So 2021 is here! We shall certainly not easily forget 2020. The World has been sorely tested and so have we Christians. Where is God in all of this and what is He doing through it? I'm sure we have lots to learn. Here Andy Lloyd, one of our Elders shares his own insights on how he managed through the challenge of Covid 19 and all of that!....
So, welcome to 2021! It’s been a rainy morning here in Whitby although the sun is trying to break through the dark clouds at the moment.
I find myself, at the beginning of a new year, with lots of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I am grateful to God for bringing me through to this New Year, following what by any measure has been a very odd 2020. On the other, there is a real sense of disappointment that I haven’t been able to see our family and friends as we would have wanted to; and this is coupled with the uncertainty about when and how the vaccine will be rolled out and when we will finally be released from the ravages of this COVID-19 virus. Maybe add to that a bit of anxiety about how best to keep safe and well.
I am sitting in my study at home, surrounded by books with a glorious (if a little damp) view of the moors. I have spent a lot more time in this room in the last 9 months than I expected to do – working from home has meant that I have made friends with this space. As I write I have the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna playing in the background. Maybe one day I will be able to be there to see it in person!
I am warm, I am dry, I have food in the cupboards.
I am privileged!
I am also loved by God and I know that whatever else has happened in 2020 and will happen in 2021, I am safe in Him. It is to Him that I can turn with all of my concerns, anxieties, needs and desires. He will listen to me, comfort me, strengthen me and send me out to do works for His service.
I woke this morning with a verse from 1 Chronicles in my head. To put this in context, in my childhood for a while I attended with my parents a very ordinary Anglican Parish Church, and for a while was a choirboy there. I got to know the Book of Common Prayer very well, including on the very final page the table of kindred and affinity which sets out who you may not marry; I used to try and work out who it meant in my family and then tried to work out why I needed to be told that I was forbidden from marrying my grandma!
Be that as it may, I come back to the verse in my head. One of the prayers that was regularly said in the church I grew up in included the phrase all things come from thee and of thine own do we give thee. This is a verse from King David’s prayer of praise to God just before he died and is recorded in 1 Chronicles 29: 10 – 19. The phrase in my head this morning is part of verse 14.
The context of this prayer is that he was handing on the baton of building a temple for God to his son, Solomon. He had gathered all the officials of Israel, the officials of the tribes, the officers of the divisions that served the king, the commanders of the thousands and commanders of hundreds, the stewards of all the property and cattle of the king and his son, together with the palace officials, the mighty warriors, and all the warriors. (1 Chron 29:1) and spoke to the “assembly”. It was a mixture of a sermon, a state of the nation address and a handing over to Solomon.
When he has finished, he gave this great prayer.
He starts by acknowledging God and His ultimate authority: “Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.” (1 Chron 29: 11-13)
And then in verse 14 he goes on to say: “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” (1 Chron 29: 14b)
And this is the phase that I woke up with in my head.
You see, all of the conflicting emotions that I feel are real – and entirely appropriate. There is little point in pretending that things are not strange and unsettling. Anxiety is an entirely ordinary human response to the current situation as is the disappointment I feel about plans postponed and family and friends not seen.
But there is a context and I believe this is what God wanted to remind me of this morning.
The greatness, the power, the victory, the majesty, everything in heaven and on earth is God’s. Not just belonging to God as if they had been given to Him but are His as an eternal ownership. All things are in his hands!
And everything I have and am comes from Him. This is the heart of the phrase in v14. All I have, all I am, all I will be his year are gifts from Almighty God. This means that I can allow myself to relax and look forward with hope.
Equally, I can (and should) look back to 2020 with gratitude, not that I have spent most of the year living with uncertainty but because He has seen me through. This is what Paul means when he says “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” (Phil 4:11)
So, as we look into 2021, there is much uncertainty and a whole range of different emotions.
But what we can be sure of is that all things come from God, and so, as Jeremiah wrote, and therefore I have hope. (Lamentations 3:21)
May Almighty God bless you this year, and may you always know the hope of God in you
With my love