2017 feels like “Ready or not — here I come!” After watching the ball drop at Times Square in New York City on television and then the Dallas celebration at midnight in my time zone, I went to bed New Year’s Eve with hope for a good 2017.
New Year’s day began on Sunday this year. So far I have a perfect record for being early and not late or just on time for church services. We will see what next week brings. As I listened to the sermon about reflecting and evaluating 2016 and planning for 2017, many thoughts went through my mind. I could identify with the minister’s resolution to complain less and appreciate more. I learned that what separates the highly successful from others is writing down your goals. To prepare for 2017, the minister asked us five questions. They were: 1. Where am I? 2. What do I want? 3. Where is my focus? 4. What’s my reward – or what do I hope to accomplish? and 5. Am I praying? These are great questions and something to ponder. But it was the sermon I heard before the sermon that reminded me of another very important lesson.
As I entered the church building, I greeted and asked an older “sister” how she was doing. Her response was, “Better. I am just taking things one day at a time.” As her words sunk in, I thought that her answer and approach was exactly right. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us not to be anxious about anything because the Lord God loves, values, and will take care of us day by day. In verse 34 of Matthew 6, Jesus specifically says not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own. For me, 2016 had many days with trouble and struggles. As much as I like to plan, some things just didn’t go “right.” The devil seemed determined to derail and distract me from my plans and goals. Sometimes I think I spend too much time looking too far down the road for what might or could happen. Though I believe I am planning and preparing for all eventualities by looking ahead, I see that worrying about the future can prevent me from being prepared in the moment —for the moment that is here and now.
Have you ever felt like the day began without you? Many times in 2016, it seemed like an emergency or crisis would occur before I could even get up and get dressed. It reminded me of a morning many years ago when I woke up to the constant barking of my three dogs. As I looked out the kitchen window, I had to get my binoculars to clearly see what was happening. A raccoon had lured one of my dogs into our pond and was on top of his head biting him and pushing him under to drown him. I’m sure I was a sight to see running out the front door in my pajamas and house shoes carrying a 20 gauge shotgun. There seemed to be no time to dress before that day began, but that’s another story for another time. The point is that the Bible has something to say about being prepared and about how Christians should prepare for each day.
In Ephesians 6:10 and following, Paul commands the Ephesian Christians to put on the whole armor of God. He says that it helps us stand against the schemes of the devil. A roaring lion, the devil oppresses to steal, kill and destroy. Perhaps you too experienced his roar and disrupting presence. Maybe some of his flaming arrows hit their marks to singe and wound you too. For the Christian, there is a ready defense against the devil. In Ephesians 6:13 Paul repeats himself by saying again, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Some days last year it seemed that all I could say at the end of the day was that I was still standing. There will always be days like that, but we can know that the armor of God is available to protect us and help us stand. Just like the soldier without his armor, we are vulnerable to the devil without the spiritual armor God freely provides to us. The shield of faith is the Christian’s specific defense weapon against the devil. In Ephesians 6:16 Paul says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Paul doesn’t say we’ll be able to put out some of the flaming darts, but all of them. What a comfort to know that God provides for our protection if we will simply get dressed for the part we are to play in his plan. So in this new year of 2017, I hope you will purpose with me to pray for God’s will and make plans to accomplish the goals God gives us, and before we begin our days, let’s make sure we get fully dressed with the whole armor of God while taking life – just one day at a time.