As we enter a New Year and, indeed, a new decade, I want to explain why, as a Christian, I’m an optimist rather than a pessimist about what the future will bring. This optimism contradicts what many social scientists, financial experts and politicians would have us believe.

I have three reasons why we can be optimistic for 2020 onwards taken from Ephesians 5:15-17 (Living Bible).

We Live Carefully
“So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise” (5:15).

To ‘be careful’ means to walk accurately or precisely. The King James Version uses the old word ‘circumspectly.’ Sometimes we are guilty of living too fast. We make too many snap judgments, too many hasty decisions. We speak too fast, move too fast, react too fast. We answer before we hear the question and because we speak too quickly, our words are hasty and ill-timed. We go before we’re ready, speak before we have anything to say and teach before we’re taught.

And what happens when you hurry? You don’t watch where you’re going, and you trip and fall. The answer lies not in buying a planner or getting organized, but in those ancient words of the Psalmist. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). When we slow down enough to get God involved, we discover that he can do more through us than we can ever accomplish on our own.

We Make The Most Of Every Opportunity
“Make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good” (5:16).

The King James Version uses the word ‘redeem.’ This word originally comes from the marketplace and means to ‘buy back’ or to ‘purchase’ something. You ‘redeem’ something when you buy it for your own use. But, in order to redeem something, a price must be paid.

There’s a story of two close friends who grew up together, went through school together and attended the same university. However, as sometimes happens, they went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one went down and down and ended up a criminal.

One day the criminal appeared before the judge to await sentencing having pleaded guilty to the charge. The judge recognised his old friend and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t just let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So, he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offence. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and he wrote a cheque for the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

In the same way, God has done for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. He redeemed us. He paid the price for our sins though Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We Act Thoughtfully
“Don’t act thoughtlessly but try to find out whatever the Lord wants you to do” (5:17).

How do we know God’s will you might ask? Through prayer and through His word (the Bible). God longs for us to talk to him. Not just to bring our needs and requests to him, important as this is, but to spend time with him and listening to him. We often wish God would speak to us and we say we never hear his voice, but could it be that he is speaking to us all the time – we just aren’t tuning in.

The Bible, especially the New Testaments, tells us of Jesus’ time on earth; His teaching, His love, His character and personality and the example He provides. His amazing sacrifice and what it means for us and how we should live.

And Finally … 
Christians are both pessimists and optimists. But we are much more optimistic because we know that God has a plan for our lives which goes far beyond anything we could imagine and far beyond what is happening in the world around us.

May each one of us be optimistic in 2020 too – not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of those around us in our community too, as we: live carefully, make the most of every opportunity and act thoughtfully.

May God’s richest blessing be upon you and your family for all that this New Year will bring your way.

A Prayer at the End and Beginning of a Year

Lord, give me I pray:
A remembering heart for the things that have happened.
An attentive heart to what I have learned.
A forgiving heart for what has hurt.
A grateful heart for what has blessed.
A brave heart for what may be required.
An open heart to all that may come.
A trusting heart to go forth with You.
A loving heart for You and all your creation.
A longing heart for the reconciliation of all things.
A willing heart to say “Yes” to what You will.

Leighton Ford.

This is a copy of my article for the January 2020 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

Unfortunately due to increasing costs the January 2020 edition of the ATM was the last one! This is a real shame as my articles seemed to be read, and commented on, by many people who are not church attendees. It’s also been an interesting challenge to write a fresh ‘View From The Church’ each month without repeating something I’ve said before (OCC aside). My January article was number 86 and I’ve been the only person who has contributed since the first edition was produced in December 2012. I’ll still try and write a monthly article for my website (I do get a lot of hits) so watch this space.