Happy New Year! But will it be, happy that is? For my part, I’m approaching it with great excitement and expectancy. Sure, I don’t know what’s around the corner, what trials I, my family and church could face but I know God, and am seeking to know Him more, and surely that is the recipe for lasting happiness.

I woke up early on New Year’s Day (thanks to the vibration of my Christmas gift watch) to read Isaiah 54-55 as part of our (Gospel Coalition) Two Year Bible Reading Plan. Yes, we’ve made it through a whole year (I can’t say I’ve been there every morning but it’s been a tremendous blessing when I have – why not join us for year 2?!).

What timely verses to begin the new year with. The first eight verses of chapter 54 are especially relevant to us.

They’re an exhortation to prepare joyfully for the future. Though you may feel unfruitful and unproductive, even ashamed, perhaps for things you’ve done or failed to do in 2016. Though you, like the Israelites may have grieved God and even felt deserted by Him; those who remain faithful (are called) will rejoice. God promises emotional healing, the joy and passion of a marriage forever young in which we can experience the everlasting love of the awesome Maker, perfect Husband, Lord of Hosts (or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases, “God of the Angel Armies”), Holy One, and Gracious Redeemer, who proves His love by spilling His blood, to pay for your sin and purchase salvation (see the preceding chapter, Isaiah 53).

How then should we approach 2017?

1. Sing Out (verse 1). Rejoice regardless of circumstances. We should be the happiest people alive. We’re God’s treasured possession and our trajectory is heaven (or rather the ‘much more’ paradise of the New Heavens and Earth cleansed from all the corrupting effects of sin).

2. Dream Big (verse 2). Lengthen and strengthen your faith. Expect and attempt great things for God.  Ask whatever you want “in my name” (John 16:23-24). God wants to exceed your expectations; to do “immeasurably more” that you ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We’re excited to be hosting Guy and Heather Miller, leaders of the movement of churches we’re a part of, Commission, giving us a third of their time for the next 18-24 months, to strengthen and stretch our faith to fulfill God’s call on us as a church to share the gospel, make disciples, serve London and plant churches.

3. Fear Not (verse 4). Let God’s perfect love cast out fear in you this year (1 John 4:18). Grow your faith through taking (wise) risks (experiencing more of God as you do so). There’s no disgrace in making courageous missional mistakes. Break free from every manifestation of fear.

May 2017 be a happy new year for you in every sense of the word!