Happy New Year, Welcome 2024!


Jan 1 ‘For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect what is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to then he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. 1 Thes. 3:9-13.

We are at the start of a New Year, 2024. Traditionally this is a time for making ‘new year
resolutions’. I don’t know about you but I have given up making resolutions since at best the last for
about a month before they are broken or compromised. So I tend to see each New Year as a time for
looking back in examining my relationships with both God and man, how much have I followed
God’s command to know him more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly.
This means having this relationship with Jesus for He and the Father are one together with the Holy
Spirit. I have calculated that today I personally have lived 30,567 days and on looking back my side of that relationship has been very much ‘up and down’ ‘stop and start’ but I can honestly say that God is
good, merciful, gracious and forgiving for he has not given up on me but has walked with me
through good and bad.

So this year, and for however many more days I am granted, I am making a spiritual resolution. Maybe that is something you would also like to make. What is it that you want God to do with your spiritual life this year? If nothing comes immediately to mind, then why not join me in using part of Paul’s prayer to the Thessalonians as our prayer and resolution for 2024: Lord, deepen my faith, and increase my love. That prayer is fitting for us as we begin another Year because it’s a prayer that God himself wants us to pray, and it’s a prayer that God stands ready to answer. But we must use the media he provides to assist us in this pursuit. The Bible and Bible studies, fellowship groups, engagement with God through works, meditation and prayer all with the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

How much time have you spent personally with God this past year? We ask the Lord to deepen our faith because it strengthens our hold on heaven. In fact that was the whole point of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians.

Paul prayed, “May [the Lord] strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

Paul knew that satan would not stop his attacks on the Thessalonians just because they were standing firm in the faith. In fact he knew that satan would intensify his attacks. Therefore if the Thessalonians wanted to continue in the faith, they would need God to strengthen the faith they had. In the same way satan will only intensify his attacks against us as the end draws near. Therefore we too will want to strengthen the faith we have through the study of God’s Word so that we will remain blameless and holy when Christ returns. Paul didn’t just pray, however, that the Lord would deepen the faith of the Thessalonians so that they would be ready for Christ’s return; he also prayed that the Lord would increase their love while they waited for Christ. Paul said, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

A Christian is not just someone who knows the Bible well; it’s someone who puts that knowledge into action by loving others as Christ loved the world. But now Paul did not pray that the Thessalonians would love, (they were already doing that) he prayed that their love would increase. Therefore a good New Year resolution is not just that God would make us loving, but that he would make love increase. This can only happen as we allow the Holy Spirit to increase his work in us and through us. Accordingly Paul prayed that the love the Thessalonians had for one another would increase. They needed that love and support especially when they were being bombarded by the world and persecuted for their faith. If they couldn’t turn to fellow Christians for support, to whom could they turn?

In the same way we will want God to increase our love towards others. What we’re asking is that
God through the ministrations of the Holy Spirit increases our unselfish concern for one another.
To extend our loving concern to all who we meet, Christian or not, whether we ‘like’ them or not.
That fits Christ’s command doesn’t it?

In Matthew 5 Jesus instructed us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. A revolutionary thought indeed! But is it really possible to show unselfish concern to those who don’t seem interested in returning that same love? The truth is we don’t have what it takes to show this kind of love. That’s why it’s important to point out that Paul wasn’t praying that the Thessalonians produce this increase in love; he prayed that God would grant them the increase.

I would add by allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. Since it is God’s will that our love increase we can be certain that when we pray for it, God will give it to us. That’s a scary thought for our sinful nature though isn’t it? For many of us deep down inside we would rather go on holding a grudge than forgive. We would rather be standoffish than kind. How truly rotten people we are! That’s why it’s so wonderful to be reminded of our baptism.

In baptism we are reminded that the Lord Jesus washed us clean from those sins. Friends, since it is God’s will that our love increase, and since Jesus has disarmed the powers of satan, we not only can do what God wants, but by His grace we will.

So here we are, at the beginning of a New Year. What will this New Year bring? It may even bring
the return of Christ. Since that is the case we would do well to refocus our faith. Won’t you pray
with me then that God will deepen our faith and increase our love? Why not? For then we will be ready for Jesus’s return.