The New Year is like a punctuation mark. It is time to end and assess, and to look ahead and plan. We hope this year will be even better than the last one, that past mistakes will be corrected and our objectives will be achieved. As we begin, there are two dangers to avoid: presumptuous goals and superficial plans. In regard to these dangers, I found some wise counsel from an unlikely place—a man from almost 2,000 years ago named Gamaliel.
Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God (Acts 5:35-39).
Gamaliel was a man who counseled the Jewish Supreme Court not to hastily execute the first disciples of Jesus. Though he may not have known that it would someday help God’s people, his advice helps to focus our prayer and plans in 2020. I see two key points in his speech:
Work of human origin will fail.
As I think ahead to 2020, I feel a strong desire to make a lasting impact. Both of the men that Gamaliel describes—Theudas and Judas the Galilean—had charisma and passion. They were able to draw crowds and even to inspire men. They were probably active and determined, and they clearly had a big vision. However, their work did not last past their lifetime, which proved to be short. When we consider our goals, we must make sure they are in line with God’s objectives for us, or our influence will dissipate as soon as we pass on.
If it is from God, no one will be able to stop you.
Gamaliel warns these men that they cannot fight God. If the disciples truly labor in God’s power, they will be invincible. What incredible confidence it gives us to know the truth of Romans 8:31: “What shall we say in response to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Truthfully, if we follow Jesus, many people may be against us—but their opposition will fail.
2020. It is a new year and a new decade. There are new technologies transforming our culture and important decisions to be made in each one of our personal and collective futures. At the same time, the great commission of Jesus to make disciples until He returns remains the same. May God give us the wisdom to work for the kingdom that cannot fail.