I have heard many people wishing the year would end so we could consign it to the history books and never mention it again. But in our rush to reach 2021 there is a danger that we could overlook important lessons we ought to be learning along the way. Extracting these lessons might seem difficult, but we can learn from previous generations who endured worse years than 2020.
There have been many difficult times throughout history when countries and even empires have been decimated by war or devastated by disease. The eighth century BC was a particularly trying time for the nation of Israel. The biblical prophet Amos, writing around 760 BC, describes periods of famine and drought, when many were displaced in search of basic necessities. Later, swarms of pests destroyed the recovering crops, and then their lands were invaded, leaving thousands dead.
Amos brought God’s message to this distressed people; a message highly relevant to us today. Five times we read, “‘Yet you have not returned to Me,’ says the Lord” (Amos 4:6,8-11). The calamities were a call from God to awaken to their spiritual depravity and turn back to Him. God, in His kindness, had preserved the people through each catastrophe: “You were like a firebrand plucked from the burning, yet you have not returned to Me” (Amos 4:11). The people shut their ears and persisted in self-indulgence and sin.
In response Amos brought a solemn warning: “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12). Continued refusal would lead to certain judgment. Soon Assyrian armies would ride through the land and the kingdom of Israel would be no more. Now was the time to prepare to meet their God.
As we reflect on 2020, we have lost many things. Busy schedules have been emptied and activities have been halted. But time alone has presented us with an opportunity to think about our life and our mortality. God is calling us to return to Him, but are we turning a deaf ear? Have we filled the gaps in our schedule with yet more empty activity? Why are we ignoring the daily warnings that life is short and fragile?
We will meet our Maker, whether we believe in Him or not. We need to prepare to meet God because all of us are sinners, not fit for His presence. If we meet Him unprepared, with our sins unforgiven, we will suffer eternally in hell. “The Lord knows how to . . . to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).
The good news is we can prepare to meet God. In Amos 5:4 the prophet brings another message from God: “Seek Me so that you may live” (NASB). Only God can prepare us to meet Him. He gave His only Son Jesus to die for our sins and on the third day raised Him back to life proving His death was enough to bring us eternal life. 1 Peter 3:18 states, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God”. Our best efforts to please Him are worthless. Neither religion nor ritual can change our sinful hearts. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). If we repent of our sins and trust the Lord Jesus Christ alone, God promises that He will forgive us, making us ready to meet Him.Amos’s call to prepare to meet God was urgent. There is no guarantee that we will be able to return to God tomorrow. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This year doesn’t need to be a write-off. If you responded to God’s call and prepared to meet Him, it would be the best year of your life.