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Man proposes, God disposes

December 30, 2012

Message for the new yearNew Year

“To man belong the plans of the heart,

    but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.

 All a man’s ways seem innocent to him,

    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

 Commit to the Lord whatever you do,

    and your plans will succeed.”(1-3)

Proverbs 16:1-9

We are at the end of 2012. Another year of our lives has gone by. In a day, we’ll begin a new year, 2013. We don’t know what this new year will bring. Nor do we know what tomorrow will bring. In fact, I do not even know what will happen in an hour.

Today, I would like to preach on the new year that is to come, since 2012 has almost entirely passed. I chose to have today’s preaching text correspond with the new year.

Man proposes and God disposes. This is a very old and oft repeated saying. But do we really know what it means? Probably so, but do we truly believe in this Biblical saying or is it something that we merely utter with our lips?

I recently read a quote from a preacher who said: “People who worry excessively clearly show they trust themselves, and not God, to solve their problems.” So how do we feel about this new year which is about to start? Are we going to worry? Or will we leave all things in the hands of God this year? To leave the future in God’s hands means that we will not worry. We will deal with each other every day and complete tasks accordingly. Let’s take care of the work that we have to do daily and we will plan our work each week, but let’s will not worry about how the year will go.

When we see children sleeping, sometimes we are amazed how peacefully they do it. Usually, we send them to bed on at a healthy time, because we want them to sleep well throughout the night. They sleep soundly and wake up full of energy and, usually, happy.

I always wondered: what prevents me from sleeping like a baby all night? Sometimes I toss and turn in bed, unable to sleep. Is it because of our thoughts or tension or from stress that we suffer? And the answer is simple. If we cannot sleep well because of tension or stress, it is because we are worried. Worry is an action that seeks to address future situations. They still have not happened and we don’t know how things will develop. Worrying is nothing more or less than fear. A terrifying fear, that makes us tense, that prevents us from sleeping, that prevents us from concentrating on our work, that keeps us from enjoying life, that weakens us, so that we age in an accelerated and unnatural way and, ultimately, that makes us sick.

Put simply, worry is fear. It is anxiety about the future, fear of what is to come, fear of failure, fear of what might happen, fear of losing something or fear of not getting what we want. It is fear of failure.

Pharmaceutical companies earn billions of dollars producing medicines and pills to handle stress and calm the nerves. They don’t make these billions because they are the inventors of a cure; they win because there is a demand from millions of people seeking something to help them sleep, to master the nerves, to combat stress and to allow them to “rest better.” They want help so that they do not wake up at night or turn in bed, thinking about the things that frighten us, that stress us, that disturb us or that paralyze us and, instead, be free to work on the things that every new day requires of us.

You may agree that worry is simply fear and that fear is causing all of our hardships and our diseases. But it does more than just this. It also draws the new paths down which we will move during the year as well. Because fear, as the Bible says, attracts, “creates” and builds all the possibilities for what we’ve been fearing and believing fearfully to be realized in our lives. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

When you believe in God and that God can answer prayers, you are having faith in him. However, when you don’t believe in God and are placing your faith in your own fears, mental imagery, imagination and negative views, you will attract these things. Your words, spoken loudly or softly in conversation, what you write in letters, emails or chats, all of these are a statement of your faith. And, as the Word of God says, you’ll reap what has been planted by your faith. God Word’s tells us that we can have what we believe, but we can also have what we fear.

There are many “people of faith” or “believers”. There are people who ‘believe’ that they have faith. But believing that you have faith in God is not the same as truly believing in God. There are many people that have attended church for years. There are even people who have had the opportunity of an explicit, clear and public testimony of their faith in God. There are people who are blessed with fidelity to God; every Sunday they are able to attend church. There are people who can and do read the Bible daily. There are even people who have great discipline and live a life of prayer to God. But you know what? Many of these people have no faith in God. You may be amazed and want to yell at me: ‘But how is that possible pastor, with all the testimony that these people are giving with their actions!’

I tell you, no, these people do not have the required faith of which the Bible speaks, to be blessed by God in the form in which it is said, for example, in the verse quoted. A renowned German minister once said: “It matters little how we pray or how many words we use. What really matters is the faith with which we hold to God in prayer.”(Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

The opposite of fear is faith. If you live with stress, a product of fear, then you don’t have the kind of faith required to overcome the fear. However, there are many people who, after years of Christian life, have found out about God’s blessings by putting genuine faith into practice in their words, and they have developed real confidence in him. In the verse for this Sunday, we are told: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” This requires true faith. It is faith in God that builds trust. However, there are still many people who understand this, and can perhaps apply it one day, but on the second day they once again begin to have the speech of fear that begins to saturate their minds and then again their fear is stronger than their faith. At the beginning it may very well be a daily struggle between fear and faith. But if we really want to live our life that we still have to live with the blessings promised by God to His children, we must change our lives and our way of believing, speaking and even thinking.

There are many people who, perhaps unknowingly, are undisciplined with respect to their faith. And this is very important to make clear. Not only do we choose to believe in God, in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but we also want to grow, day by day, in true faith and we want to see the fruits of our faith and our relationship with God. To do this, after giving our yes to God, we should have the discipline of a devotional life. And let me give you some tips that may perhaps be the solution for many of us on our way to accepting and taking the blessings that God has in store for us.

Every day, you have to feed yourself by reading the Bible. No matter how much you read, if you read for five minutes or for half an hour, you have to nourish yourself every day by reading the Bible. For God speaks with His Holy Spirit, through it, to our own spirits. Do not approach the Bible as if it is an academic or educational book or like any other book in your library. It’s not. It is the Word of God. Read the Bible with faith and realize that God wants to speak through his Holy Spirit and fill you with a presence that you will not get from any other book.

Also, you have to pray. No matter how long, whether it’s for five minutes or for half an hour. The important thing is that you have a conversation with God every day.

And now comes the hard part. This part will you get rid of all oppression: begin to speak words of faith in your life, words of victory. Talk about the promises God has for you in your life when you are with others, even if they are not Christians. If you cannot talk with others about it, then be quiet and carry this victory within.

Write about the promises God has for your life and post it. Don’t talk, or write about failures; that will be a clear sign that you are not having the faith that allows God to bless you. And most importantly: you don’t need to show anyone but yourself that you have faith. If you don’t believe to yourself, if inside, you don’t have faith in God, and neither do you believe in the Word of God or feel your prayer in the bottom of your heart, then there will be no true faith. Failing this, no amount of religious sacrifice or duty in all your life will help you receive the blessings of God. Feel worthy of being a child of God. Don’t worry about your past sins. Ask God for forgiveness. He has already forgiven you and now He wants to bless you.

Do you want a different year and to be blessed? Place God in your heart, believe in Him with true faith, and the Lord will weigh the motives of your heart and will bless you so that your plans will succeed. Have a blessed new year! Amen.

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