Happy New Year, dear friends!
In an old book from across the pond in Great Britain, I discovered “A New Year’s Address for 1853.” It was published by the Reverend Thomas William Gittens, and addressed to “The Church of Christ Worshipping at Ebenezer Chapel, Camden Town.” If you’ve traveled to England, you may know that “Camden Town” is now generally shortened to “Camden,” and that it’s the inner city district of northwest London.
Within that “New Year’s Address” is a short poem, and I’d like to share it with you as we prepare to enter 2017.
“Man lives regardless of his state,
Unmindful of his fleeting date,
Absurdly slumbers o’er the deep.
And sings his heedless soul to sleep.
Almighty grace, my soul incline,
To things eternal and divine.
Oh, for a heart t’improve the past,
And weigh each moment as my last.”
Sometimes we’re stuck in the past in an unhealthy way. At other times we’re so fixated on some future event – which may never even transpire – that we’re paralyzed in the present. Neither way is Christ’s way! Jesus has taken care of our past, regardless of how sinful or shameful it may have been, by covering it with His own precious blood. “It is finished” (John 19:30). To live in the past is to undermine His forgiveness. Likewise, our Lord made it very clear that we must never allow tomorrow’s perceived sources of anxiety – and there are plenty of them – to rule in our hearts today (Matthew 6:25-34).
We never want to be like the Israelites of old, whose incessant idolatry: 1) made the past look better than it was; and 2) made the future loom on their mental horizon like some kind of horror flick. They literally sabotaged their own tomorrow by neglecting God today (First Corinthians 10:1-22). The Rock of Christ was theirs all along, but they wanted something else.
Something else …
Yesterday in Walmart I observed two different moms, and one dad, scolding their kids with almost the same rebuke (and here’s my paraphrase): “Stop asking for things! Christmas is barely over!” One mom specifically used the word “ungrateful” with her child, while the second mom reminded her kid that she “already got forty presents.” Maybe the mom was exaggerating the number, but we get the point. It’s time to grow up.
Will you and I grow up? Why in the world would we want “something else” when we already have everything? Last time I checked, Christ was everything.
I did a little research on Pastor Thomas Gittens. He was born in 1791 into a family which “held a respectable position in society.” But God moved in a big way. And, at the age of twenty – and willing to lay aside all pedigree and privilege – Gittens formally declared himself to be “on the Lord’s side.” He died in 1859, six short but fruitful years after penning the new year’s address.
Like the faithful pastor, may you and I declare ourselves “on the Lord’s side.” And may our testimony ring true in 2017. May God grant us the grace to weigh each moment as if it counts forever, because it does indeed.