The prosperity (complacency) of fools will destroy them – Proverbs 1:32
Using the words of prophet Jeremiah, we, who survived the sword of 2017 – the Suffering, the Worries and anxieties, the Oppression, the Ridicule and Destruction have found grace before God for 2018 (Jer 31). Just as Israel experienced deliverance at the Red Sea, the Lord parted the sea of 2017 to allow you and l to escape into 2018. Glory to God. The promise of God to rebuilt Israel and purified her so that the Lord can once again call her virgin resonates with this year’s inspiration and call for God’s wise virgins in the church to rebuild our nation. The process of calling Israel virgin demands a change, a renewal and hope in the purifying grace of God. To be God’s wise virgins demands a change, a renewal, and a purge of our sinfulness so that we can go forth rejoicing in the New Year. Only the Lord can renew and rebuilt us and give us cause for rejoicing in the New Year. God who made it possible for Israel to plant vineyards and to prosper can do it again for us.
The spiritual renewal is always centred on a renewal and unshakeable hope in the promise, power and authority of God’s Word just as the five wise virgins were with extra of oil in their lamp with the unshakeable hope in the coming bridegroom (Matt 25). To them, delay in the coming of the Bridegroom is not a denial of His promise to coming back again. The world and most especially the church are in constant need of continuing spiritual renewal because we are daily expose to different elements of life and ideologies that tarnishes and dulls our spirituality and power. According to Peter Ozodo, ‘in life, renewal is permanent. Each second yields to the next, each minute always begets another, every hour commences only when the last one has ended. The sunset of each day leads to the sunrise of the next. Every Saturday ends each week just as every Sunday begin another. As each month ends so another starts,’ just as 2017 ended and 2018 starts.
We need continuous renewal, hope, humility, obedience to God’s Word and grace to live as God’s wise virgins this year and in our entire discipleship journey. Spiritual renewal in the church or in our nation begins with revival in our hearts. Spiritual renewal is needed because ‘every day the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to pull us back into a spiritual lethargy that chokes the new life we received through the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Spiritual renewal starts with personal commitment and cleansing ourselves of all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). Renewal brings hope into a darkened and hopeless situation just as it ‘happened during the English revival in the 18th century with the Wesleys and George Whitefield.’
Every New Year is a new opportunity for renewal especially as we are living in a time just prior to the greatest awakening that the church has seen since the early days of the church. 2018 offers us another renewing opportunities to be a better disciple with extra oil of holiness for our lamp like the five wise virgins. Renewal and hope in the New Year calls us to take our spiritual temperature seriously to avoid midnight cry. As followers of Jesus Christ, Christians are called to receive an inheritance including extra oil of gladness so as to avoid midnight cry. Sadly not all Christians are the same. Some are ashamed of the gospel. Many have lost the sense of the fear of God. Foolish virgins did not prepare for their inheritance, they slept off without enough oil, the Word of God. Indeed, apathy comes before calamity. 2018 calls us to awake to our inheritance to get extra oil to give fire for the journey in the New Year and preparation for the second coming of the Bridegroom. An awakening is coming that will wake the foolish and the wise virgins, but only the wise with extra oil will obtain their inheritance. Every New Year offers us a new opportunity to be ready and prepare for our inheritance in Jesus Christ.
Using the seven alphabets of R-E-N-E-W-A-L, to reflect on God’s wise virgins, the New Year calls for ‘Repentance’ from those thing we struggled with last year. The New Year calls for self ‘Examination’ just as Paul admonished the Corinthians to examine themselves, to see if they really were Christians with extra oil for the journey or they are just impostors. God’s wise virgins are summons to a growing awareness of Christ’s presence and power in their lives (2 Cor 13:5). Peradventure, we fell asleep with the thought and confidence that we are in a safe and comfortable situation, become complacent and caught unaware. Self examination helps us not to just go through the motions of the church busyness, social works, church attendance and meetings without the realisation of what is truly needed – the extra oil. The church basics are no longer enough to remain sure, strong, and steadfast for the coming Bridegroom. The New Year also calls for ‘New abundant life’ as God’s wise virgins who are inclined to wait upon God and his promises. New abundant life is about Spirit -oil filled worship and service for Jesus. God’s wise virgins choose to live in the reality of their new life experiences everyday and every minute of their days unlike the foolish virgins. Indeed, many Proverbs point out that ‘the fruit of their own way’ will be the consequences people will experience in life.
God’s wise virgins were ‘Expectant.’ They lived in the reality that their Bridegroom is coming back again hence, they were filled with oil of hope that kept them waiting in contrast to the half measure expectation of the foolish virgins. They did not allow the calamity and pressure of Bridegroom’s delay and cultural seductions and distractions to become their eternal calamity. The New Year summons us to be expectant of the Second Coming of Jesus hence, we need to be awake to this reality with extra oil of grace and holiness for the waiting. Do not just start the New Year on assumption like the foolish virgins without the realisation and anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus regardless of the length of the waiting. God’s wise virgins senses of reverence and wonders in preparation for their coming Bridegroom suggests them as true worshippers whose lifestyle witnesses the Gospel of Jesus. The foolish virgins failed to see the reverence and preparation of the wise virgins for the coming Bridegroom. Maybe, they even resented the wise virgins. However, the wise virgins’ worship lifestyle and unwavering commitment finally proclaims and attracts the foolish virgins to honest worship by asking the wise virgins for oil of renewal and salvation but it was too late.
‘Appreciation’ for the Bridegroom’s promise to come back points to the basis of the unwavering devotion of the wise virgins with extra oil in their lamp no matter how long it takes the Bridegroom to arrive. Appreciation comes before applause. The New Year invites us to appreciate God’s promises and plan of salvation for the world by coming to term with the fact that Jesus is coming again and the need for extra our oil through continue renewal for the journey. The late appreciation and plea by the foolish virgins when the door was locked against them suggests that delay in coming to term to the second coming of Christ may be tragic. As God’s wise virgins, the New Year presents us another opportunity for personal renewal of our hope in the second coming of Jesus. The experience of the foolish virgins provides a ‘Learning’ opportunity in the New Year for us not to procrastinate our preparation for the second coming of Jesus. Renewal is about learning new life in Jesus Christ with the example of the wise virgins who were not cut unaware when the bridegroom arrived. The New Year summons us not to repeat the mistake of the past year hence, the need to be humble with readiness to learn new things and grow in our discipleship as true followers of Jesus Christ.
God’s wise virgins, a call to renewal and hope in Jesus is a wake up call from spiritual complacency in preparation for the great things that will happen this year and in the future. Politics, economy and peace of the world may get worst, God’s wise virgins are confident with extra oil for their light and salvation in Jesus hence, no need to fear in the New Year. Faced with the choice of God’s wisdom or persisting in the secular redefinition of Christianity and ‘rebellious independence,’ 2018 calls us to start rebuilding a lasting testimony about Jesus (Prov 1:31-32). Do not go into it alone in 2018, let us move from scepticism to mature and enduring faith in Jesus Christ. REMEMBER, APATHY COMES BEFORE CALAMITY. Happy renewing Year of God’s wise virgins to you and yours.
Prayer: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).