. I believe God gave us the beautiful gift of adaptability: we can adjust to our circumstances much better than we think. Consider this inspirational passage:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13).

WORRY

We consume ourselves with worry, yet it seems it’s the things we never saw coming that hurt the most. Before the pandemic struck, you probably were not fretting about a worldwide plague ravaging the whole world. We live in an unpredictable world. Events will transpire that are beyond our thought process or control. Spending time consumed in worry is not only useless, but it doesn’t make much sense.

To paraphrase former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, “It’s not the known unknowns that should trouble us, but the unknown unknowns.” Christ tells us,

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34 NIV).

Take this to heart. Challenges will arise, and when they do, by God’s grace, we will deal with them. Take on what’s at hand, and leave the challenges of tomorrow for tomorrow, for who knows what tomorrow will bring?

GRATITUDE

Always, always, always be grateful for what you have! Did you ever stop and think about how thankful you are to be able to go to concerts, weddings, ecclesial events, school, work, parties, restaurants, friend’s houses, vacations and travel on planes freely without any concern? Truly there is nothing to be taken for granted in our lives.

Thank God daily for what you’ve been given,

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:18 NIV).

Like Jonah’s shade, we never know when what we have, no matter how small, might be taken from us.

TRUST

Simply put, don’t put your trust in this world. We have witnessed world leaders flounder as they attempt to control the virus and its outcomes. Politicians have fought bitterly over prevention methods and how to provide economic relief to those who have been financially harmed. Our health care systems have been brought to their knees at times as the sick have swamped them. Should we really put our trust in man’s world? “It is better to trust in God than put confidence in man.” (Psa 118:8).

DIVISION

seek to have unity of spirit whenever possible.

2020 was a year of increased division in society. For example, in the U.S. there were contentions over handling of the pandemic, responses to protests over racial injustice and a contentious political election. Sadly, this has sometimes spilled over into our Faith community.

There will always be something that can divide us. We can choose to be consumed by divisive matters and allow them to drive us apart, or we can seek to have unity of spirit whenever possible. Consider other perspectives, have humility and develop a forgiving attitude. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:3 NIV).

DICHOTOMY

Human beings are capable of the greatest things and the lowest things. We live in an incredible world where humanity has accomplished near unimaginable progress in many fields. Yet we have been confounded by the problem of the spread of a tiny virus when the solutions are as simple as this: wash your hands, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, wear a mask and keep an appropriate distance from others.

The species that created multiple vaccines to combat the virus in less than one year, something unprecedented in terms of the number of vaccines and the short amount of research and development time, is the same species that has spread nonsensical conspiracy theories, been hoodwinked by fallacies and, at times, been engaged in extremely foolish and selfish behavior.

Let us appreciate that, through the gift of God, we are capable of almost unlimited possibilities. At the same time, let us have the humility to recognize that we will fall so woefully low at other times, in many areas,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23).
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8).

TIME

We all want more time. Well, this past year has most likely given us more time. For some, it’s a little. For others, it’s a lot. Now we can look back and reflect on how we’ve used this extra time. It’s natural to feel that we may have squandered the extra time. We tend to not be particularly good with extra time, and in most instances, it really isn’t time holding us back. It’s our misplaced priorities that cause many problems.

This year has reinforced the importance of developing good habits. We are going to have habits one way or the other, so make them good ones. Our minds have a way of subtly snatching any extra time right from under our noses.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15-16 ESV).

WEAKNESSES

Most of us have been attending ecclesial events virtually (Zoom) for the past year. It’s an interesting social experiment, because attending virtual ecclesial events could not be more convenient. Sunday service, Bible class, Bible reading groups, fraternal gatherings, CYC events, all available instantly and from anywhere. You simply open your electronic device.

we can overcome by intentionally seeking to change our thoughts and actions.

It’s wonderful to observe instances where members are taking advantage of this convenience and attending things they might not have if they were in-person. Yet the same struggles may still plague us: being late, regularly attending, even leaving in the middle of events. Maybe we wanted to be punctual for events or participate in more events. Now it could not possibly be easier to do just that.

We will always struggle with our weaknesses, because the answer is usually not changing the circumstances. Rather, we can overcome by intentionally seeking to change our thoughts and actions. If we place our trust in God’s power to change us, we can succeed.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2 ESV).

“GOD-WILLING”

We have all experienced unexpected changes this past year. God is in control; we are not. We would do well to remember that. While we may be anxious to have circumstances turn out our way, it can actually be quite a relief to know we don’t have to control everything to achieve our desired outcome.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psa 139:7-10 ESV).

DESIRE

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It has been uplifting to witness how people have been serving God and others. In these unusual times, there is always something we can be doing to worship God, support fellow believers and spread the gospel!

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 1:10-11 NIV)

Dalton Henley.
Sacramento, CA

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