2012 is the year that some have predicted will be the end of the world. For me, it started with two birthday celebrations - a birthday of a church and a birthday of a friend. But these celebrations were followed by the funeral of the wife of an old friend on the second day of the new year.
On the third day of the new year, I encountered three women suffering from cancer and an elderly relative in hospital who expressed their wish to die. I realised how badly we need the unspeakable joy of the Holy Spirit in a world that is becoming more and more depressing for more and more people. We need the secret of finding joy in the midst of sorrow and suffering.
The first day of 2012 was a Sunday and I was led to attend the worship service of Charis Methodist Church. It was their 23rd church anniversary and they renewed Wesley's Covenant Prayer during the service. It was the Prayer that I had ended the year 2011 with in the watch night service at the HV Preaching Point of Barker Road Methodist Church about 12 hours earlier. Wesley's Covenant Prayer thus assumed a special significance for me in the new year of 2012:
Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for You or laid aside for You,
exalted for You or brought low for You;
let me full, let me be empty;
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am Yours. So be it. And the Covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in Heaven. Amen.
At the Charis Methodist Church anniversary service, Bishop Robert Solomon spoke on "The Covenant to be Faithful." As he shared the lessons from the book of Nehemiah of how quickly and easily the Jews had made and broke their covenant with God, I was initially convicted by the feeling of being “double condemned” if I fail to live up to the covenant I had made at the end of 2011 and at the beginning of 2012.
However, Bishop Solomon made the point that Jesus came to give us a new covenant. This gave me a fresh insight which freed me from the guilt and shame of not being able to keep my covenants like the Jews in the time of Nehemiah. Our human tendency is to make and break covenants and resolutions. But the Good News is that we have a faithful and loving God who is our Heavenly Father.
We may break our covenants but God will never break His covenant to draw us back to His love. Wesley’s Covenant Prayer is therefore not a ritual we perform in order to become saints. It is a prayer of surrender to the Lordship of Christ so that we can live as the children of God.
The Covenant Prayer is the fruit of the spirit of repentance. Repentance is not just feeling guilty and being remorseful - it is to experience the sorrow of God so that we will be touched by His everlasting Love. Only then will Wesley's Covenant Prayer be "the response of a heart that has fallen in love with the God who reveals Himself in Christ."
2012 may not be the end of the world but it can be the end of my limited personal perspective of the world and life. It is only when I die to my egoistic self that I will be able to live my life from God's perspective. Sufferings, sorrow and difficulties will then become opportunities to die to self and to be more alive in Christ. Only then will I be able to face any storm and tribulation in the New Year with the unspeakable joy of our Lord and His peace which is beyond human understanding.
The following words of Fanny Cosby in her hymn, Blessed Assurance, comes to mind:
“Perfect submission, perfect delight.
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight.
Angels descending bring from above,
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”
Perfect delight comes from perfect submission. God wants to draw us closer to Him so that we may hear His echoes of mercy and whispers of love. May we find perfect delight in our lives as we encourage each other with Wesley’s Covenant Prayer in this New Year.