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Reflecting on the past, reaching for the future

Several years ago when I was a student in the Clinical Pastor Education program at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, there were some pretty intense requirements to be fulfilled before credit for the class was awarded.  The program included both academics and practical application of what we were taught.  One of the exercises required was a weekly reflection—a short written essay on some event, thought, or struggle encountered over the past seven days.  The idea was for the student to take time to think about life and what was being faced.  Sometimes it was easy while at other times it took deeper thought and more time to arrive at something worthwhile for the project.

As we are once again at the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is an excellent time for each of us to do some reflecting on what we have faced and consider what God has allowed us to learn along the way.  This will help us to be better able to look ahead with confidence that God will see us through the new year as we keep our faith in Him.

Prior to and during the time of Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph most certainly did a lot of reflecting and wondering regarding the roles that God had called them to.  Matthew 1 records a beautiful accounting of what transpired in the life of Joseph as he grappled with the news that Christ was to be born of Mary.  In the midst of what was surely a mind boggling experience for him, the Lord used a dream to provide him with guidance and assurance concerning the birth of the Messiah.  Following the dream, verse 24 tells us that “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (New International Version).

The dream alone must have been a life-changing experience for Joseph, but it was not meant to be an end in itself; it was an avenue toward the more important goal:  to faithfully and fearlessly follow God’s plan for him and Mary.  There came a time when he needed to wake up and move, and he did.  Because of his faithfulness and willingness, God used him mightily in the event that changed the world.

As we prepare to face a new year, it is profitable that we do so with hearts and hands that are awake, alert and willing to move in whatever direction God chooses to lead us in.  It is true that we might be called into some opportunities of Christian service that seem foreign to us and frightening to face.  Nevertheless, we can rest assured that God is trustworthy and will always lead us in the right direction.

One of the things that the Lord spoke to Joseph in the dream was “do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (verse 20).  That was certainly a timely and fitting word for the young carpenter; it was the assurance that he needed to wake up and move forward as God’s plan for his life unfolded.  It is a good reminder to us today that serving God and facing the unknown can tempt us to allow fear to hinder us, yet we can overcome such fears by trusting God for the courage to press on.

As we reflect on what God did in our lives during 2019 and reach for our plans and goals for 2020, staying awake and moving for God is essential.  Good dreams and plans make excellent starting points, but they are worth little unless we put them into action.  Let’s wake up and move ahead with God every day that He grants us.