New Year’s Day is often the only time people pause to think about what has happened in the past year and make plans for the year to come. Using Psalm 71 as an example, Chris Sherrod talks about how we should reflect on God’s attributes and what He has done, use our mouths to talk about what our hearts are excited about, and build a hunger for God in the hearts of the younger generation.
New Year’s Thoughts | Psalm 71
As a new year begins, it can be helpful to pause and reflect on what God has done and consider how we should respond. Psalm 71 provides an example we can learn from.
Chris Sherrod: Good morning, Watermark. If I haven't met you yet, my name is Chris Sherrod, and I'm the marriage and family director here. Happy New Year. How are we doing on our resolutions so far? Pretty good so far? Yeah. On a serious note, a few years ago, I stopped calling them New Year's resolutions and started calling them New Year's prayers. "Lord, these are my prayers for the new year." I felt like that didn't set me up for failure as often.
Anyhow, we're glad you're here. This is a fun, unique setting where we have kids all the way up to grown-ups all meeting together. Today we are going to read a multigenerational verse. If you have your Bibles, turn to Psalm 71. We're going to read most of the psalm together, and then we're going to do something onstage that hopefully is helpful or at least memorable on meeting together as a family. We're starting a lot of new things this year, and I know resolutions, a lot of times, involve eating habits or spending habits or screen time.
I do pray that one of your resolutions is, as we just sang, that you would delight in God more, that we would delight in his Word, abide in his Word. I always remind my children, "You can't be close to God and far from his Word." So, just this year, you would grow deeper in love with the Savior and know the Word of God and know the God of the Word. Sound good?
Well, we're going to read most of this psalm, and I want to give you three things that stand out that are reminders from this. I want to go ahead and give you the first bullet point before we read, because it's what I want you to do as we're reading here. This is the first point: mindful reflection leads to heartfelt adoration.
More than any time of the year, and probably, for most of us, this might be the only time where all of us are thinking about, "How was this last year? How does this coming year look?" where we actually pause. Otherwise, we get so busy. We're actually pausing and thinking about, "Okay, what was 2022 like? What's 2023 going to be like? What are we praying for for this next year?" So, as we're reading this psalm, I want you to notice what the psalmist is doing, what he's reflecting on, what he's thinking about.
If you were here at our New Year's Eve service, TA talked about seeing the glory of Christ, and he said it's to be captivated and overwhelmed by the goodness of God. My prayer is that, starting today, your prayer is that your heart and your mind would be captivated by the glory of Christ and the amazing grace of his gospel. Amen? Read with me in Psalm 71, verse 1. As we're going, I would encourage you, if you want to circle in your Bible the words or attributes or characteristics of God that stand out.
"In you, O Lord , do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come…" That's a great New Year's prayer right there. "…you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you. I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent." Skip down to verse 14.
"But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?" Look at verse 22.
"I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt."
Did you notice all of those attributes about God? All of those reminders that the psalmist is saying, "This is what I want to remember. This is what I want to talk about. This is what I want to pass on." Even as you think about 2023, kids, young people, when you face fears, what are going to be the attributes of God you're going to call upon? What's going to encourage you and give you courage and confidence?
Teenagers, what's going to remind you of your identity in Christ when you feel the pressures of the culture? Grown-ups, when you face trials that are going to come this year, challenges, what are going to be your go-to verses that are going to give you hope and confidence and peace and joy? This is what the psalmist does first. He's thinking back. "What do I know God to be? What have I seen God do?" That's the first thing.
The second reminder from this chapter is our mouths talk about what our hearts are excited about. This is just the way we're wired. Some of you already this morning have talked about the football games yesterday. Right? "Did you see the game?" Those are words that come out of your mouth. It's on your heart. You're excited about it.
This is what social media shows us all the time. "I saw a sunset. I want you to see this sunset. I saw this video. I want you to see this video." This is just the way we're wired. Whatever I'm excited about I talk about. Jesus explained this. He said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." So, this is the reminder here.
If you look at the words the psalmist uses, he says, "My mouth is filled with your praise, your glory. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts. I will remind them of your righteousness. I'll proclaim your might. I'll praise you for your faithfulness. I'll sing praises. My lips will shout for joy. My tongue will talk." The psalmist just couldn't keep quiet. As he thought about who God was and looked at what God had done and looked forward about what he knew God was going to be for him, he just had to talk about it.
