We are at the end of 2023 and what a year it has been. Can you believe it? A lot can happen within the time span of a year and this year was no different. The expression “time flies” is an understatement. With each passing moment, we are closer to eternity, and this is something that we all need to reflect on. I want us to be completely objective about how our year has gone.
1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. (9-10) Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
The beginning thought that I want us to have is related to what Paul says here in 1 Thessalonians. When reflecting back over the year, I believe we need to be very careful with any thought that there is nothing you would have done differently or that you met your goals as you so desired. I respect the idea of setting goals and meeting them but personally, I do not want to hinder myself with any kind of idea that because I met my goal, then there was nothing else for me to improve. We can always do better. There will always be room for improvement. There are many things that we all do extremely well but let’s be honest for just a moment. There are also things that we do not do so well in. Obviously in the things that we struggle with, we need to find ways to improve ourselves. Even in the things that we do well, we need to continue doing well and still improve in those areas. In reference to love, this is always going to be a hot topic for brethren. There will be those who feel that our love is lacking, and, in some cases this is true. In other circumstances, our love abounds.
Regarding personal goals, whether it is involving aspects of the faith (which I hope is the case) or other things such as seeking a promotion at work or whatever goals you have set for yourselves. I hope you were able to reach them and excel in all that you have done. I want us to take a few moments to briefly consider a few highlights from this past year.
Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
I believe it is safe to say that we had a great year. Consider our congregational singing that we held back in July. We had another wonderful turnout for that singing and it was considered a success. Personally, I was afforded the opportunity to meet new people from the surrounding area and as most of you know, I love singing.
Think back a couple months ago when we had our gospel meeting with brother Matt Smith from Quitman. He did such a wonderful job, and it is always encouraging to see younger men preach the gospel. Scheduling events like gospel meetings and congregational singings is only possible because of you guys!
What about other local congregations who have held gospel meetings and singings in the area? I know that several of you have made it a point to try to attend those whenever possible. These kinds of activities are edifying because we are choosing to come together as brethren. It would be easy for us to tell ourselves that we would rather sleep in on a Saturday morning or that it is too late in the evening to do any additional extracurricular activities. Whenever we purpose in our hearts to get out of our comfort zone and do things to draw others to the Lord, that is encouraging to see.
Revelation 2:2-7 I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
I want to close with this instruction to the church in Ephesus so that we do not have the same thing said about us. They did many things right, but we need to be cautious that we are not following God through some checklist. Following God is not a life of rule keeping and that is essentially what was taking place for these brethren. Think back to the basics of what we need to do. We need to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and we need to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The instruction given to them is for them to remember from where they have fallen. Is there something in our lives that have caused us to not serve God as we ought? Jesus also tells them that they need to repent. Remember where you were in your love for God and be sorrowful about what has happened. The danger of not repenting is the fact that Jesus says that He will remove our lampstands. If we overcome and endure faithfully in this life, the tree of life will be granted to us.
Revelation 22:12-14 Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
by Lee Elkins