Church Message: A Fresh Start

By Nina Brown

Member of Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Grand Rapids

I love the promise of the new year and the opportunity it offers for a fresh start. It allows one to leave any foibles of the previous year behind and find better ways forward in the new year – hopefully finding it to be a happier and more fulfilling “New Year”. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, however.

Sometimes bad choices in the previous year can follow us into the next year, but even then, I find helpful guidance comes to thought when I take time to pray. For me, one of the best examples in which someone successfully let go of bad choices to begin anew, can be found in the life of Paul the Apostle. Prior to this change, Paul was known as Saul, a man who rounded up some early Christians to be imprisoned – or worse. And he was relentless in this pursuit (see KJV Acts chapters 8 and 9).

On his way to Damascus, where he hoped to continue his persecution of Christians, Saul heard the voice of Christ telling him to go into the city and wait for instructions. He was filled with the Holy Ghost during a meeting with a Christian disciple named Ananias and from that point forward became a

Christian and willing disciple of Jesus’ teachings. He took the name of Paul in recognition of his transformation, and traveled his part of the world, starting Christian churches and mentoring their members to become productive followers of Christ.

Many years ago, I once found myself in a compromised situation. I had agreed to drive an old friend to a rendezvous in the city. Once there, I was surprised to learn that an illegal drug purchase was the goal. In the days and months following, I spent a great deal of time berating myself for not being more discerning even as I tried to forgive myself and my friend. When praying to God about this, the recognition came that I had allowed willful and misguided kindness on my part to steer my own choices. And I thought of Paul’s words (KJV Philippians 3:13, 14): “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” I knew these encouraging words from Paul were true for all mankind.

They gave me the courage to stop berating myself over this. I remembered that even after all that Paul had done, he didn’t waste any time on the past, but gave his life obediently to Christ going forward. I knew that I, too, could make a fresh start – making better choices in the new year by humbly and obediently following Christ Jesus’ teachings more consistently each day. I was never asked again to provide transportation for this friend.