- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2005

The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by Pastor Ron Lithgow at Arlington Community Church:

The great preacher of the 19th century Henry Ward Beecher said: “We have passed through one more year. One more long stage in the journey of life, with its ascents and descents and dust and mud and rocks and thorns and burdens that wear the shoulders, is done. The old year is dead. Roll it away. Let it go.

“God, in His providence, has brought us out of it. It is gone; or rather its evil is gone; its good remains. The evil has perished, and the good survives. And now we stand on the beginning of the next, the new. By [God’s] grace, we have been what we have been; and by His grace we shall have our experience in days to come.”

It is profitable for a Christian to look over the past blessings of God to his soul, in order to awaken gratitude in the heart, and to think of his shortcomings and errors, to produce penitence and humility. But none of these past things should be allowed for one moment to divert the mind from the purpose of winning the prize, which God has provided for us.

Let us look forward. Let us not spend our time either in pondering the gloomy past, but let us keep the eye steadily on the prize and run the race as though we had just begun it.

New confidence for the new year comes through several steps.

You should forget the past by learning to identify past problems so you can develop a plan to deal with them.

You must uproot false beliefs. Inaccurate perceptions planted years ago by others may have led you to believe lies about yourself. These in turn may have resulted in self-limiting decisions that still affect you. Examine the fruit of these decisions, and name the fears about other people or situations that stem from them.

You should release your past. Refuse to empower your past or the people who have hurt you. Ask Christ to take charge of your life and strengthen you.

You must deal with mistakes. Don’t blame yourself for things beyond your control, but list things for which you do need forgiveness, and accept God’s pardon.

We must get on with life. Many of us are wrongly controlled by where we’ve been. Both Peter and [King] David understood that failure doesn’t come in the falling. It comes in not getting back up.

New confidence for the New Year comes from properly forgetting the past, and looking forward to what lies ahead.

Keep your eyes on the end of the race. Focusing on the goal makes today’s sacrifices more bearable (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Expect God to be faithful. He is able and willing to help (1 Corinthians 1:7-9).

Determine in advance that you will not give in to despair (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Choose to praise God even when you don’t feel like it (Psalm 34:1).

Continue to obey God (Psalm 25:8-10).

You can depend on God to provide everything you need as you obey. Make it a decision that is not subject to review (Psalm 119:112).

As believers in Christ, we should resolve to keep making spiritual strides forward in specific areas of our lives. Don’t leave it to chance. Deal properly with your past. Face the future with a new confidence in Christ for every minute of your New Year.

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