What will you be in 2003?

Rev. Chris Adams

Westminster Presbyterian Church

e-mail: wpc@tampabay.rr.com

January 5, 2003

Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ Through Word and Action

What will you be in 03? Let me tell you a story of what a woman did in 02. Five years ago when Thelma was 75, she was vivacious and full of life. When her husband passed away, her children suggested that she move to a "senior living community." And so she did.

Shortly after moving in, she took on the role of activities director, coordinating all sorts of fun events and became very popular and made many friends. This past year when Thelma turned 80, her new found friends showed their appreciation by throwing her a surprise birthday party.

When Thelma entered the room that night, she was greeted with a standing ovation. The night was filled with laughter and entertainment but throughout the evening, Thelma couldnít take her eyes off a gentleman sitting at the other end of the table.

When the evening ended, Thelma quickly rose from her seat and rushed over to the man. "Pardon me," she said. "Please forgive me if I made you feel uncomfortable by staring at you all night. I just couldnít help myself from looking your way. You see, you look just like my fifth husband."

"Your fifth husband!" replied the gentleman. "Forgive me for asking, but how many times have you been married?" "Oh, just four, she said....." They were married shortly after. So there you go, a new idea for you this New Year.

How many of you here this morning would like to have a fresh start in your life this year? Many of us here this morning have made many mistakes.

We have experienced many setbacks and failures throughout our lives. Sometimes we allow these mistakes, these setbacks and failures to enslave us to the point that Iíve never enjoy the full Christian life that God has given us to enjoy.

This morning, you may feel you have a dead-end job, and you feel stuck thinking, "I went into the wrong career and now there is nothing I can do about it."

You got married, only to find the marriage is a failure. It may end in divorce, or it may survive as a tragic, unending chain of arguments and fights. You say something to a loved one or friend, and then you are ostracized from them for the rest of your life. In Johnís Gospel, Jesus said, "I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly."

The good news is, God says, "I want you to have a fresh start. I want you to have a new beginning, I want to do something new in your life."

That is a major element of what our Christian faith is all about Ė the opportunity to start fresh. To do something new. To have a sort of makeover or do over. We are now in the New Year, and it is customary in our society to think of January 1st as a day for new beginnings.

A day for new resolutions. But the reality is that anytime is a time for a new beginning. January 1st, July 31st, any day is a day for a new beginning. In our Old Testament lesson, Isaiah writes, "Forget about what has happened before. Do not think about the past. Instead, look at the new things Iím going to do."

We need to understand that God is far more interested in our future than He is in our past. Some people think that God is stuck on their past. That all He wants to do is remind them of the things that they have done wrong.

But here in Isaiah, God says, "Forget about your past. Forget about the former things. Donít think about them anymore. Look at the new thing Iím going to do."

In the Old Testament lesson, Israel no doubt was discouraged because they thought they were history. In their minds, they believed they had gone too far, and sinned and rebelled against God to he point that He would no longer lover them.

Maybe they thought God would not deliver them again. But then they began to remember the former things and past miracles. They could remember when they were trapped by the Red Sea and had nowhere to go, how God made a way for them.

They could remember that when the enemy was about to overtake them how He provided protection for them. They could remember the former things, but they couldnít see their future. That is why God said; "I am going to do something new.

Maybe that is where you are this morning! You feel that you have made so many mistakes. Youíve squandered all of your opportunities. Youíve failed yourself, your family, God. And it is easy to think that itís over, but God says, that itís not over, that He can make all things new.

So how do you go about making a fresh start? Well, the first step is to stop making excuses. If we want a fresh start in life, we have to stop making excuses for our failures. Weíve got to stop blaming other people. Weíve got to stop seeing ourself as the victim of our own circumstances.

Other people can hurt us, other people can harm us, and other people can scar us. But the only person that can ruin your life is you. Nobody can ruin your life without your permission. You have a choice and that is you can choose how youíre going to respond to those hurts and set backs.

Proverbs says, "A person who refuses to admit their mistakes can never be successful. But if they confess and forsake them they get another chance." A fresh start.

