NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2020
[I am copying here the first 2 pages of my message for the start of 2019 – with dates changed – as it is good to remind ourselves of eternal truths that are pertinent for this time of year…]
PRESS ON “TOWARDS THE GOAL”
In our last message of 2019 we looked back at a blessed year for ACC in our “Review of the Year” and were reminded again that we should always turn to God and say “Thank You” – trusting that He WILL use all things for our good, according to His promises.
It is good to remember and celebrate the wonderful things the Lord has done for His church at ACC over the past 12 months. Let us celebrate how He is building His church and making it strong.
However, with this call to remember comes this passage written by Paul to the Philippians in chapter 3 and verses 13-14:
forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
It has been well-said that the one who is forever driving a car by looking in the rear-view mirror to see what is behind will quickly end up hitting the car that is in front!. Paul is encouraging us to go forward – into the new year – and thus to “forget” about what is behind – the past.
But what does he mean? Is he really saying that we should just forget about the past? NO! Rather, he is saying that we should not allow the past to take over the future. For some people, they live in the past – wanting to hold on to something that was wonderful, or unable to let go of something that changed their lives in a terrible way (thus, Charles Dickens wrote in “Great Expectations” of the tragedy of Miss Haversham – always dressed in her bridal gown and living in a ghost-like state in a crumbling wedding venue, unable to move on after being “jilted” at the altar). Instead we should put the past behind us – not forgetting it, but learning from it, building on it – so that we can now go forward into the future that God has prepared for us.
In such a way should we say “thank you” to God for 2019 – seeing it as a “launch pad” for 2020.
FIX YOUR EYES UPON JESUS
Paul (for I believe it was he), writing to the Hebrews in chapter 12 exhorts us in this way:
let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (v. 1-2)
And so we enter into 2019. Who knows what lies ahead? Some of it will be good and some of it will be bad – but all will be beneficial for us as long as we trust and obey (remember that there is “no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey”).
The roadway of our life stretches out ahead of us. There is only one safe way forward on this road and that is to fix our eyes on Jesus – obeying what He says in His Word and listening to what He says through His Spirit.
It’s REALLY simple…the hard part is our DOING it!
I’m always encouraged at this time of year by the Christmas speech of King George VI – at a time when Britain was in a very dark place of war with Nazi Germany – and I hope and pray it will be an encouragement to you too:
“A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”
Toward the end of his nine-minute broadcast, he said:
“I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you:”
He then read from a poem given to him by his 13-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth,
“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’”*
He finished by saying,
“May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”
(*“The Gate of the Year,” by Minnie Haskins (1908))
WHAT ABOUT THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE CHURCH?
The King James version of Proverbs 29: 18 says this:
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
It is said that when you have no goal (as in football), or no target (as in archery), then you will undoubtedly miss every time!
If you, an individual, have no direction in 2020 then you will wander aimlessly through the year.
In the same way, if the church, of which you are a part, has no vision then we shall not see where God is taking us.
So, the elders are coming to you this day to bring to you the “Vision 2020” which we believe God is wanting to direct us through the coming year.
We ask that you listen to it carefully, study it diligently and meditate on it constantly – so that it might be our light – the light of ACC – as we go into the new year.
OUR WAY FORWARD FOR THIS YEAR – “2020 VISION”
When was the last time that YOU got your eyes tested? It is with a good degree of shame that I admit to not having been to the opticians for about 20 years! And, as my wife would loudly testify, it is time that I went back again. For, then, I had 20/20 vision. Now, it would be decidedly diminished – and I have no doubt that my inability to read a number plate at 25 yards, coupled with exhausted eyes at the end of the day, will lead to glasses being prescribed for me.
When we don’t have 2020 vision we do not see clearly; we miss things. When we see clearly all is revealed.
Just as it is no good trying to see when you are blind-folded or are wearing the wrong glasses, so we need to ask Father God to give us 2020 Vision to see our way ahead in this new year.
The elders would like to share with you the 2020 Vision that we have felt God lay upon our hearts. It is less about preaching this year and more about practice. It is less about our being “teaching elders” and more about our being “equipping elders”.
For our 2020 Vision is to build the church family up still further by focusing on the teaching of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians and chapter 4. Our 2020 Vision is that of…
EQUIPPING THE PEOPLE OF GOD FOR WORKS OF SERVICE – OUR 2020 VISION
“Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 11-13)
There are two aspects here – two sides of the same coin:
- Those who are already in positions of spiritual leadership have a God-given responsibility this year to ensure that the family of God at ACC are equipped, and so released, into the works of ministry that they have been called to. We leaders – not just the elders but also the deacons; not just the deacons but all those who have a leadership role in the church – have the calling this year to mentor, train, work alongside, encourage, give opportunity to, and bring-on, all within our church family to reach their full potential.
- All of us have the God-given responsibility this year to get alongside those who are already in positions of leadership, hold on tight to them, learn from them, be mentored by them, serve alongside them – become their apprentices, their disciples.
