Here we are: the last night of the year. I just thought I would leave you with some parting words. About fifteen hours from now, we’ll all be gone from here, and in about 27 hours from now, we flip the switch into 2017. We all flip that switch; there is no way out, unless you travel west to a different time zone, then you would get to live in 2016 for an extra hour or two, but even so, 2017 is going to get here for all of us. It’s almost here. So the question is: what are you going to do about it? 2016 will be completely behind you, never to return again. 2017 is a new start for everyone, and we all get it. But a new year doesn’t bring change by itself; it’s you who has to make a difference. Tomorrow we go back to normal.
The Lord has been in this place; his eyes run to and fro throughout the earth (2 Chronicles 16:9). We have been with the Lord and his people this week; don’t leave here the same as you were before coming here. Don’t be like the person who sees himself in a mirror and walks away and immediately forgets who he is (James 1:24) as you leave tomorrow. It’s very easy to do that, isn’t it, to just go back to normal.
I have a few suggestions and challenges for all of us for this coming year; it’s never been a better time to start, although these are timeless and always relevant. This is for all of us, not from me to you, but from me to you and me.
Listen to what God has to say; open your Bible every day. Be like the people in Berea, who searched the scriptures daily (Acts 17:10-11). The God of the universe has left this on record for us. Have any of you ever written a letter, where you had to actually sit down and write it, then put it in an envelope, and bring it to a mailbox or a post office? If you have a friend here who plans to write you a letter after the Conference is over, chances are, you won’t just get the letter and put it aside for a while; you would want to read it right away. Read God’s letter every day, even if it’s just a chapter; there’s always something to get out of even a short reading.
Ask God for help; he is a very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Cast your cares on him, for he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Delight in him and he will give you the desires of your heart; commit your way to him, trust in him, and he will make it happen (Psalm 37:4-5). Let him work with you. He’s willing to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
Learn from the past and do better than last year; press toward the mark, and don’t look back (Philippians 3:14). Don’t let what may have happened this year, good or bad, prevent you from good this year.
Tell people at work or school where you have been and what you have done. If you believe that you have been with the Lord and his people, how could you not want to share that?
Set a few goals for yourself; good goals, worthwhile goals. They’re different for all of us. If you have a blank page in the back of your Bible, that may be a good place to write them. But make sure they’re spiritual goals, and the right goals; three years ago on this day, I sat on the sofa out in the lobby and set a goal for the coming year. One year later, I revisited that same place and knew I hadn’t accomplished it, but also knew that the goal I set was not very realistic, although it was not a “bad” goal, in fact, it was a very good goal, but I just did not take into account the journey. So make sure your goals are right. And don’t only set them, set out to do them. For example, if you’re not baptized yet, that’s a good goal to set. Work hard at making something happen. Ask God to help you with it. From the day you decide to seek after the Lord and to do what is right, your prayers are heard (Daniel 10:12).
Get out of your comfort zone. Back in 2008, I was here at the Conference, and they did something where all the young people had to go and meet someone who was much older than them. I met Bruce and Joanie Parker, and I thank the Lord that I did; they’re wonderful people and have had a great influence on me. Find people who you may not normally associate with, and get to know them. Let no one despise your youth (1 Timothy 4:12), but respect your elders (1 Peter 5:5).
Keep your eyes on the Kingdom; it’s almost here, and it will be a time worth living for. There are so many verses about what that great time on earth will be like: let’s turn to a few of them (Psalm 72:1-17, Micah 4:1-4). Remember what God is offering you; this is an opportunity to live and reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4), and to be immortal even after that. Eye has not seen not ear heard what God has in store for them that wait for him (Isaiah 64:4). Don’t give up; salvation is nearer today than it has ever been (Romans 13:11). Peter once asked Jesus where they would turn if they left him (John 6:68). When you go back to your normal lives, what is better out there? Someone told me at a Bible school a couple years ago that everything that the world has to offer can be done in a few minutes. If someone came here and showed us beyond any doubt that what we believe in isn’t true, what would we all do? Would we still see each other? When we leave here tomorrow, would we shake hands, hug goodbye, maybe keep in touch? Maybe. But life would get to you and maybe you would realize that you don’t have time for what you know to be nothing. Certainly you would keep a few of your friends from here, but there would be no Conference here in Williamsburg or Bible school during the summer or anything like that.
God tells us what he asks of us: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). He also says that if his people will humble themselves, and pray, and seek his face, and turn from their ways, then he will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). There is a direct correlation between the way we act, and whether God is for us or against us. God promises that the righteous will be rewarded (Proverbs 13:21).
In this coming year, also ask yourself what is holding you back, from doing something good, or making something good happen? The Conference this year has been centered around the question of “What are you waiting for?” Keep that in mind as you leave here tomorrow and begin a new year tomorrow night.
Let’s read Romans 8:31-“What shall we say then? If God be for us, who can be against us?” I want God to be for you; for us. I want us all to be in his Kingdom. It’s almost here, and it will be worth living for.
Thousands of years ago, Joshua told God’s people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you (Joshua 3:5).” It’s certainly no different with us, who are also God’s people. So let me be the first to say, “Happy New Year;” may the Lord be with you all til we meet again!