Because 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History, 2018 Could Become Your Best Year So Far!
Wait a minute! Best year ever? Seriously?
With increased risks of nuclear exchanges, starvation in Somalia, a paralyzed Congress, ongoing civil wars in Yemen and Syria, growing tensions with Russia and North Korea, unrelenting global warming—how can anyone say that 2017 was humankind’s best year ever?
Actually, there’s plenty of data to back up this claim. I want to share some of that with you here because it exposes more of what the reign of Christ is all about today, and because these reports give you every reason to have greater expectations about what lies ahead in 2018 for you—as hopefully it becomes the best year ever for every believer.
For you see, how Jesus is currently pouring out grace and mercy to make many things “new” among the nations right now is precisely how he wants to impact your life all through this coming year! Let me show you what I mean.
Every Reason for Us to Abound in Hope
The front cover story of the most recent edition of TIME magazine, edited by Bill Gates with articles by everyone from Warren Buffet to Trevor Noah to Bono, is titled quite simply “The Optimists.”
Gates writes: “Great people for the future and data that gives shape to hope are the foundations of this project [edition]. Our optimism is rooted in hard figures. Numbers tell the truth.” One contributor adds: “According to the latest data, people are living longer and becoming healthier, better fed, richer, smarter, safer, more connected.”
A few days ago Nicholas Kristof, seasoned columnist at the New York Times, opined on similar findings. Drawing on research from Oxford University, from posts on OurWorldInData.org, and from Harvard professor Steven Pinker’s wide-ranging analytics, Kristof stunned his readers with such positive developments as:
- • Every day 325,000 more people gain access to electricity
- • Every day 300,000 more people gain access to clean drinking water
- • Today fewer than 15% of earth’s residents are illiterate
- • Today fewer than 15% of the world’s people live in extreme poverty (down from a majority in 1960)
- • At this rate, in 15 years illiteracy and extreme poverty will be eliminated
- • Since 1990, due to vaccinations more than 100 million children lived who would have otherwise died
That’s just a hint of the advances previous generations would have thought impossible. Kristof alerts us that Dr. Pinker in his upcoming new book, Enlightenment Now, records a level of progress our grandparents would have called miracles—progress “across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life.”
Of course, none of this even begins to touch on advances of the Gospel—and the fruits of the Gospel— throughout the earth this past year. For the first time we now have a spread of over 5.5 million churches—bases of operations for the saving power of Jesus Christ to penetrate the remaining 2 billion earthlings who remain unaware of the Good News.
Where Did All of This Uptick Come From?
What is responsible for a multitude of global transformations that replicate some of what Scripture promises as the ultimate impact of the advance of God’s kingdom and the reign of his Son?
Maybe the better question is WHO is responsible for all of this?
As believers, we know there is only one final answer: our Lord Jesus Christ, “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1).
His is a kingdom in which, Acts 17 tells us, all humanity lives and moves and has its being, even where God remains “unknown” to many. His is a kingdom that Jesus taught would penetrate the nations like leaven in bread dough (Matthew 13). His is a kingdom that already encompasses the empires of this world, according to Revelation 11—spawning constant “Hallelujahs” among heaven’s hosts.
All these glad phenomena of 2017 should drive Christians to take a fresh look at our Redeemer through whom, more and more, God’s kingdom is coming and God’s will increasingly prevailing “on earth as it does in heaven”—exactly what the Church has been praying for over the past 2000 years.
In all of this, here’s the good news for you!
How Jesus’ greatness and goodness are displayed generally in this generation is how he wants to bless your life specifically, right here and right now. Consider:
History Is “His Story.” It’s Also Your Story!
Christ is the undeniable ruler of history; Christ is what history is all about. He is not only the beginning of human history; he is also its end. He’s the focus of the future of all peoples and civilizations. He is also engaged with current dramas and events among the nations.
That’s exactly the role he wants to play for writing your story in 2018.
Apart from Christ, history looks like “confetti” (says Dr. David Wells). Apart from Christ, developments across the globe can appear unconnected, random, eclectic, purposeless, empty, and meaningless. But when we look at Jesus on the throne, we see that all history streams from him, flows toward him, and is fulfilled in him. Christ is the superintendent and shepherd of trends and transactions among the people, ensuring that countless episodes in countless arenas of human activity, even those deemed negative or even wicked, are destined to climax in the final triumphs of him to whom belong “the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
That’s exactly how he wants to get involved in the writing of your story in 2018.
Imagine how differently the record of the past 2000 years would be if the whole time Jesus had not been reigning as Lord of all! In point of fact, his ascension to the throne of heaven (Acts 1) was not only a historical event in and of itself, but it was also a history-making event that continues to this very moment to ignite, oppose, direct, and encompass a million other events around the globe. That’s because his reign is both proactive and interactive; it is dynamic, not static; it is both personal and purposeful.
That’s exactly how his reign intends to impact the writing of your story in 2018.
Throughout history, Christ’s ongoing reign has expressed itself among the nations in crescendos — like the pulsations of ocean waves washing up a beach with the incoming tide. Despite seeming setbacks, in the grand scheme of things his kingdom is advancing. From time to time it may seem like the waves are receding, but then amazingly new waves of grace come rolling in stretching higher up the sands than the last wave. “Of the increase of his kingdom there shall be no end,” Isaiah 9 tells us.
