Happy new year” from the Beacon Lights staff to our readers in Christ. We do not merely wish and desire your happiness, but on the basis of God’s covenant faithfulness we are assured that you will have a happy new year. Though jobs be taken away, fields be barren, health wither, money dwindle, or friends depart we hesitate not to say with confidence “happy new year.” In fact, we know that God will bring to you the happiness of which we speak in and through any afflictions and loss you experience.
The happiness of the child of God comes from the new heart which is planted within him and bound to Christ by faith. His happiness is a spiritual happiness of peace and hope for salvation. Apart from Christ man faces death and eternal damnation. There can be no real happiness in this life when it is clear to everyone that this life will end. Every philosophy, religion, and lifestyle that is not rooted in the revelation of God in Christ is an attempt to hide from death and find a temporary happiness for this life. It is a deceptive happiness that arises from a heart dead in sin.
Our happiness is rooted in God’s gracious gift of faith. The faith which God gives to his people in Christ brings them into fellowship with God and His word of comfort and hope in the Bible. Death is no longer the end. Christ has conquered death, washed away sin, and earned the new life which God gives to his people now in principle, but fulfilled in heaven. The believer, therefore, rejoices in Jehovah and finds joy and happiness in the God of his salvation. Our life in Christ also sanctifies the laughter and fun which we have with one another.
While we remain on this earth and the old man of sin clings to us, our happiness does not always well up within us to form a smile on our face. There may be periods of great anxiety or deep depression that all but squeeze every drop of happiness from us. But the faith which God gives and never takes away is the source of happiness, and our happiness can always be renewed. God uses the church with its members, elders, and deacons to bring God’s word of comfort and demonstrate Christian love which restores the happiness of the child of God.
Sin is always at the heart of unhappiness. We are born in sin and never cease to fight against our sinful nature. Sin can turn laughter and fun into something which is not true happiness. Sin can take joy from our life. Our “happy new year,” therefore, is also an admonition to walk in the fear of the Lord and seek forgiveness of sin in Christ. Only in a godly walk can we find happiness ( Psalm 1 ).
God maintains the happiness of the believer chiefly by the pure preaching of the Word. We have noted also that every believer in the church must work to bring true happiness to his brother or sister in the Lord. I would like to explore in this editorial the way in which God has so created the year that it too declares the gospel of salvation to the believer and thereby lifts him up in joy and praise.
Seed time in Scripture is often used as a picture of the preaching of the gospel ( Isa. 55:10-11 ). The child of God who has the new heart of regeneration receives the word and it grows into a fruitful life of sanctification. As in the spring time God sends the rain and sunshine to provide for the sprouting seeds and budding trees, so God provides for His people as they grow in faith. The joy which this work of God brings to God’s people is expressed in verse 12 of Isaiah 55 where we read “ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.”
Summer is a picture of our life on this earth. In this life we have only a beginning of our happiness in Christ. We must live for a time among the wicked with all its trials and tribulations as Jesus instructed in the parable of the wheat and the tares. Summer is the time when the people of God gather wisdom and the knowledge of God in Christ as the ant gathers diligently the food which it needs ( Prov. 6:6-8 ; 30:25; 10: 5 Jer. 8:20 ). Let us be reminded of our work when the hot sun of summer shines and we see the busy ants. When we diligently seek and grow in our knowledge of God in the preaching, reading, and through all of our experiences in life, we find peace and happiness.
Fall is the time of harvest and a picture of the day of judgment when the believers will be declared righteous in Christ and gathered into glory ( Matt. 13:24ff .). When you see the signs of fall, rake the leaves from your yard, gather in the fruits of your garden, or combine fields of grain, be reminded of the day when the fruit of Christ will be harvested. Then those who are righteous in Him will be separated from the chaff and gathered into everlasting glory.
Though Scripture does not directly use winter as a picture of death, winter is a time in colder climates when the trees appear to be dead. Winter can be a rather gloomy time. Yet in winter we see the glory of God in the sparkling snow and in the beautiful fall colors of the leaves before they wither and fall to the ground leaving the trees looking lifeless. We know that death has been defeated in Christ, and we know that winter is followed by spring. Then the warm breezes of spring awaken the earth and trees and they send forth new living leaves reminding us of the resurrection from the dead.
The changing seasons also govern the life of the creatures on earth. Each spring the birds which have migrated from the cold come back to build their nests and raise young. Some regions of the earth have annual rainy seasons which enliven the dry, parched earth. The animals then engage in their work of raising young, revealing the wisdom of God who governs all life on the earth with the repeating cycle of the year.
God created the year on the fourth day of creation when He created the sun, moon, and stars. God created the year to govern life on the earth, and also to reveal His glory. The word for “year” in Genesis 1:15 has as its root meaning “to repeat.” Our minds are such that repetition strengthens our memory. Repetition is a basic learning strategy, and God uses this learning strategy in the year to teach us the truth of our salvation and joy in that salvation. Each year God’s wisdom and sovereign power is manifest in the care and maintenance of life on the earth. Once each year, on New Year’s Day, we pause to think upon the year as a whole and consider the handiwork of God. It is a time to recall the lesson of salvation taught by the seasons and heard by the preaching of the Word from the pulpits. This is also a time when we remember God’s promise to preserve the earth year by year, through each cycle of seasons, until Christ comes on the last day ( Gen. 8:21, 22 ).
May this year be a year of spiritual growth for you. When an old tree is cut down and the cross section of the trunk is examined we find rings that reflect the growth of the tree each year. A thin ring indicates a year of poor growing conditions, and a thick ring indicates a year of good growing conditions. A happy year for the child of God is a year of much spiritual growth. May your spiritual growth ring for this year be thick and strong.