International (MNN) — Hopes for a peaceful 2017 were marred in the first few hours of the New Year when a terror attack was carried out in Istanbul, killing 39 people. Even before the attack, the scars of a difficult year now behind us promised to be felt for a long time.
So the question is, when we’re facing the reality of terrorism, devastating natural disasters, and difficult politics all around the world, how can a Christian step confidently into the New Year? We spoke with Carl Moeller of Biblica for some wisdom.
“At this time of year, there’s always a sort of look-back from the year that’s gone ahead. And 2016, I think, has been a very interesting year, and in some ways, I think some of our reflections on it are conditioned by where we were impacted by some of the big events that took place this year.”
He continues, “If we do that, and I think we’re all inclined to do that and look back through that lens, we may find ourselves feeling a bit unsettled — tossed, turned.”
The Good Shepherd
So, what can we do to fight that fear?
Moeller says the answer lies in time spent with the Good Shepherd. Without God’s Word, believers will get caught up in the distractions of our age and forget His promises. Moeller says after that, we succumb to fear and worry pretty quickly — a preoccupation that Jesus assured us would not add a single hour to our lives (Matthew 6:27). Gaining perspective and fighting fear is just one more reason daily Bible study is so important.
“When God’s Word is the grid through which we view all these circumstances, a remarkable thing happens. One very important element is we’re returning to the One who holds all of history in His hands,” Moeller says.
He reminds us of Christ’s illustration of the sheep and shepherd. When sheep are without a shepherd, one single predator will scatter them, and make them easy targets.
“When the shepherd is present, and for us, the Good Shepherd is always present, but when we actually listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd through reading His Word, it does a remarkable thing — it holds the flock together. And when the flock is together, the enemy cannot destroy and kill the sheep.”
We mustn’t underestimate the power of God’s Word. Moeller says when we are fully tuned into God’s message to us, the enemy’s message and lies are muted. We need not fear even death. This enables believers to live a radically different life — even amid the greatest threats humanity faces.
“I think of our brothers and sisters in places like Syria and the Middle East where the Christian community has been deeply, deeply persecuted over the past several years and the entire hopelessness of that situation has been so impressed upon any of us who’ve paid attention to it around the world.
“And yet, this past Christmas, I saw Christmas being celebrated in a bombed out church in Syria because Christians were given the opportunity to remember the birth of Jesus Christ over Christmas, they did so despite the trauma and the pain around them. That faith is found in the pages of Scripture.”
Even for those who may not face persecution, there are troubling events and circumstances all the time. Moeller says the only place we can find strength to face these is in God’s promises. The Bible is evidence enough that God is working, and His plan is greater than our minute experiences.
For 207 years, Biblica has been working to equip believers all around the world with God’s Word. This way, believers can continue to recite God’s promises as they read. They gain a peace beyond their circumstances and see God’s light shine.
Practical ways to cultivate courage
Maybe you struggle to dig deep into God’s Word on a regular basis. Moeller has a few starter tips to help you out:
1. Set aside time in the morning — you may have heard this over and over, but it’s true that you need to make time for the Word.
2. Find a Bible version you can easily comprehend.
3. Recall throughout the day what you’ve read so you can apply it, grow, and learn. Just recalling it once or twice throughout the day will help it stick.
For more resources from Biblica, feel free to visit their website here.
A prayer from Carl Moeller
“Our Heavenly Father, we come to you today at the close of 2016. And Lord we ask that you would calm our hearts — speak peace to our hearts as we look ahead to year of 2017 — a new year, a fresh year. A year in which, Lord, many voices will claim attention in our lives. But, Lord, we want to attune our ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd through your Word. We want to listen to you.
“More than anything else, Lord, we desire to be people of faith who stand boldly against the schemes of the enemy, both in our personal lives and in our communities and in our world. Lord, we want to be people of action. We want to be action people who are inspired by your Word and by the guidance we find there.
“Lord, give us the wisdom to not turn to the world and its knowledge of things but to turn to your Word and your knowledge of things. Lord, when we recognize this past year has, for many people, been a year of turmoil and unsettledness, we, Lord, look to you and know in your great plan, your sovereignty and your desire for all people, we know you desire for us to come to a saving knowledge of you and a transforming knowledge of the work you’ve called us to do in this world.
“Lord, give us the grace to apply your Word to our lives, to the lives of the world we work in and live in and the people we love. May we be guiding lights, through your Word, to those whose paths are marred by pain and suffering and difficulty. May the pain and suffering and difficulties we face be healed and be given new meaning through your Word so we may be agents of love and grace in the world you’ve placed us in.
“For this New Year, Lord, we give it to you. We thank you, and we ask that you would bless everyone who reads your Word with the power to meet you in those pages and to be transformed so they might join your mission for the world and your work in the lives that we live. In Jesus name we pray, Amen. “