New Beginnings (Isa. 43:16-21)

By Pr Ay Nee Ng

We start this new season with our theme “Build to Last” and with a New Year message on “New Beginnings”. Let the old pass away, and behold all things are made new. You are to see yourself as a new creation in Christ Jesus!

Isaiah 43:19 (NIV) says: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

What is this new thing that God is doing? Does it involve the 86,400 seconds we have each day of our lives?

The Magic Bank Account
Found in the billfold of Coach Paul Bear Bryant in Alabama after he passed away in 1982; author unknown.

Imagine that you won the following prize in a contest. Each morning your bank will deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use. However, this prize has rules.
1. Everything that you didn’t spend during each day will be taken away from you.
2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account; you may only spend it.
3. Each morning the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.
4. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say, “Game Over!” and close your account. You will not receive a new one.

What would you do? You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you love and care for, and even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right? You would probably try to spend every penny because you would know that it would be replenished in the morning.

Actually, this game is real. Shocked? Each of us is already a winner of this “prize”. We just can’t seem to see it, but PRIZE = TIME.
1. Each morning we receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life.
2. When we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is not credited to us.
3. What we haven’t used up that day is forever lost.
4. Yesterday is forever gone.
5. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve it at any time without warning.

What will you do with your 86,400 seconds? Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars. Think about it and remember to enjoy every second of your life because time races by so much quicker than you think. Thus, we must take care of ourselves, be happy, love deeply, and enjoy life.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23; ESV).

So what are we waiting for? Start spending. But don’t complain about growing old because some people don’t get that privilege. This year we all can have a new beginning; it is up to each of us to start afresh. Start afresh with God!

Isaiah 43:16-21 (NLT) says:

I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator and King I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and they will someday honor me before the whole world.

This new thing that Isaiah mentions is something fresh that hasn’t happened but that will happen. God is already working on it; it has already begun.

When there is something fresh happening, the old somehow tends to fade away. Yet, do pain and emotions easily fade away? Does your predicament (i.e. your unpleasant, difficult and perplexing circumstances) just fade away? As time passes—the 86,400 seconds of each day—those bad memories can fade away (if we don’t hang on to them), and things we once treasured may not hold the same value as they once did.

The New Thing
A. Brings changes (v. 18)
B. Brings direction (v. 43:19)
C. Brings glory and honor to our Lord (vv. 20-21)

In Isaiah 43:16-21, Judah is called to forget, to let go, and to not dwell on the past anymore (Isa. 43:18) when Judah struggled to be a nation among nations (1 Sam. 8:5, 20). How many of us struggle in life to survive, to get a position, to gain recognition, to pass exams, to fit in to society, to be understood, to find love, to raise your family, or to meet expenses? Rest assured that God has something new. We are no different from the time of Judah, struggling to rebuild their lives.

Judah was being built through the historical processes of captivity and return where the people of Judah experienced pain, anger, hatred, agony, and the bitterness of loss. We may also be in a state of captivity in our mind, our body, or our emotions. Yet, God wants us to be free from that slave mentality and become more than conquerors.

The people of Judah had received the prophecy that they were going to be a nation among nations and that a seed was going to come forth from their tribe. Yet, they couldn’t see it at the beginning. They were struggling with life, but they had to go back to the basics and know who God is once again. Then, they could return from captivity, rebuild their lives, and learn to let go of their past as horrible as it seemed to move from a slavery into victory.

A. The New Thing Brings Changes.
We need to learn to not remember the old things and to let go of the past. “Do not dwell on it.” If not, when the new thing that God is preparing springs up, we won’t be able to perceive it. If a memory is huring us, we need to let go of that past and to dwell in good thoughts. Philippians 4:8-9 says: “Meditate on these things—everything that is of sound report, good and noble and praise worthy, think of these things and do this and the God of peace will be upon you.”

From Our Daily Bread’s Too Late to Change by David C. McCasland on 10 January, 2015.

