We’re probably all saying it, “Where did 2014 go?” It all seemed to pass so quickly, so at the turn of this year I want us to consider two similar verses in the OT:
Job 37:14 “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
1 Samuel 12:16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.
Both encourage us to stop and consider the work of God. The first encourages us to look back, while the second encourages us to look forward expectantly.
We began 2014 reminding ourselves of William Carey’s text,
“Enlarge the place of your tent, … do not hold back; … For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and … desolate cities.” (Is 54:2,3)
Who in Jan 2014 imagined what the year would hold? Jo McMillen was on Home Assignment, we sent her back to Brazil. Phil and Rachel were still an ‘expectant’ couple, but in October we had the privilege of sending the first missionary family from Emmanuel to Asia. The Funnell family was still a regular part of the congregation at Emmanuel, but in June we were privileged to help them respond to the call from Noddfa – ‘Come over and help us.’
Our approach to mission also saw a new application in that we sent out and supported four short-termers; Isaac and Dhushy Lewis to Gambia; George Heward to Kosovo; Linda and myself to Papua New Guinea; with Paul and Neil going to Brittany. Sadly Peter Milsom has not received the same focus, because ‘we thought he had retired’, but he had trips to USA, Papua, not to mention the number of churches he has served in the UK. Similarly Peter Milsom, Peter Hilder, John Funnell, Trevor McMillen and I have had the privilege of serving other local churches. All of this is added to the regular ministries that we exercise within the chapel at Emmanuel, the residential homes and on the streets of Newport.
Did any of us consider that our ministry would ever be so diverse in one year, therefore it is vital for us then to consider the second verse above, ‘Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.’ (1 Sam 12:16) The context of that verse is that Samuel is calling the people to look forward and to consider the effects of their decision. God was about to demonstrate His power in discipline and that drove the people to prayer. At a similar, but earlier point in their history Joshua called God’s people to walk carefully saying “… Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” (Joshua 3:4). They were at a point in history never before experienced. We are in a very similar position. None of us knows what 2015 holds for us, but we can be confident that God does and He knows what He is going to do with us. 2014 has given us a wonderfully diverse ministry and it is just as likely that God will give us similar opportunities in 2015, if we are prepared by faith to keep in step with Him.
The Christian life is a life of faith from start to finish. All of the Old Testament saints were called out by God to follow a path that God would show step by step. Similarly the disciples were simply called to follow Christ, with no real understanding of what God would do with them. None of them would have considered that the Messiah would be crucified in order to fulfil the mission for which God had sent Him into this world. Christ however led them step by step in order that they might understand more fully God’s purposes for Him and that those purposes might be fulfilled.
So at the dawn of a new year there is a way in which it would be good for each of us to enter the year responding in a way similar to the shepherds that first Christmas night, “Let us go … and see this thing … which the Lord has made known to us.” (Lk 2:15). God will only make it known step by step, but we can be confident that it will be for our good, ‘for we walk by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Cor. 5:7)
Yours in His Purposes,
Bernard Lewis January 2015