2001-12-31 - Bacchus or Christ
1 Timothy 4:2 Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Another year has come to an end and the festivities, for many of us, are upon us. I admit that I will be working so there will be no celebration for me. But for many New Year's Eve is a night of gathering with others to ring in the New Year. There are many ways to gather with each other. Some have huge parties where drunkenness is not only tolerated, but encouraged. Some gather with family members and a couple close friends. Others gather with their church weekly Bible study and spend some time reflecting on God's grace throughout the year.
In Christian society gatherings I would like to try to encourage you, not only on New Year's Eve, but at all times, to be ready to give a word of encouragement to those you are with. Be prepared, if events call for it or if the Spirit moves you, to offer a prayer or lead in a short meditation from God's Word. This will cost you some time in advance to think about how you might strengthen or encourage others in prayer before you join them. It will take time to prepare to minister from God's Word if the opportunity or need arises. That time invested, however, even if you never use it publicly, will be an advantage to you and your soul.
We do not know what an evening, when over 1 million people will gather in Times Square, NYC, might bring. It might be a great blessing to others if we were prepared to edify those we are gathered with. I remember when the World Trade Center Towers were being destroyed I was on the phone with my dad as the first tower came down. I wish we had stopped talking and prayed, but the thought only arose in hindsight. It can only be to our advantage to always be ready to speak confidently of Christ and His mercy at any time it may be called for. It can only be a blessing to our souls to always be prepared to lead in prayer if the opportunity arises. Even if nothing dramatic happens on New Year's Eve you may still have the chance to encourage others, but it will be much more difficult to do so if you have not spent the time to think through what you might say first.
I remember a friend at seminary who told me on a Friday afternoon how distressed he was because he had just been asked to preach on the next Sunday morning. I said to him, "Chris, we are here studying God's Word, learning Greek, Hebrew and memorizing verses in our practical theology courses. You have no excuse for not always having a sermon on your heart. If you don't apply to your heart what you are learning now, what will you do when you are out of this environment?" It should always be that way with us even if we are not in seminary. As the verse above says we ought always to have something in our hearts that can encourage and edify others. (1 Corinthians 14:3)
Suetonius talks about the practice of the Romans bringing presents to the capital on New Year's Day. Later Tacitus records that the Emperor Tiberius made an order, "forbidding the giving or demanding of New Year's gifts." My suggestion to you is that the gift you might offer to friends and family is a preparedness to edify them in prayer or from Scripture if the opportunity arises. There will be many well wishes and salutations given one to another this evening, but a well-timed and seasonable word might be the best thing any one of us can offer to those we care about.
Soli Deo Gloria,