December 30, 2019
As a new year begins, most of us take some time to look at ourselves and draw conclusions about the previous year and about changes we might want or need to make for the New Year. Some will remember 2019 as a year of political turmoil in our country, in Europe, Venezuela, and around the world. Many people around the world endured natural disasters. While these things were happening, our daily lives continued, good times as well as bad. The ending of a year and the anticipation of a new year has always had a way of causing us to reflect on how we will deal with the challenges that lie ahead.
The apostle Paul had something like that in mind for the Corinthian church when he wrote to them about their faith. II Corinthians 13:5-11 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority-the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. After telling them that they should examine their lives and test themselves, he acknowledges that they will experience weakness, but that they must choose to stand the tests that will come. Notice then what he says to them as they go forward. “…our prayer is for your perfection.” Even in his farewell he says, “…aim for perfection.” Now that would be a pretty strong New Year’s resolution….to be perfect. What do you suppose he meant, and what can we learn from these words at the beginning of the year 2020?
The word he used in this verse comes from the Greek word katartizo which means “to restore to its former position.” It is always interesting to think back to the way things were. The older I get the better the past seems to get, and I’m sure our kids get tired of hearing about the “good old days.” It’s because in our lives we tend to forget the reality of where we have come from. If 2019 was a good year for you maybe you forgot about a bad 2018. Or maybe the opposite is true. When we are in the middle of a difficult time it is easy to forget how much we have been blessed. So why did Paul tell these people that he would pray that they would be restored to a previous position? I believe it is because that at one time they were united, working together for the cause of Christ. They once exhibited unity and love, and there was order in the church. Now in their church, there was no harmony and their efforts were disjointed and ineffective, and the only way for them to re-establish their mission as a church was to find “perfection,” to find the place where they had once been as a church and to get back to that position so that they could effectively witness for Christ. As believers, I believe our challenge, at the beginning of a new year, is to individually seek to be restored to that place when our commitment to Christ was evident in everything we did. When we first realized that God had provided the free gift of salvation and trusted Christ to save us, we were full of gratitude and thanks. We wanted to serve Him and live for Him each day. I am not one to make a lot of predictions, but I believe that one thing is sure as we seek to live for Jesus in the coming year. It will not be any easier in 2020 than it was in 2019. I also believe that more than ever, believers will need to become more unified, if we are to be effective in our witness and service to God. Paul said that the way to accomplish this is to aim for “perfection,” by remembering our position at the time He saved us. If we aim for perfection this year, God will bless each of us separately and together in our service for Him.
May God bless you and your family in the New Year,