This is a time when these words are especially appropriate: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33). The beginning of a new year is a reminder that there are changes in life; it reminds us particularly that a year will come, perhaps even this year which is now beginning, which will be our last in this world. Our time here will, sooner or later, come to an end. But our existence will never end; we will have a place either in heaven or in hell for ever.
The philosophy that “tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Is 56:12) is completely unworthy of anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with the teachings of Scripture. Those whose hearts are in the world may imagine their lives here stretching on indefinitely in circumstances of ever-increasing prosperity.
But that cannot be, for “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb 9:27). God has made the appointment, and no human being can avoid keeping it.
Clearly, if all is to be well with us beyond the grave, we need to enter the kingdom of God before we leave this world. It is here we must find Christ, whom the Father has set over this kingdom as the mediatorial King. The King has gone on before to prepare a place for His disciples – for those who have begun to learn the ways of His kingdom – and He will in due time bring each of them safely into that part of the kingdom which is above. Each of us has a responsibility to seek Him – earnestly. There is no time to waste. Eternity may not be far away. We have no right to assume that we will be spared for another year – no, not for one day more, or even for a moment. Never have we been so near to eternity. Those especially who are getting on in years should recognise more and more how insistent are the words of the call: “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” (Is 55:6).
But let us suppose that we may safely promise ourselves many more years of life in this world. How would we spend them? With nothing more in view than our own happiness? The truth is that in this world we cannot guarantee happiness for ourselves no matter how hard we strive for it. And to set ourselves up as the great end of our existence is to engage in the most common form of idolatry. We were created to glorify God. So we are to apply to this sin, as much as to the worship of any literal idol, the words of Paul: “Flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14). Glorifying God in this world is very closely bound up with enjoying Him in heaven for ever.
Sinners may live in the expectation that they will turn to God before it is too late. But it is a presumptuous expectation. And it is a very effective way for them to harden their hearts. It is altogether God-dishonouring for people to think of enjoying the pleasures of this world for as long as they dare, resolving only to have Christ at the very moment when they will in any case be forced to leave all that has been most precious to them. For them the blessedness of heaven is very much second-best when compared with the pleasures of time. But God will not be mocked.
It is our wisdom to receive all the testimony of God’s Word. There we find the testimony of Asaph: “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Ps 73:28). And all others who have drawn near to God have added their hearty Amen to these words. Another Psalmist testified: “I rejoice at Thy word, as one that findeth great spoil” (Ps 119:162). And this too will be the testimony of everyone who will turn in time from the vain pursuits of the world to embrace Christ as the Saviour appointed by God.
Those who, in the light of God’s Word, see over the horizon of time – and look into eternity – have endless blessedness to look forward to. These years of trouble and sorrow in this world will soon be over. At death they will enter into the everlasting joy of the Lord.
But how absolutely necessary that, as the turn of another year reminds us of the passing of time, we would make our calling and election sure. How absolutely necessary too that, if we have reason to fear that we are still in our sins, we would seek the Lord earnestly while He is to be found – that is, now, without delay. Let us remember the Saviour’s words and the example which He set us: “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). How unspeakably long is the unending night of eternity! Then it will be too late for any sinner to seek salvation. How awful never to have anything to look forward to except the blackness of darkness for ever!