Standing on the brink of a new year can be a daunting experience. If we are not careful, our imagination can go into overdrive and we can be gripped by fear. What awaits me in the unknown year ahead? Will my health hold up? Will my financial resources be adequate? How will I cope with stress or calamity?
How should we approach the new year, with our miscellaneous fears of ‘what might be’? Well, according to the Lord Jesus Christ we are to approach the new year – not to mention our whole earthly life – just one day at a time.
In Matthew 6:34, having emphasised God’s providential care for his children, he offers this kindly exhortation: ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day’.
According to Jesus, then, we are not to be anxious about the days ahead but rather trust in the all-sufficient grace of God. We should take life one day at a time, and deal with the immediate tasks we have in hand.
Paradox, prudence and peace
Paradoxically, while the Bible forbids anxiety about the future, it encourages us to make preparation and provision for it. It enjoins us to be prudent. In Proverbs 6:6-11, for example, we are urged to emulate the ant!
‘Go to the ant … consider her ways and be wise. Without having any chief officer or ruler, she prepares her food in summer, and gathers her sustenance in harvest’. Again, in Proverbs 10:5 we are told that ‘a son who gathers in summer is prudent’.
By implication, then, such things as insurance, pensions and personal planning are by no means contrary to the will of God. Yet while the Bible exhorts us to prepare and be prepared for the future – both materially and spiritually – it prohibits anxiety about things to come.
Anxiety casts aspersions on the goodness of God. If we are his children, our future is secure in his hands. He will lead us to this future one day at a time, as his gracious providence unfolds.
So let us hear and heed our Saviour’s words. ‘Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day’ (Matthew 6:34).
To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, ‘Be at peace about the future. Do what you know you ought to do today, and everything will fall into place. The future is actually God’s responsibility not yours. He has promised to be with you each step of the way, so what more can you ever need?’
One day at a time
God promises his children, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 11:9). Yet while this is blessedly true, the Bible also teaches that God’s sustaining grace is not given in advance. He gives us strength sufficient for the day – for the present moment and not for the morrow.
Jesus encourages us to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). In doing so he was telling us to trust God to provide for present necessities and take each day as it comes.
How did God provide for the Israelites in the wilderness – a barren place, incapable of sustaining life? He sent manna from heaven for his people’s sustenance.
But notice how he did it – day by day! ‘Morning by morning they gathered it …’ (Exodus 16:21). God provided his people with daily bread. When they lost sight of the ‘daily-ness’ of God’s provision, and tried to hoard the manna for the future, ‘it bred worms and became foul’.
Day by day the manna fell;
Oh to learn this lesson well;
Still by constant mercy fed,
Give us Lord our daily bread.
‘Day by day’ the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs.
Cast foreboding fear away,
Take the manna of today.
Warriors not worriers
So we are to face the unknown year with confidence in God, and tackle it one day at a time. While sensible preparation and foresight are commended, we are not to be anxious or fearful about the unknown tomorrow.
Rather, let us seek God’s help to cope with the present task and live thankfully in the circumstances he has ordained for us. The God of the Bible is infinitely worthy of our trust. He is at the helm of his children’s lives, for ‘his kingdom rules over all’ (Psalm 103:19).
His all-sufficient grace and strength will enable us to cope with the ‘ups and downs’ of our earthly pilgrimage. He will never leave us nor forsake us, and has promised to provide for all our needs ‘according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:19).
The all-embracing promise of Scripture is that ‘in everything God works for good with those who love him’ (Romans 8:28). It’s a staggering thought that whatever the future holds for us, God will get glory through our blessing (Ephesians 1:14).
So we are to be Christian warriors, not Christian worriers! Facing this new year, then, let us heed again the words of the Son of God in the light of God’s proven goodness. For he ‘is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us – to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages’ (Ephesians 3:20-21).