It has been a tough year. We have suffered through sickness, the loss of family and friends, and witnessed a great exodus from the church of those who either walked away and have no intention of returning or are still afraid to gather in large numbers. Add to those already toxic witches’ brew the ongoing attack of Covid in its mutated stages and it is easy to see why so many are not sorry to witness the departure of 2021.
As we look at the tragic losses and horrific setbacks experienced in the past year, I think we call all take a page from the playbook of the late Admiral Chester Nimitz. He ended a year, 1941, facing tragic and devastating losses as well. The Japanese had, just over three weeks earlier, attacked and ravaged the American fleet in a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. Assigned to take over command of the devastated remainder of Pearl Harbor, Nimitz knew he had to offer more than some generalized platitudes and hollow words of encouragement. Seizing the moment, Nimitz chose instead to focus on what was not destroyed. Horrific though it was, the attack had failed to set ablaze the massive fuel reserves and the aircraft carriers were still afloat. In illuminating what had not been taken from them, Nimitz offered hope and buoyed the confidence of his sailors and marines. There were many bloody battles ahead, and things did look bad on many fronts, but because not all was destroyed, an enemy which up to that time had never known defeat was going to eventually be utterly destroyed.
Yes, we have lost much over the last year. And we will forever remember them with an ache in our heart. We will miss them in our gatherings for worship. But today, this first day of 2022, I want to remind you of some things which have not been destroyed.
There is an interesting little statement made in the story of the Flood. Noah and his family, tucked securely in the ark with the animals in tow, after weeks of drifting hit solid land.
Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat. (Genesis 8:4)
Interestingly enough, the seventh month is the first month of the Hebrew calendar, so we are looking at the launching of new year on Hebrew calendars. There are those who claim this day was also the day when Israel marched out of Egypt and that Christ died on the cross…but that is a different story. What we are told next is pertinent to our situation.
And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month. In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen. (Genesis 8:5)
This date falls close to our New Year. Not that such a date makes any difference to us, but it does provide us with something to which we can cling in our troubled day. The mountains had not been destroyed by the flood. They had changed, no doubt. They did not look exactly like they did prior to the surging waters and blasting winds, but they were not destroyed! In the midst of our own “flood,” you and I can rest secure that there are some things which have not been destroyed.
THE PROMISES OF GOD have not been destroyed. All those things He has promised us, all the affirmations He gives us through the scriptures, they are still rock-solid. As we turn the page in the calendar, nothing about God or His Word has changed. Paul made it clear, “all the promises of God in Jesus are yes, and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). That which He has promised will stand and ultimately be fulfilled!
THE PRESENCE OF THE SPIRIT has not been destroyed. He is still pouring His Spirit out upon all flesh (Acts 2:17). The Comforter is still with each of us (John 14:26). The gifts of the Spirit are still available for those who seek them (1 Corinthians 14:1). The Spirit is still calling men to repentance and faith (Revelation 22:17). The day is still marked on God’s calendar when the Spirit will raise from the dead those who have died in the faith and enter the bodies of those alive at that moment and transform us into His glorious likeness (Romans 8:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
THE POWER OF COMMUNITY has not been destroyed. When we join in His name, He still shows up (Matthew 18:20). Our gatherings shape and mold us as we join together (Proverbs 27:17). When we assemble in unity, the very blessing of God descends and covers us (Psalm 133).
You may feel like Noah, you have endured the greatest, most severe storm imaginable. You may feel like Chester Nimitz. Looking out, you see nothing but tragedy and devastation. No one denies we reach those places. Our challenge this new year is to look out and see what has not been destroyed. To look out and realize the mountains of God’s presence are still with us. As long as we can see His blessing, we can endure.
Chester Nimitz flourished in stress because of the marked qualities of his life. He was possessed with a quiet sense of humor. He made others laugh and feel better. He had an unshakable and sincere humility. He always listened and considered others. Finally, he had an unbreakable bond with his friends and peers. He knew the power of close friendship. May you and I find ourselves developing these same qualities as we embrace things not destroyed by our tumultuous times.