There are sayings in many languages about the difficulty of changing long-established habits. In English, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In French, “Ce n’est pas à un vieux singe qu’on apprend à faire la grimace” (You can’t teach an old monkey how to pull a funny face). In Spanish, “El loro viejo no aprende a hablar” (An old parrot can’t learn to speak).

When Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the kingdom of God, he replied, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:3-4). Professor and author Merrill Tenney suggests that Nicodemus was saying, in effect: “I acknowledge that a new birth is necessary, but I am too old to change. My pattern of life is set. Physical birth is out of the question and psychological rebirth seems even less probable. Is not my case hopeless?”

Jesus’ reply included these words: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In Him, there is a new life and a new beginning for anyone, young and old. Whatever our age or situation in life, with God’s power, it’s never too late to change.

Take this time to ask Jesus for His help to change by praying something like this: “Dear Heavenly Father, we need you. Lord, old habits are hard to break and new ones are harder to learn. Sometimes we don’t want to do either. Thank You for Your faithfulness to continue teaching us new ways, Your ways, that we may have new beginnings. In Jesus name. Amen!”

Because God is powerful, change is possible!

B. This new thing brings direction.
Isaiah 43:19 says: “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”. If you think you have waited a long time for your dream to materialize, now is the time to expect it. God will spring forth life in the wilderness; He will make us streams of water in the desert, and we will never run dry.

At this moment, ask yourself: “What do I hunger and thirst for?” He can satisfy! God will bring forth life because He is the source of life. Can you see HOPE in the making NOW? Dead dreams and visions come alive in God! You may be in a desert place now, but a pathway will spring up! Hang on to faith for Hope will not disappoint you. Let us ask of the Lord, and He will grant us the desires of our heart.

C. This new thing brings honor and glory to our Lord.
We are to bring honor and glory to Him in all that we do (Isa. 43:20-21). My desire is to honor Him. What is yours right now? We can have a new beginning this year with our Lord Jesus Christ at the helm, making the 86,400 seconds of each day to count and impacting someone else’s life.

What do we want in this new beginning? To improve ourselves and our quality of life? To honor our Lord? We set out on making resolutions. Resolutions are made to change things in our life and to have a new start in the new year. We want to improve ourselves and our quality of life. The top resolutions, for most people, tend to revolve around the same three points: money, health and family. SGC, as a church who wants to live a life of strategic investment in God’s kingdom, what would a set of New Year’s resolutions look like to you?

I took fifteen resolutions by James Emery White to be our church resolutions for 2015.

1. Pray more.
“So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord… “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,”’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6; NIV). Our prayer life is of utmost importance as we prepare for the year ahead and for any contingencies that may arise. We must go to God in prayer for the solution.

2. Invest in your spiritual gift(s).
“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Tim. 4:14-15; NIV).

3. Get more intentional about evangelism as we grow our compassion for the lost, the poor, the sick, and the needy.
“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22; NIV).

4. Care for yourself spiritually.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12; NIV).

5. Make the tough decisions you know are best.
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:22-24; NIV).

6. Confront debilitating patterns of sin and annihilate habitual sins.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1; NIV). We need to do so if we want to bring praises and honor to God.

7. Put our hands to the plough and do the hard work needed to build the community.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and show their fault, just between the two of you. If they listens to you, you have won them over” (Matt. 18:15; NIV).

8. Keep in touch with the contemporary culture.
“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders…. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (1 Chron. 12:32; NLT).

9. Quit comparing yourself to other Christians, other leaders, and other churches.
“Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, ‘Master, what’s going to happen to him?’ Jesus said, ‘If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.’ That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, ‘If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?’” John 21:20-23 (MSG).

10. Read more.
“Timothy, please come as soon as you can…. When you come, be sure to… bring my books” (2 Tim. 4:9, 13; NLT).

11. Prioritize your family.
“A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife… attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:2-5; MSG).

12. Refuse to use ministry to satisfy your personal ambition.
“Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not” (Jer. 45:5; NIV).

13. Love people, not just crowds.
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” (1 Cor. 13:1-3; MSG).

14. Be more open to change.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isa. 43:19; NIV).

15. Stay focused on the vision.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47; NIV)