Summary: Some are held hostage by past failures or present disappointments. This message offers positive hope for freedom.
FORGETTING THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND
Introduction: I’ve tried very hard for the past week to find a suitable text for this service. Because we are here to talk about the beginning of a New Year, I wanted to say something that is meaningful, something that would provide food for thought in the days ahead. I searched back into my old files to see if I had something that would be appropriate for this service. I found, and carefully evaluated two or three sermon notes that I used at other times, but nothing fit. As I prayed and thought about it, several passages of Scripture came to mind that could provide an excellent launching pad for a worthwhile New Year’s Eve sermon. For example:
1. Exodus 12:1-2 -- "…it shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first of the year to you." Now that’s got all the right elements. Even the words "the first of the year" are right there in the text. I could talk about where they had been and where they were going, throw in a few good stories, and it would provide several for facing the New Year. But it wasn’t the text I was looking for. So I moved on.
2. Joshua 1:2,3 -- "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them (the children of Israel). Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses." This occurs when Joshua takes over from Moses to lead the children of Israel across the Jordan into Canaan. It has lots of potential. It was a new beginning, a new challenge. I could talk about the past and their struggles to get to this point; of the challenges that lay ahead. Add a few stories and it would be a good New Year’s Eve message. But I didn’t feel good about that one either. So I moved on.
3. Joshua 5:9-12 -- "…this day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you…" Wow. This one is even better than the first, I thought. There are lots of things that need to roll away from us as we face a New Year. The reproach of complaining, doubting, lack of faith, lack of trust, prayerlessness, etc. are prime candidates for being rolled away as we enter into a New Year. The possibilities are almost limitless. As easy as it might be to use that as a text for this service I didn’t feel right about it either. Next I thought about an experience in the life of the great Samuel and the children of Israel when the Lord delivered them from their enemies.
4. 1 Samuel 7:12 -- "…and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ’Thus far the LORD has helped us" (NKJV). "Hitherto hath the LORD helped us" (AV). I have used that text before, not at New Year’s. It calls for us to reflect upon how the Lord has helped us, delivered us, supplied our needs, etc., etc. It is a good reminder as we face a New Year to know that we have had the help of the Lord up to this point and we may confidently believe He will continue to lead, guide, and supply every need in the coming year. But, no, I had to move on.
5. Haggai 2:3-7 -- "…how do you see it now…? Or, "How does it look to you now?" This text nearly got me. It has great potential like the others I have mentioned. I could see several points just jumping out of this passage. We could talk about how we are standing at the end of this year. We’ve had some successes, failures; some hopes and dreams, disappointments and sorrows -- looking back, how does it look to you now? We could talk about the coming year. What are our expectations, what do we see for the New Year? What are the prospects for the New Year? Do you see clouds, or sunshine? Do you see despair, or hope? I could incorporate the following illustration to make the point that we should expect to "see" something good in the New Year.
Illustration: Behavioral scientists have discovered that we usually see things that we are prepared to see, and that this is all centered in a network of nerve cells called the "Reticular Activating System." And everybody here today has a "Reticular Activating System."
It works like this: Once something has been brought to your attention and you have been prepared to see it, you will see it virtually everywhere you go. E.g., a new car. When you decide about a new car you begin to see them almost everywhere.