Theme for 2021: “You have need of endurance”
The events of 2020 included many challenges for our country and the world. Among them, the coronavirus changed our lives in ways we could never have imagined just one year prior. Routines were upended, and many things we took for granted in 2019 were temporarily suspended. We were unable to assemble for worship, unable to meet for Bible classes, and many brethren had disruptive changes made to their jobs and schedules. As a result, we were forced to adjust to a “new normal” that included Zoom meetings, reduced travel, face masks, and social distancing. Some of these disruptions were positive in that they resulted in more time spent with family, shorter commutes, and more time spent in the Word of God.
As we think back on the trials faced in 2020, we must remember that the sufferings of this life are not comparable to the heavenly home that awaits us after this life is over (Romans 8:18). We must also consider the role trials play in our lives and in our walk with God. Just as metal is tempered through fire, so our faith is tested through the fiery trials of this life (James 1:2-3). The process of refinement burns out impurities that contaminate the metal, much as trials in this life hone our focus on God and remove the things that impede our journey to heaven (I Peter 1:6-7). When we remember 2020 in the future, will we associate it with spiritual growth and refinement, or will it remind us of a time when we regressed in our spiritual walk?
As we look forward to 2021, we must ensure that our COVID fatigue does not result in spiritual fatigue. The writer of Hebrews reminded Christians going through persecution of their initial suffering upon becoming Christians, and how they responded to that suffering based on their knowledge of an enduring and eternal home. In light of their current persecution, the writer warned these Christians of the danger in drifting away (Hebrews 2:1,3), in departing from God (Hebrews 3:12), in falling short of God’s promised rest (Hebrews 4:1,11), and in not growing spiritually as they ought (Hebrews 5:12). To endure persecution, these Christians needed to remain diligent until the end (Hebrews 6:11) as their faith was being tested by trials. Hence, the writer says, “you have need of endurance.”
The same lesson applies to us in 2021. We have need of endurance as we continue to face the coronavirus and the challenges that come with it. Our challenges may not be on the same level that other generations have faced, but this is our challenge for the moment. While we may not enjoy trials as we go through them, we need to remember that they are an opportunity to strengthen our faith and sharpen our focus on God. Trials make us stronger as Christians, but only if we allow ourselves to be refined in the fire and to grow in fruitful service to our Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 1:5-9). May this new year be a time in which we read our Bible daily, pray to God more earnestly, find new ways to serve others, and be reminded of those who depend upon our service in the Father’s kingdom.