These words are bandied about with some regularity during this time of year. However, when we wish someone a “happy” new year, what do we really mean?
“Blessed” New Year
The very first sermon I ever preached at Bethesda was on Psalm 1.
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.”
As I was preparing to preach on this passage, I was struck by the significance of that very first word. The Hebrew word translated “blessed” in our English Bibles is the word “אַשְׁרֵי“ʾ(ǎš·rê) meaning “happy”. This Psalm is teaching us how to be happy.
Do not listen to the World
The world is neither short of opinions on how to find happiness, nor timid in its expression of them. The vast majority of what we hear through media, conversations in the local pub, and sadly even some pulpits, is a mass of screaming lies. This new year we need to hear God’s warning that these things will destroy our happiness. They will not make us happy because, although they may bring momentary feelings of exhilaration, they ultimately lead to destruction.
Listen to God
Happiness comes through joyful meditation on the Bible’s instruction. God is the one who made us and therefore knows what is best for us. He knows what will make us happy and he desires our happiness. Therefore the key to a happy and blessed new year is listening to God’s instruction for our lives rather than the world’s instruction. Notice that it is not simply reading the Bible that is the key to happiness. Truly listening to God is constituted by two things: delightful and regular meditation on the Bible. This means that we need to give the Bible enough airtime in our lives to thrill our hearts and to sink in deeply enough to affect our thinking.
Word or world…some suggestions for application
- Be careful what you expose yourself to through media, particularly TV and internet.
- Ask God to help you discern worldly influences on your thinking. What lies have you been believing?
- Make Bible-saturation a priority. Schedule in time for frequent Bible exposure.
- Work hard to make sure you are not simply reading the Bible but enjoying it, and reflecting deeply on it. Here are a few tips on how to do this:
- Less is more. Sometimes we move from one passage to another too quickly and don’t give it the time it needs to sink in. Why not use your sermon notes as daily devotions rather than another devotional or set of Bible reading notes.
- Pray through every passage you read. Ask yourself, what should I pray for myself and others in response to this passage.
- Look for the Messiah. Ask yourself how the passage (genuinely) points to Jesus’ person and work. Nothing will thrill your heart as much as a fresh glimpse of Him in your devotions.