I think there are two annual dates that mark the passing of time for us. One is our birthday when we come to grips with the fact that we are once again another year older. The other is New Year’s Day. No matter how much we may wish to slow time down or pretend that we aren’t getting older, New Year’s Day serves as a reminder that time does in fact keep marching on. And so I think that is a big reason why people party on New Year’s Eve. This way people can stare right at the passing of time and at least laugh, while inside being frightened of the fact that the measurement of time that we call a year is gone and cannot be recovered.
I would like to suggest a different way of marking this significant passing of time. Rather than trying to forget or laugh at the passing of time, we will take some time this morning to try to make this coming year a more meaningful year. If we follow what Psalm 16 says, we can find the blessings we desire in this coming year. Let’s read Psalm 16.
I. First of all, let’s look at the requirement of loyalty in verses 1-4.
David has complete loyalty in that he says his God is his only place of security or refuge. In fact, David says that he has nothing else that is good apart from God. In verses 3-4, David observes that there are good and bad people in the world. The good people are the ones who love and serve the Lord. The bad, who offer sacrifices to false gods, have no hope except more sorrow in their lives. With those two choices in front of him, David says that he will have no part in following false gods; he is firmly committed to the Lord and living a life with God.
This morning, let us ask ourselves where our true allegiance lies. We do have false gods that appeal to us: money, sex and power to name just a few. Many worship these things by placing them at the center of their lives. And it is tempting to follow the things that seem to make other people happy. We must realize, however, that they are false gods. We must give our complete allegiance to God and not follow the things that are false.
II. It helps to keep our allegiance to God by remembering our past blessings.
David reflects on his past blessings in verses 5-6 by going back to an earlier time when Israel’s 12 tribes of had entered the land of Canaan after being rescued by God from Egypt. At that point, God had divided up the Promised Land for the people. God decided how much each tribe received and laid out boundary lines for each. David looks back and knows that his life has been blessed both spiritually and physically; the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for him. He knows that it was God who gave him a pleasant inheritance or rich blessings. He also says that the cup God has assigned to him has been good. The cup refers to a drink that you would offer to a guest in order to refresh him. God the Master has offered to him a cup full of great blessings. David knows that God is the one who has given him the blessings in his life in the past.
So reflecting on 2015, ask yourself: “Where have the boundary lines fallen for me?” Before you answer, remember that all things, good and bad, come from God’s hand. God has blessed us with much good in this past year. However, God has also allowed adversity and trials to come to us at times. However, the point is what will you dwell on: the good or the bad? Now I am not saying that you can completely block out the bad. Some things that happen to us in our lives are painful and difficult to overcome. But the goal is to not let those things overwhelm the good from this past year. Be sure to remember the good and thank God for it. And even the adversities can become a rich blessing through God’s grace.
At the second landing, he bumped into a former student of his. After a warm embrace, the student asked, “Doctor, what are you doing here? Can I help you?” Then Joseph learned that this former student’s fiancée was the personal secretary of the official he had come to see. The student took Joseph to the fourth floor, introduced him to his fiancée, and told her to grant the visa to his old professor. She paled and replied, “You know I can’t. His name is on the proscribed list.” At that Joseph’s former student said, “Give the doctor a visa or cancel our wedding plans.” His fiancée walked to the window and stood for a long time. Then she returned to her desk and granted the visa.
III. Third, we need to anticipate future blessings.
David is fully confident that God will bless him in the future. He praises the Lord and anticipates the guidance and protection God will give him. He is confident that God will reveal to him the way that God wants him to live. He knows that God will also protect him by standing by his right side. But David also recognizes that he has a role to play as well. He must reflect on what God is telling him as God leads him. David knows that whatever he does, he must keep his mind fixed on the Lord. And the result as seen in verse 8 is that David will not be shaken has nothing to fear.
That security can be for us as well as long as we are trusting fully in the Lord. That is comforting especially for those who know now already that they will be facing difficulties and challenges in this coming year. These verses teach that we don’t have to face them alone; God is there beside us. We don’t know what we may have to face in this coming year. Our family has learned that things can be changed quickly and completely. A serious disease that you never even thought of comes. It might be a job that you thought was solid and suddenly it is gone. Follow God and he will protect and lead us regardless of what we may face. The hard part, however, is trusting fully in the Lord.
An hour later his experienced climbing friends found him. Standing on the rock he wanted to reach, one of them leaned out and used an ice axe to chip two little footsteps in the glacier. Then he gave Patterson the following instructions: “Ben, you must step out from where you are and put your foot where the first foothold is. When your foot touches it, without a moment’s hesitation swing your other foot across and land it on the next step. When you do that, reach out and I will take your hand and pull you to safety.” That sounded good.
It was the next thing he said that made Patterson more frightened than ever. He continued, “But listen carefully: As you step across, do not lean into the mountain! If anything, lean out a bit. Otherwise, your feet may fly out from under you and you will start sliding down.” Patterson writes:
“I don’t like precipices. When I’m on the edge of a cliff, my instincts are to lie down and hug the mountain, to become one with it, not to lean away from it! But that was what my good friend was telling me to do as I stood trembling on that glacier. I looked at him hard. Was there any reason that I should not trust him? I certainly hoped not! So for a moment, based solely on what I believed to be true about the good will and good sense of my friend, I decided to say no to what I felt, to stifle my impulse to cling to the security of the mountain, to lean out, step out, and traverse the ice to safety. It took less than two seconds to find out if my faith was well founded. It was.”
Trusting in God can be very frightening, but God will not let you fall.
IV. Finally, doing these things should give us the joy of complete confidence.
David shouts out with joy in verses 9-11 as he celebrates that security. His heart, his very soul is glad and his mouth is singing praise to God. He feels content and satisfied and is at complete peace. That relationship will make a difference for David’s eternal future. David knows that he will not be abandoned in the grave. God will somehow rescue David even from death. The New Testament, of course, makes it very clear that the basis of this hope is Jesus. Because Jesus was not abandoned in the grave, we too will not be abandoned in our graves when we die. From these words we can be certain that if we are trusting fully in Christ, even death will not separate us from the love of God because of Jesus’ resurrection.
But David also has confidence regarding his present future on earth as well. His present life will have meaning because God is with him and is leading him. He is joyfully confident knowing that no matter what happens, God will be there with him filling him with the joy of God’s presence. We too can face the immediate future confidently if we believe in Christ.
In his autobiographical book, Telling Secrets, author Frederick Buechner writes about how his teenage daughter struggled with anorexia. There was one night when he himself was despairing, worried sick that his daughter would never get well again. But that night something happened. He writes:
“I remember sitting parked by the roadside, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter’s illness and what was going on in our family, when out of nowhere a car came along down the highway with a license plate that bore on it the one word out of all the words in the dictionary I needed most to see exactly then. The word was TRUST. What do you call a moment like that? Something to laugh off as the kind of joke life plays on us once in a while? The word of God? I am willing to believe that maybe it was something of both, but for me it was an epiphany. The owner of the car turned out to be a trust officer in a bank, and not long ago, having read an account I wrote of the incident somewhere, he found out where I lived and one afternoon brought me the license plate itself, which sits propped up on a bookshelf in my house to this day. It is rusty around the edges and a little battered, and it is also as holy a relic as I have ever seen.”
Hear God speaking to us today. Will we trust in him and live in his presence in 2016?