Lord of the Years
Constancy is something every human being craves. Knowing that, in the midst of all the upheaval and change that marks the course of life, there are anchor-points that provide stability along the way. But where can we find such certainty?
It is an issue we become more acutely aware of as one year draws to its close and a new one begins – one that we are all aware of in different ways in the different seasons of life. But it came home to me in our church prayer meeting recently when one of the ladies in the congregation prayed, ‘Lord, thank you for being the great Constant!’ In the midst of the rolling years on earth, there is One in heaven who never has changed and never will throughout eternity.
In a strange, but understandable way, these thoughts tend to multiply at the turning of the year. As the clocks count down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, thoughts go back to the year that is about to be consigned to history. And as the cheers and fireworks mark the start of the incoming year, we can’t help but wonder what it may bring with it, for good or ill, as it unfolds.
For those many people throughout the world who have no meaningful awareness of God (let alone a living relationship with him) they find themselves facing the future with nothing to cling to. They feel themselves to be at the mercy of fate and fortune. For them there is no Constant. Even in the midst of the joys and pleasures that come their way in life, they feel themselves subjected to the ravages of time. Not so for the children of the Living God!
Timothy Dudley Smith, the Anglican Vicar who wrote the two-volume biography of John Stott, but who is perhaps more widely known as the composer who was very much in the vanguard of some of the best of the newer hymns that began to be written in our generation, captures this well in one of his hymns. One that was written with the passage of time and the beginning of a new year in mind.
1 Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided,
urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way,
sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided:
Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.
2 Lord, for that word, the word of life which fires us,
speaks to our hearts and sets our souls ablaze,
teaches and trains, rebukes us and inspires us:
Lord of the word, receive Your people's praise.
3 Lord, for our land in this our generation,
spirits oppressed by pleasure, wealth and care:
for young and old, for commonwealth and nation,
Lord of our land, be pleased to hear our prayer.
4 Lord, for our world when we disown and doubt him,
loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain,
hungry and helpless, lost indeed without him:
Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.
5 Lord for ourselves; in living power remake us -
self on the cross and Christ upon the throne,
past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.
The structure of the stanzas is educational in itself. Even though our earth-focused instincts tend to make us gravitate towards the prayers expressed in the last three verses, these prayers only have substance and hope because of the reasons for praise declared in the first two.
It isn’t just that the people of God have good reason to mark the ending of the year with thanksgiving to God for his keeping power and never-failing provision; but to do so with theocentric praise to the One who is the ‘Lord of the Years’. He is the Lord of time. He not only created it, he controls and directs its course and content.
We, by contrast, are creatures of time. We have no control over it. We cannot pause it when our lives and circumstances are careering out of control. We are unable to slow down the toll it takes on our minds and bodies as the years roll by. But, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, we are joined to the everlasting God in a saving union that colours every moment of every day.
We are anchored by faith and through the Holy Spirit – the living bond by whom we are united to Christ – to the eternal God who is our refuge. The One who has been, as Moses declares, ‘our dwelling place in every generation.’ The great Constant!
When we appreciate this sacred, saving bond, we can smile at the passage of time. Yes, it will leave its mark on us all – as it must in a fallen world that is ‘passing away.’ But it cannot have the last word. Because through Jesus, our Saviour, our identity and destiny are bound up with eternity. And this should make us sing for joy!