Starting a New Year

For the Lord delights in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.
    Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.
Let the praises of God be in their mouths,
    and a sharp sword in their hands—              Psalm 149:4-6

This past year has held significant disappointment in the many unpleasant changes from life as we have known it.  Some have suffered sickness and have had to say good-bye to loved ones. Almost all of us have had to work our way through fear, anxiety, and depression in multiple arenas.   Welcoming a new year usually carries hope that things might actually change for the better.  But placing hope in whatever is going on around us will always disappoint, as Paul tells us clearly that our Hope is the person of Jesus, Who does not change like shifting circumstances. (1 Timothy 1:1)

Therefore, on a very practical basis, how does hope in Jesus translate to and impact our physical realities, since God created us with the blessing conjoined with the difficulty of being experiential creatures?  How do we cross the seemingly gaping ravine between the spiritual reality of Jesus to the physical life we live?

I believe the secret lies in the above scripture, if we take the time to break it down and digest what the writer is saying.  If we have had even one experience of someone being pleased with something about us, then we have probably benefited from a momentary degree of uplifting joy.  How much more then are we blessed when the Lord of Creation expresses His delight over us just because we choose to receive Him and His sacrifice for us?  Our declaration of Jesus as Lord and Savior is the expression of humility that positions us to be crowned with victory.  The result is gift upon gift that we did nothing to earn.  So we are presented with the amazing concept that God would honor us by giving us victory in the midst of adverse circumstances.  This truth is powerful to lift the enormous weight we generally carry in adversity.  But we must be purposeful about redirecting our eyes from our circumstances to Him, as it is the light of His Presence that changes our perspectives to usher in hope.  This complete paradigm shift results in praise that springs from unexpected joy; praise that is so overwhelming that it overtakes sleep; praise that cannot help but have a verbal overflow because it cannot be contained.

The surprising part is that praise can be in our mouths while a sword is simultaneously in our hands.  We cannot afford to be unarmed in these days which scripture describes as evil.  However, The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4).  Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God which is readily at our disposal.  When we add praise that ushers in God’s Presence replete with His power and authority, to His joy that strengthens us in our praise of Him, all the components for victory come together.  Welcome to the Kingdom of God!

Therefore, we now have the opportunity to reposition ourselves for this next year.  Act III has not played out, and “the fat lady hasn’t sung”. Those things that seemed to overwhelm — even defeat us — in the last year are on the battle line where God has already determined we have victory.  For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  And should we find the attitudes of our hearts lacking, we have been given the secret for making that adjustment in Psalm 150:1-2, “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”  Our battle cry is praise.