No matter what the future holds, we can be certain of this: We are living in the midst of the spread of Christ’s reign. Rather than shriveling and shrinking, it continues to swell and saturate from age to age, pressing toward the consummation of all things in him. Under Christ’s scepter, every human being and every human initiative always remains “in transition,” looking toward the day when Christ’s kingship will become the sole focus of the universe.
One day, the reign of Christ that we’re experiencing every day in both the visible and invisible realms of creation will reach cosmic proportions. The King who has been acting within history, in both redemption and judgment, soon will exercise his supremacy with transparency and finality for all to witness and confirm—as every knee in the universe bows to him, confessing Christ as Lord of all (Philippians 2).
That’s exactly the same hope and promise he brings to bear on the writing of your story in 2018.
Ultimately, History Is Shaped Around Four Great Themes About Jesus
Current developments reported on the evening news are being woven strategically by the Father into one all-encompassing epic epoch that revolves around his Son—the drama of dramas in which Jesus is both the main character and the central plot.
As his followers, we need to watch and learn.
To call him Lord today means we must interpret both the entire course of human events across this planet, including those going on right around us, with direct reference to these four great themes about the spectacular supremacy of Christ explored throughout Scripture:
Who he is—the majesty and supremacy of his PERSON, as Lord of history
Where he’s headed—the direction and triumphs of his PURPOSES, as Lord of history
What he’s doing—the demonstrations and applications of his PROMISES, as Lord of history
How he gets blessed—the prevailing and fulfilling of his PASSIONS, as Lord of history
These Will Be the Same Four Themes of Your Story in 2018
These same four themes create the narrative of adventures that lie ahead for you in 2018. Take note:
# 1 – Identification. Who you are—your true identity—is ultimately wrapped up in who Jesus is. Christ is your life. “For me to live is Christ,” defines your true self (Philippians 1). Because your life is “hidden with Christ in God,” that’s how the Father will always see you (Colossians 3). Therefore, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2).
That essential identification is meant to shape your story as it unfolds in 2018.
# 2 – Direction. Where you’re headed with your life tomorrow, or ten years from now, or ten thousand years from now, was settled the moment you accepted Jesus’ summons to you: “Come, follow me.” Jesus is not only your identity, he’s also your destiny. He’s ready to take you this year where you’ve never gone before so that (as he said in John 14) wherever he is headed there you will be with him, following him. Every day the Holy Spirit intends to help you live a life that is joyfully marching in a victory parade Jesus is leading (2 Corinthians 2).
That critical direction is meant to shape your story as it unfolds in 2018.
# 3 – Action. Whatever you are doing—every activity, every relationship, every experience, every initiative—holds lasting value to the degree that these daily routines and adventures are infused with the energy found in the wonderful promises of God. His promises are yours because you belong to Christ Jesus in whom those promises are actively being fulfilled right now (2 Corinthians 1). Today, his lively, aggressive, progressive reign among the nations is all about transforming more and more of those promises into reality, bringing salvation and deliverance to sinners. He wants to take action most fully in and through the lives of those who call him Lord and Savior, who gladly serve him in the outward advances of his reign of redemption (for starters, through the 5.5 million congregations we mentioned at the start).
That unrelenting action is meant to shape your story as it unfolds in 2018.
# 4 – Celebration. Our greatest blessing as believers is based on how fully we’re wrapped up in blessing Jesus—fulfilling the passions and agenda of Jesus’ heart, bringing delight to our King. His joy becomes our joy. What delights him delights us. The victories he pursues and wins result not only in exalting him and blessing him, but they also become triumphs in which we too participate. Jesus prayed in John 17 not only that supreme glory be restored to him, but also that those who belong to him would be caught up in that exhilaration, and thus enter into “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1).
That Christ-exalting celebration is meant to shape your story as it unfolds in 2018.
A Radical New Year’s Resolution for All of Us
We’ve only begun to explore four themes by which God sovereignly shapes world history around his Son, including current events and global trends, so that it all becomes “his story.”
Manifestations of Jesus’ reign in those four dimensions resulted in 2017 being the best year ever in ten thousand generations—whether TIME magazine realized the source of that transforming and prevailing power or not!
How much more should those same four dimensions of the supremacy of Christ reassure you that there will be exciting significance in how he writes the story of your daily walk with him in 2018?
Therefore, I would like to suggest that our “new year’s resolution” for 2018 should sound something like this:
In 2018, in my study of Scripture and my times of worship and prayer, daily I will seek to know Jesus more fully in terms of the four themes that define his reign over history and over his people: who he IS, where he’s HEADED, what he’s DOING, and how he gets BLESSED.
Every day of 2018 I will look for ways to focus more clearly on who he is as my identification, and invite him to take me in his direction and involve me in his action so that every day there will be celebrations of how I bless and exalt him.
It’s story time!
NOTE: Dig deeper into this vision of Christ in chapter 3, “Christ OVER Us,” in David Bryant’s latest book, Christ Is NOW! Go to www.DavidBryantBooks.com.
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.