Joel 1:14 – Announce a sacred fast; proclaim an assembly! Gather the elders and all the residents of the land at the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.
Over the past month, God laid on my heart to ring the New Year in at church, not out partying. When first proposed in my head, this was an awesome idea. God had put that thought in my head since I got divorced, and this year I finally spoke up and proclaimed that it should be done.
But then reality, the world, and Satan begin to play with my mind.
It was difficult, for example, for Mimi and, especially her boys, to understand why, for the first time ever in their lives, they would be missing the ball drop on TV. Heck, it was even difficult for ME to understand that.
Then, on the morning of the prayer event, Satan was REALLY trying to dig into me. “You should be able to go out and party it up.” “It is only one night.” I even went so far as to go through the Facebook pictures of my party friends. Every picture, a raging party in the background and smiles on all the faces.
Philippians 2:4 – not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Reality was hitting.
I didn’t want to spend all night in church for what would probably be a couple people.
I wanted to be out, living it up, placing a lampshade on my head and dancing to rave music at the foam party or something.
So what happens when this kind of thought creeps into my head?
Mimi and I were talking back and forth on text and Skype and I was in prayer during almost all of it.
I thought about a few things.
First, I remember those days. I remember college and my professors getting me drunk after the final class. I remember one of my first business trips ever and ending up in a strip club. I remember the trips out of the country for work and spending the down time drinking and spouting profanities.
Were those fun nights?
Sure, from what I can remember of them.
But then I thought about whether they defined me. Was I always that happy during those times? Sure, those were fun nights, but was there a pure joy that came with it?
Of course not. My final class of my college career involved a presentation. Guess who did horrible on it. Yep, this guy. In retrospect, I was drinking to numb the pain from doing horribly on my final class.
What about the business trip? Yea, during my time at that company I was excelling. I was doing so well at catching thieves in the restaurants that my boss had put me in charge of that around the region. The business trip was a national meeting where all my peers were as well. Being the guy that was responsible for getting a lot of people fired, I had no friends. While everyone else was out at the after parties and enjoying each other’s company, I was bound to be stuck in my hotel room yet again. I went out simply to get away. And that is where I ended up.
What about the trips outside the country where I got drunk? My marriage was failing. I was thousands of miles away and I couldn’t do anything to fix it. So I decided to drink it into submission for a night.
I don’t give you those stories because I want to hear a collective “awwww” from everyone. I give you those stories because I want you to realize that I had something missing at that time. I claimed Christ, yet I hated being alone with Him.
Ephesians 4:22 – You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
So how does all this relate to last night?
Those feelings came flooding back to me. Feelings of wanting to do my own thing and be out there partying and drinking and just enjoying the night. But there was a difference this time.
I took it to God in prayer.
And wow did I get a sense of peace.
So I went to set up for the prayer and before every one showed up, I went to the altar, got on my knees, and prayed for God to bless it.
Going into the night we only had two confirmations and one of them texted me and called out, so I only knew 1 person was coming.
But God told me to be still and trust Him.
So I did.
And at 10pm, people showed up.
By 10:10 we had 9 people.
Throughout the night we ended with 16 people coming and going through there, not counting our senior pastor who made a cameo appearance at 11:30.
The prayer time I got alone with Mimi was priceless. The time I got to speak with Jay, Nelson, Stacey and Joe could not have happened in a loud place filled with a party.
By the end of the night, I met a few people who were praying for their daughter who was sick, an elderly woman who counsels families of prisoners, and a young adult and her mom.
And as 2014 came to a close, we didn’t watch the ball drop or watch Taylor Swift sing or even get anxious about whether there would be anything bad going on. We prayed. We took our own fears and problems and anxieties to God and left them in His hands. We prayed for our families. We prayed for our church. We prayed for our communities and our nation. We prayed for places like Ferguson, China, and Syria. And we prayed that all those out partying would make it home safe.
And then we took communion. As everyone was watching the ball drop, we were breaking bread and drinking grape juice.
1 Corinthians 11:26 – For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
And the next morning, we weren’t nursing a hangover or trying to put the pieces back together on what happened. We weren’t worried that someone had a Facebook or Instagram picture up about us doing something that we shouldn’t have been doing.
We were thanking God that we had the opportunity to spend that time just sitting at His feet, talking to Him, and loving on Him.
We were counting our blessings.
We were taking a deep breath and getting ready to tackle 2015, knowing that the victory has already been won. We gave the new year to God. We dedicated it to Him.
And He will bring us immeasurable joy and peace through this upcoming year.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray without ceasing