A New Year promise

Last words can be revealing, showing a person’s predominating interest.

Rev David Clarke
Rev David Clarke

The last words of the great American soldier, General Robert E. Lee were ‘Strike the tent’.

Or they can show an individual’s fear as the end of life approaches. The famous short -story writer, O. Henry’s, last words were ‘Turn up the lights. I don’t want to go home in the dark’.

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Some make light of their situation. When the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston was told by his doctor that he was dying, he responded, ‘Die! My dear doctor…that’s the last thing I shall do!’.

The Bible records the last words of Moses as he addressed his people. Entering the Promised Land, he gave them an assurance; ‘Your strength will equal your days’ (Deuteronomy 33;25).

In other words, every day God will give you the strength you need for that day.

The tendency of many of us is to look ahead and aggregate the problems we might encounter. The Russians have a proverb: ‘Fear has big eyes’, always looking ahead, dreading the possibilities of what might unfold, seeing untold dangers.

A few days ago we sang along to Robert Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’. In his poem, ‘To a mouse’, he has a verse which ends; I backward cast my eyes on prospects drear

An’ forward though I canna see, I dread and fear.

The truth is that most of the things we dread never happen. As Mark Twain quipped, ‘I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life, most of which never happened’.

We need to learn to live in day-tight compartments. That’s what Jesus was saying in the Sermon on the Mount; ‘Do not worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ (Matt 6; 34).

Just deal with today.

That’s the methodology behind organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous. They do not ask ‘Stay sober for a year’. No, they counsel ‘Stay sober today...and do the same thing tomorrow and the next day and so on...one day at a time’

That great verse in the Psalms about the Word of God being ‘a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119;105) means that God gives light for the next step along the path, not for some distant point 100 yards away. The hymnwriter had the same idea;

‘Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see/ The distant scene, one step enough for me’.

That’s how to face the new year, negotiating one day at a time.