STARTING WELL IN A YEAR OF NEW BEGINNINGS – Part 1
by Pastor Mark Banyard
In Isaiah 43:18-21, God was speaking through His prophet to His people. Likewise, we pray that the Lord would speak to us prophetically through the Spirit of His Son and that we would receive it as a new word for a new year and a new season. It says, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.” Forget the former things, although they may have been great and awesome. Do not dwell on the past and let it define who you are.
Of course, it is important to understand where we have come from. It provides a context to understanding our history which is so important. But right now, God is saying that sometimes, we can dwell so much on who we have been in the past that we do not know who we are now. If God is about to do a new thing, we need to take our eyes off what He did yesterday and focus on what He is doing today. Verse 19 reads, “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it?” A new thing, not something old or recycled. Now it springs up… it is happening now in real time. So often we pray for God to do something that He is already doing, rather than thanking Him for what He is doing and enjoying Him in what He is doing. We are continuing to ask Him for something as if He is not doing it when in fact, He is.
Verse 9 continues, “I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” A river that is found in a fertile place is not that exciting, but one that is found in the desert or in the wilderness is a miracle river. The river that is rising up right now is a miracle river of His presence and glory! He is not doing it in a place that is rich, or one that does not need more water. Instead, He is looking for the dry places, and there He says, “Here I will reveal my glory.” Verse 20 reads, “The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen.” Therefore, recognize that God is giving a drink for His people. Isn’t that exciting to think that today, God has a fresh drink for us, and that something new is about to happen? We are going to come into times of refreshing. God knows those parts of us that are dry and are in need. He wants to give us a drink. He wants to give us something that is new and fresh.
In verse 21, God declares that this drink is for the people He has formed for Himself, so that they shall proclaim His praise. It is a drink that will refresh, inform and transform us. Then we will have a fresh testimony today of who God is, what He is doing in and through our lives and what He wants to do in the world.
In this year of new beginnings, if God is doing a new thing to give us a fresh start, don’t you think it would be good to start well? But in order to start well we need to ask the question – what does not starting well look like? Firstly, we must be wary of false starts. In running events, there are often false starts, when the runners come out of the blocks too fast. Then the race has to be restarted. Some people are very passionate for the Lord. When they hear that God is about to do something new, they jump into it right away. Now passion is good, but sometimes it causes us to move before God has fully released us into what He wants us to do. Sometimes there is a false start because we are overly ambitious. We have a vision for something and we want to see it happen now.
Another false start is when we are overly competitive. Over the years, I have ministered and spoken in different churches all over the world. Sadly, I find that in many cities, pastors of different congregations cannot unite to advance the Kingdom of God together in that place. Sometimes, there is a competitiveness in our hearts from which we have not yet been set free or that we have not repented of. We have not yielded our selfish ambitions to the Lord. It is so important that when we enter into this new beginning, it is out of a heart that is submitted to God. We are not trying to win Daddy’s approval because we are better than somebody else. We always need to remind ourselves that God’s love is unconditional. It is not dependent upon our performance. It is a grace gift. God gives to us graciously and generously His forgiveness, mercy and love. So, any competitive spirit that is manifested is always an indicator that His love is not yet perfected in us. We are not performing in order to win Daddy’s approval or so that He will not reject us. We should not worry because in Christ we have already received His perfect love.
So, in the beginning of this year, we want a good and clean start. We want to come out of the blocks fast and furiously. But we want to be sure that it is not a false start. We want to be in alignment with God’s heart and mind so that there is such a pure flow of the Spirit through our lives without any restrictions whatsoever.
How many of you are longing for new wine? If you are praying for new wine, don’t, because that has already been promised and it is coming. Instead, pray for a new wineskin. It is the new wineskin that holds up the new wine. It is a new wineskin that needs to be put in place because the new wine is coming. It is like the parable of the bridegroom and the ten virgins. All ten went out with the same lamps. But only half of them took all the oil. The rest lost out when the bridegroom came. Pray for the new wineskin. The wine is coming. It will be poured out. It is something that God is going to do and it will be miraculous!