The reason I love this psalm is you have generations mentioned. He talks about "from my birth." He talks about "from my youth." He talks about old age and gray hairs. It's God's faithfulness all through our lives. What I want to focus on is the third thing we learn from this: we are to build a hunger in the hearts of the younger. You do that by talking about it.
So, a simple question would be…For those people who hang around you the most, what would they say you most often talk about? Do you ever talk about your story, how God changed you, how he rescued you? I think probably, for a lot of us, we're not in danger of telling that story too much. It might be the other way. We're probably in danger of not sharing that enough. If this is the most important thing that has ever happened to me, do my kids know this story? Do I ever talk about this?
What you see here, especially… Look again with me in verse 17. "O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come." He's looking back behind him and saying, "There are people coming behind me, and I have amazing things to tell about God, of what he has done in my life, what I've seen him do. I've got to tell them. I want to pass that on."
So, moms and dads and grandparents, we have an easy application of this. You have your children and grandchildren, but for all of us… You have nieces and nephews. You have kids who are younger who you can serve. You can serve in the kids' ministry or students' ministry. You can serve in our marriage ministry. There are people who would love to see and to follow your example as you're following the example of Christ. Not perfect, just real. This is God's command here. We are to build this hunger in the hearts of the younger.
Our family ministry emphasis we've been doing more and more lately is this: partnering with parents to build Christ-centered homes. We're partnering with you. Mom and Dad, I want to talk to you for a few minutes. Back in 2019, my wife and I bought a bus. We bought this 40-foot school bus, and we renovated it into an RV. It took two and a half years. It was a big project.
I went to Home Depot all the time. I was there so much they began to know me as the "bus guy." At first I'd try to remind them, like, "Hey, remember me?" Then when I'd walk in there, they'd be like, "Oh, the bus guy," and we'd talk about things I was trying to learn. I think my record was four times in one day I had to go back to Home Depot, because I ended up with the wrong stuff or not enough of the stuff and had to go back.
There was this motto that a lot of you will remember that Home Depot has used in the past and still uses sometimes: "You can do it. We can help." Have you guys heard that before? One of the things I want to remind you of in the role of our church… It's clear in Scripture that Mom and Dad have the primary responsibility to build faith in their children. Study after study shows that the influence of the parents is the number-one influencer for kids following after Jesus. More than youth director, more than Sunday school teacher, more than anything else, it's Mom and Dad.
It's easy sometimes to think, "Okay, but we go to an amazing church. They have such a great children's program." And we do, but the issue is not what's happening at Watermark on the weekends; the issue is what's not happening in the home the rest of the week. That's the bigger thing. You see in Scripture… You see in Deuteronomy 6 it's supposed to be this daily thing you talk about.
Now, this is where a lot of people look to the church in the opposite of the Home Depot slogan. They're like, "The church should be like, 'You do it, and we get to relax.'" No, no. You can do it, and we can help. We'll give you some more resources. We'll talk in just a minute about some other ways you can do that. Let me just show… I'm going to model for you guys a really simple thing we do in our house. It is just a short family devo.
When you start talking about family devotionals, moms and especially dads start to get nervous, like, "Does that mean we have to study Greek or Hebrew and have an illustration with a craft every time? Like, how do you do this thing?" I just want to remind you it's way simpler than you think. Leading your family, leading your children is this: encouraging faith in the heart of your kids. That's leading your family.
We do something at our home. We use this packet of cards from Tiny Theologians. You can order this stuff online. These attributes of God we've been studying here… You can have the A through Z packet for the attributes of God. A is he's all-knowing. B is he's beautiful. C is he's creative. You go through these, and it's really, really simple. Can I show you guys how simple it is? Let me have my wife and a couple of my kiddos come on up here.
I'll just go ahead and tell you it would normally be very chaotic if we were actually eating food and might not look as relaxed with us plus a thousand of our closest friends also watching us, but here's what we usually do. When we sit down at dinner, one of the kiddos will get to be a little pyro and enjoy lighting a candle, and then we all say something. Jose, do you want to start us off?
