New Year. New You.

New Year. New You.

Lamentations 3:22-24
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.””

How many of you are excited to be in the New Year? I know I am. I’m not even as excited to be in the New Year, as I am to be out of 2020. Anybody else feel that way? I am so happy 2020 is over with, it had its ups and its downs just like every year, but it certainly felt like there were more downs than ups. So am excited for a fresh start. I’ve been working out more consistently, praying more, trying to make 2021 more productive. Much like every other year we on January 1st, we make our New Years resolutions. Each year we see people say things like, this year I’m going to save more money, this year I’m going to spend more time with my family, this year I’m going to learn a new language, I’m going to eat healthier, and I bet everyone can guess the most popular one? Yes you got it, the most popular New Year Resolution is to workout or lose weight. 

So guess who absolutely loves January? Gyms. Gyms love and live for the promising month of January. And as someone who does enjoy going to the gym, I hate the month of January because you see 100’s of new people in the gym and it’s incredibly packed.

I looked up facts about Gyms in the month of January and here is what I found:

⁃ 56% of current members of the gym don’t like the new people that join
⁃ 12% of the entire year’s signups happen in the month of January 
⁃ And it is a factual statistic that 80% of new members will quit within 5 months of signing up.

I thought those stats were pretty crazy, but far from shocking. I mean come on, 80%?!
80% of people give up and fall of the wagon. Those numbers made me think of church. How many people, especially church goers, make New Year Resolutions to go to church more, or to read their Bible more, or to pray more, probably a lot right? Now how many of them actually stick to it? Do you think that same 80% are giving up on strengthening themselves spiritually? More than likely I would have to say yes. 
It will always be tempting to retreat back to our comfort zones. 

I believe God admires new beginnings. How many people do you think come to church but are scared away by the current church members? How many people take the time and courage to come and visit a church for the first time and don’t even get a single “Hello” from anyone when they’re there. We have to do better guys. 

Just like the year 2020, we see in the Bible that Naomi had some terrible years. Naomi was happily married and had two sons. They owned land and were working on surviving through a famine that was taking place in the land. Suddenly one day, Naomi’s husband died. Her sons get married to Orpah and Ruth, and then ten years later both of her sons died. So all Naomi was left with was Orpah and Ruth – her daughters in law. Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth, decided to return back to Bethlehem because they heard food was being provided for people. 

So far in this story, we see Naomi and how horrible her life had become. She is living through a famine, her husband died, AND she loses both of her sons. Needles to say, Naomi is not having a good time in this season of her life. But things are about to change when Naomi and Ruth go to Bethlehem. The Bible lets us know that Naomi arrived bitter.

Ruth 1:19-21 says this:

“So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi, ” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.””

And the Hebrew meaning of the name Mara is literally “Bitter”

Naomi was bitter. She was hurt. She was tired. She felt abandoned by God, she felt invisible to God. You might even say she felt as if God was working against her. But, if you continue to read in the book of Ruth, you will see that Naomi ends up getting remarried to a man named Boaz. Boaz provided food for Naomi and Ruth in their time of famine and despair. Not only was she remarried to an amazing man, she was also blessed with another child, despite being old.  This goes to show you can be bitter about 2020, but why be bitter when you can be blessed? The blessing is coming, do you still believe God can do it? I challenge you today to examine your heart.  If you find an ounce of bitterness, ask God to remove it. Don’t bring bitter into the New Year, leave it behind and believe God for a blessing instead.

-Maddox Johnson