Welcome to 2021!
Welcome to 2021!
3 January 2021
I can almost hear the echo resonating around the world: “Well, it’s about time! I’m happy to say ‘farewell’ to 2020!”
These past months have been gruelling and uncertain for some, filled with unimaginable human pain that, at times, was simply overwhelming. My prayers have been constant, and throughout I have placed my faith in three realities:
First of all, that I know Jesus Christ died for my sins. I also know that he rose from the grave. And I know he is coming again.
So when there were moments that were dark, seemingly dismal, and the way was not clear, I have repeated these words of comfort in my own heart: the Cross, the tomb, the sky. I have been able to say to myself: God is steadfast and he is present.
For as long as I can remember, I have always welcomed the new year – loving its unwritten pages, anticipating the ‘impossible’ and doing so with faith and courage, and in the full knowledge that my God, Jehovah, was going before me. With all that in place I acknowledge that, looking forward today, I do see shadows.
I see promised dates that I am not certain will come to fruition. The shadows are the ongoing impactful realities of a pandemic, with all the fallout that will require the very, very best of us. It will require men and women of faith.
The promises that might not be realised according to my agenda are centred around a vaccine, a relief from the number of cases reported, and some relief from the number of deaths. And then there is the loss of employment, the damage to our world economy.
For Commissioner Rosalie and myself, it is about anticipating travel, and reconnecting with our international Salvation Army as we embrace Salvationists around the world.
I long for the promise of a new normal. I might not know all the detail, but I want included in that being able to share with my family, being able to worship together with my friends and the freedom to embrace without reservation all that God has for me – for us – for The Salvation Army in 2021.
I want to be full of faith – and I am being very careful that that faith is well placed. For me, that faith is in a sovereign God who is Alpha and Omega. I have often said that any faith that fails in trial, or plunges in the midst of things like a pandemic, is not the kind of faith I'm looking for. I want to know that God is with us! And of that I am sure.
Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what do not see.” This verse, in fact the whole chapter, is a testament to God’s impeccable faithfulness to his people. By faith, we engage with God – the God of the impossible – as we become a part of his story. From my vantage point, despite the challenges, chaos, uncertainty and much doubt, I still stand and I ‘raise my Ebenezer’.
I pray for the courage and faith that we find in the story of the Israelites who, when facing their worst enemy, the Philistines, turned to Samuel and, ultimately, to God; and God acted on their behalf – the enemy was destroyed. The victory on that occasion was marked
by a memorial stone. In the Scriptures we understand that the stone was named Ebenezer – and it represented the simple truth: ‘so far the Lord has helped us’.
I am very privileged to lead an international Salvation Army, but let it be known that I only rest when I acknowledge that our God – a God who is faithful, a God who acts on our behalf – has the Army in his hands. So far he has helped us, carried us on eagle’s wings, sheltered us under the shadow of the Almighty, shielded us by his power and, best of all, assured us we can be more than conquerors. The only way that we can welcome this new year with confidence is to do so with faith in a God who has proven that he is able.
My Call to Mission, a call I believe God has placed on The Salvation Army, is a call that cascades down to every corps (church) and centre of ministry. It is a call that reaches out to every friend, soldier and officer, asking us:
- To be ready – prepared and living out the mission of God in the world.
- To be engaged – active in God’s plan, with obedient faith.
- To take responsibility – never leaving my task for someone else to do.
If there was ever a time in history when our world needs the presence, ministry, love and service of The Salvation Army, it is now! It is my prayer that in 2021 we will be an Army that is out there, not confined to barracks by COVID or any other oppression, but that we will be a people mobilised by the Spirit, compelled by love and battle-ready. Because God is with us.
A ‘Happy New Year’ is my wish for you, but it comes in the context of challenging difficulties and in some ways in a time when happiness eludes us. But I am praying for you and those you love, those you seek to serve, that we might know in every challenge the sustaining grace of a mighty God who holds us in the hollow of his hand.
So far the Lord has helped us, and I believe he will be with us in this new year. May God bless you.