It is hard to get people to admit when they are wrong. People do not like to admit, "I made a mistake, and I blew it. " God says, "That if we admit the mistake, if we admit our failures, and if we admit our sin, then we get another chance in life.

The next step is to Act In Faith! God calls us to launch into new territory. Jesus said the key to changing anything is faith. If you want to change how you handle your circumstance, you must takes faith. If you want to change how you treat others, then you must have faith.

If you want to change anything in your life, you have to have faith. What are you expecting in life? Are things going to be better or worse or are they going to be the same? If you act in faith then you will do something positive to ensure that you donít repeat the same mistakes over.

In order to start acting in faith means youíve got to stop feeling sorry for yourself. We all need to stop saying: "Poor me! Iím such a victim. Life is unfair." Of course life is unfair! Whoever said it was fair? God never said that.

This is a world filled with sin and evil and tragedy and because of that, life is unfair. But we have to go on with life anyway.

We have to stop rehearsing the past and get on with the present and the future. The more time we spend regretting our past, the more our future is wasted. The more time we spend thinking, "I wish that hadnít happened! I wish I could change that, we begin to waste our energy to live and thrive and be joyous Christians.

Instead, what we need to do is learn from our failures. Let me give you in my opinion one of the real secrets of success. Every successful entrepreneur knows this. Real success is built on failure.

Failure is the way you become a success. You figure out what doesnít work. When Edison figured out on the 200th or so time, what would make a light bulb stay lit, he did that because he knew 199 ways that didnít work. You never call it a failure in your life.

Rather, you call it an education. We learn from past failures and mistakes and act in faith for the future. The third step is to Focus. Arnold Palmer once shared a story about the importance of being focused. He was in a golf tournament and as he walked up to the green to make an easy shot, he saw one of his old friends.

He took a moment to go over and to shake his hand, and then walked onto the green to make the easy putt. He missed. Because he had allowed himself to be distracted. He lost his focus.

We need to focus our thoughts if we want to change our life. If we want to get going again, if we want a fresh start, we need to rethink the way that we think. We need to change our mind about a number of issues. Proverbs 4 says, "Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts." Focus your thoughts!

The way we think, determines the way we feel. And the way we feel determines the way we act. If we want to change our actions, we need to change the way we think and it will inevitably change the way we act. For example, if you are depressed, discouraged and distressed it may be because youíre thinking depressed, discouraged and distressing thoughts. Thatís your choice. You donít have to think those thoughts. If youíre acting in fearful, worried ways it may be because youíre thinking fearful, worried thoughts.

One way to change our thinking is to meditate on the Word of God. Psalm 1 says, "Happy are those who are always meditating on Godís word. Theyíre like trees planted along a river that does not dry up. They succeed in everything they do. "

Itís interesting that the Psalmist does not say, "If you read this book, youíll be happy and successful." It says, "If you meditate on it youíll be happy and successful." In meditating it means "we think on it over and over and what it means for our life.

As we fill our mind with Godís word, our minds and thoughts will begin to be transformed. Friends, when we stop seeing ourselves as other people see us and begin to see ourselves as God does. Thatís where real change takes place.

Friends, if our Lord tarries and at the end of 2003 we are still here....how will we see our lives? Filled with regret or joy? Bitterness or thankfulness? Spiritual growth or spiritual bankruptcy? We canít control the length of our life, but we can have something to say about its width and depth.

If we truly desire a new direction for a new year, then I believe it will be important to forget the past, act in faith and focus our thoughts on Godís thoughts. Then watch your life begin to change

In John Maxwellís book, "Developing the leader within you." A Middle Eastern mystic said: "I was a revolutionary when I was young and my prayer to God was: "Lord, give me the energy to change the world."

As I approached middle age and realized my life was half gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: "Lord, give me the grace to change all those I come in contact with, my family and friends and I shall be satisfied."

Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: "Lord, give me the grace to change myself."

Friends, what kind of person will you be in 03? I invite you to trust God to change you from the inside out. Who knows? God may not only begin to change you but also those around you without you ever knowing....thatís grace...and thatís the power of the spirit of God...when we give him our lives! Amen.


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