Happy New Year!
A lot of people say that the New Year is the best way to let go of the past and look forward to a better future. Since returning to the mainstream social media a few months ago, I have slowly acclimatized myself AGAIN with the newsfeed. A lot of people have bid goodbye to 2020, and hello to 2021. While the virus is still among us, it is nice to have the year distinction to give us something to look forward to.
The Chinese had this practice of setting off firecrackers and fireworks to supposedly ward off the bad spirits from the past year. This should happen on a Chinese New Year but probably the idea of firecrackers and merry making caught on around the world. Although that does not seem a bad idea after all, we need to ward off the virus that made 2020 a heavy challenge for all of us around the world.
As we open this new year let us remember that there are a lot of things we need to work on. We may have been through a lot in 2020. In the Philippines, we not only struggle with the virus in 2020 but also volcanic eruptions, super typhoons, corruption, poverty, and many others.
I believe that change for the better can and should be done anytime. We are all a work in progress. Thus this post is a recheck on the things that I have believed in and learned accumulated the past year that I want to live out this year.
1. There Is A Life to Live
Let’s start with this verse:
For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.Philippians 1:21
I know it is kind of weird to start off with something like this, after all, our family also were not exempted from experiencing death because of COVID. Yet, I have learned the past year that this is where my life should hang in the balance.
The Apostle Paul declared these powerful words. Written while awaiting his sentence inside a Roman prison, the Apostle Paul weighed in on his fate. If the Roman government sentenced him to die, he thought that it would be a high honor to him to die while serving God. If he was sentenced to live and be released, he would continue to devote his life sharing Jesus Christ to other people.
What’s weirder is that he could not chose between the two.
For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.Philippians 1:23 NKJV
Any other person, if that was even me, would definitely dread the death sentence more. Yet here was a man who was not afraid to die. Instead he was actually torn whether he would die or live. This is really weird. How many people would have that same dilemma? What makes a person willing to cease living for a belief in a man?
These are tough words. Personally, maintaining a devotional is tough, but to devote your entire life and even death to God’s work, even tougher. But I have learned that this is how I should view life. In the face of many disasters that has the potential to end your life, it is not a loss if you have given your life to a worthy cause bigger than you. For me, a life lived in the service of Christ is one of it.
I have met and befriended a lot of people like this. They have dedicated their passion to Christ. They have left the life of being a paid 8-to-5 worker to a life of being lead from day to day by God. By the looks of it, they never looked back and are living the best days of their lives. Sure, they may not have social security or home investment that most of the working class are aiming for but the people I know have been to places that I could only dream of travelling. They have encountered experiences that ratified their belief in God. Based on their stories, it is not all triumph and success and often times a lot of disappointment and trouble, but it was all worth it.
I believe not everyone should leave their 8-to-5 jobs but everyone should live each moment as if they were serving God. This means thinking that your job is where God placed you so that people in your workplace could hear His voice. So this year, live as if you are a person on a mission from God.
2. There is A Promise that was Given and Fulfilled
Then there is this verse:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honorPhilippians 2:5-9
and gave him the name above all other names,
Paul brings us back to Christ. He was the one promised in Genesis. If you are not familiar with that story, it is summarized as this: God creates the world, humans commit sin which causes the world to be cursed, God gives a chance for redemption by sending a savior. However, it turns out that the savior is actually God’s own Son. What makes it more compelling is that He did it voluntarily.
While 2020 has caused me to panic in my head, the Lord seemingly caught me by surprise by leading me back to this story and this realization. More than 4000 years ago, He made a promise to the first humans, and He fulfilled it in a fashion that we do not understand fully: self-sacrifice and love.
We think it is self-sacrifice when we do things for a while for the benefit of others, because at the end we will receive a prize. Likewise, we think it is love when we do all this sorts of things for others and all these sorts of gifts for someone, but at the back of our heads we are thinking, I hope he/she likes me back or I hope all these effort is worth it.
This is not what Christ did. He did more than certain things or gave simple gifts. He really went way below His station in order to mingle with us. In one Psalm, humans are likened to dust, Jesus, Himself became like us. That is the drastic transformation and sacrifice that Christ did just so that we could be with Him.
This is one motivation to choose to live and serve for Christ. He did what He did because of His love for me, I learned that it is just right to dedicate my whole life to Him. I don’t have to do anything drastic, but I sure could do a lot of changes in how I conduct myself and how I treat others.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing,so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.Philippians 2:13-15
3. There is Another Promise that will be Fulfilled
With that promise given and fulfilled, isn’t that enough motivation to live? Yes! But there is more!
I have learned this year that we are called to take that walk with Christ, but that also means we face death without fear.
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.Philippians 3:14
While Paul was in prison, he was in a real life or death situation that he could not control. Yet death did not bother him. He was looking at death as a prize because the man knows that there is an even bigger prize at the end.
The thing is, the prize is not a mansion, or a car, or a house or a high-salary job. God could provide you those things, sure. But what Paul refers to as his prize is the opportunity to be with God for all eternity.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.Philippians 3:20-21
I believe that when we follow Christ, it is not all walks in the park here on earth. It is actually a life of suffering because this world rejects Christ. But what I know and believe is that when I allow Christ to live in me, death, pain and suffering are just minor setbacks compared to the kind of transformed life I would have when He comes again. This is a promise that I learned this 2020 and the promise that I will hold onto as I enter the new year.
I know this post could give you more questions than answers, and that is intentional.
In succeeding posts, more of Jesus will be known.
Happy New Year!