This is VERY exciting! It is the whole principle of “passing the baton” – and it is the Biblical pattern for developing God’s people and ensuring that the church is forever growing and moving forward into the next generation.
OUR 2020 VISION – LEARNING FROM ELIJAH AND ELISHA
And we are going to be taking our Biblical lead on this equipping of the church family from the story of the relationship between Elijah and his protégé, Elisha, as found in the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings. We are going to see that Elijah was called to apprentice Elisha – to equip him to works of service; and that Elisha was called to submit to being the apprentice of Elijah so that he could become equipped to reach his full potential.
Here are the key passages that we shall be studying – Bible verses that are clear examples of the principle of our 2020 Vision:
We know all about Elijah being mightily used by God to destroy the priests and prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel by bringing down fire from Heaven to consume his water-saturated sacrifice. But, then, threatened with death by the Queen – Jezebel – he cries out to God for help during a time of total spiritual and emotional collapse. God responds by telling him that he is not alone and commands him to:
“anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet” (1 Kings 19: 16)
He carries out this duty by literally going to find Elisha in Abel Meholah where:
“He was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him” (1 Kings 19: 19)
In obedience to this call to become the apprentice to Elijah we are told that Elisha:
“set out to follow Elijah and became his servant” (1 Kings 19: 21)
For an undisclosed but significant length of time Elisha followed Elijah wherever his went and learnt from him how to be his successor. When the time finally came for this to happen we have the incredible story of Elijah refusing to be parted from him until he was granted what he wished:
“‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’” (2 Kings 2: 6)
“‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied” (2 Kings 2: 9)
And very importantly (as we shall see in our next session), when it was time for Elisha to take up the role we are told that:
“Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over” (2 Kings 2: 13-14)
It is the role of the apprentice to “take up the mantle” (cloak) of the master and to carry on the good work.
This is not a vision of two perfect prophets of God to which we could never aspire. These are two real and normal men. We know much of what they did but little of who they were – yet what little we can glean is helpful in seeing them as a true visualisation of what our 2020 vision is calling us to be.
- Elijah was not a wealthy man it seems, and neither was he a man from a powerful background. He certainly had no way of supporting himself when he had to go into hiding and had to rely on God and God’s people to support him. He was also a man prone, it seems, to bouts of spiritual depression and lack of faith – when faced with the wrath of Jezebel he literally ran away and felt very sorry for himself and believed he was all alone. How like us!
- Elisha, on the other hand, seems to have been a very busy man from a wealthy background – 12 yoke of oxen was a considerable portfolio! Yet, being bald he was subject to ridicule by the people. So, there is no benefit in being rich or poor, busy or jobless, good-looking or not, powerful or a no-body. We are all called to be available.
This is not a vision about the older generation of leaders handing over the work to the younger. It is about the existing leaders equipping the next generation of leaders – to be ready for the task ahead. When Elijah anointed Elisha to be his successor he did NOT stop working and retire. No! It was the beginning of a process of learning for Elisha – who followed Elijah and learnt from him till his time of service came to an end.
Neither is it a vision of the old passing the baton over to the young (though in many cases it might be) – I did not enter “the ministry” (such a misleading term in itself – for we are all called to ministry) of being a pastor until I was in my 50s. It might well be that the young, in certain circumstances, will be equipping the old for ministry – there is no suggestion that Elijah was older than Elisha. So…no excuses from the older ones amongst us to say “this is not for me”.
No – the message of Elijah and Elisha is that it is all about attitude and availability. Their very names give us this message: Elijah means “my God is Yahweh”, and Elisha means “God is my salvation”. It is the one with the right attitude and availability that is the one that God will call to become equipped.
OUR 2020 VISION: EQUIPPING THE CHURCH FAMILY FOR SERVICE THROUGH THE “3 T’S”
Hopefully, you now all understand what the nature of our 2020 Vision is.
But, we are yet to explain how it Is to be implemented.
Our 2020 Vision will be put into effect through, what can be called, the “3 T’s” of
Do not assume that the leaders should be looking for the talented. As has often been pointed out – and shall now be pointed out again – “The LORD does not call the equipped but equips the called”.
God knows the potential of each one of us. God knows our hearts and attitudes. God knows whether we are making ourselves available to Him or not.
2020 Vision is essential so that the leaders see clearly who God is calling.
2020 Vision is essential so that the “called” see clearly what their calling is and seek to be equipped.
- “Time” is to be spent in giving the opportunity to the called to develop their ministry in a really practical way of “just doing it”.
- “Training” is to be offered – both “in-house” and with expertise from without so that people can develop their ministry of service.
- “Tools” are to be offered and taught on – especially the spiritual “gifts” and “ministries” so that all people are equipped with what they need to “do the job”.
Let us get excited. Let us get passionate about seeing all of our people built up. Let us be willing to “pass the baton”. Let us be eager to hold on tight to those from who we can learn.
Let us have 2020 Vision.