Jose: Jesus is the light.
Family: Jesus is the light.
Chris: We all repeat that together. So, I am going to pick the L. This is what the cards look like. It's really, really simple. It just has an attribute of God, and then on the back you have this little description with a verse. Today we're going to talk about how God is love. Are you guys ready?
"Love is central to who God is. The Bible teaches us that God is love and that the only way we can learn to love one another is because God loved us first. God's love is perfect, unfailing, eternal, and beyond what we could ever imagine. God showed us his love in sending his Son Jesus to die on the cross and rise again." That's good news, huh? So, it's not just that God is loving. It's actually that God is love. That's who God is. So, let me ask you guys a question. Are you ready? Does God love you more when you're obedient?
Chris: Does he love you less when you're disobedient?
Chris: He just…what?
Boys: Loves you.
Chris: He just loves you. Isn't that amazing? It's amazing love that he shows to us. This is what we just celebrated at Christmastime, right? God loved the world so much that he gave his…
Jose: Only Son.
Chris: His only Son. He gave us Jesus, right? So, that should encourage us as we go into this new year ahead of us, as you go back to school, that no matter how you act in school or what your grades are like or how you treat each other, God is always going to love you. Christopher, will you read this verse at the bottom for us, nice and loud?
Christopher: First John 4, verse 8: "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."
Chris: Great job. God is love. All right. Let's pray.
Father, we're so grateful that you are love, not just that you are loving, but you personify love. We thank you that your love for us isn't based on whether we're good or bad or whether we have good days or bad days. Lord, you just love us. I pray that that amazing message of grace would encourage us to come to you when we do fail and, Lord, they would overflow and encourage us to do the right thing, Lord, each day of our lives. We love you. In your name we pray, amen.
Ready, break. Thanks, guys. I forgot to time that, but what did that take? Five minutes, maybe…something like that. That was it. I'm just going to be honest with you. Because I knew we were doing this, I prepared a little bit more. Let me just tell you this. This is something that is super simple and done for me, and I didn't have a whole lot of prep time. It's just, "Let's talk about this."
Then guess what we get to do. During the week, I can go back and remind them, "What did we learn about God this week? What was our L word that we learned about God?" It's just simple stuff. Scripture says just make this natural. You're talking about him when you're in the car or when you're going to bed or whatever it is. Your home is a Word environment.
Here's the other thing I love about this passage. We get to look up to those who are older, the old age and gray hair people. That encourages us, because we're like, "Look at God's faithfulness through all of the years." Those of us who are older also get encouraged by young believers to hear how God is at work and their newness, their excitement, because sometimes we get stuck in a rut. It's not as exciting to us.
So, we're going to have a young person share her testimony. I want to invite Emerson to come up here. She's going to share with you her story of God's grace and redemption, and you get to be encouraged by hearing one we just read about, someone from young years. From their young years, God has been faithful.
Emerson Campion: Hi, everyone. My name is Emerson Campion, and I'm a junior at J.J. Pearce High School. I have a new life in Christ, and I'm recovering from pride, lust, apathy, and discontentment. I'm blessed to have grown up in the church and have had amazing parents who have taught me about who Christ is and what he has done for me. I accepted Christ at the age of 6 after seeing my sister do it, but I didn't fully understand what it meant to live a faithful life centered around the Lord.
Throughout elementary, I struggled with lustful thoughts and lacked the self-control to take them captive. I was unaware of its sin and assumed that I had a perfect relationship with Christ since I knew all of the right answers at church. Once I joined the small group in sixth grade, I became aware of the impure thoughts that filled my mind.
After talking with my leaders and parents, I was faithfully shown what it looked like to guard my heart and flee from these thoughts through confession, turning to Christ, and holding fast to the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13 that says, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
At the start of middle school, I began to struggle with pride and perfection as I started setting extreme measures for myself in every area of life. If I met these standards, I saw myself as better than everyone else, but if I didn't, then I viewed myself as a failure. In seventh grade, my nana passed away, only adding to the hunt for satisfaction in my performance.
I began focusing on being the best at sports, having the best grades, and being the perfect Christian girl. Coming out of COVID and going into high school only fed my desire for satisfaction and joy. I compared my faith to those around me and saw myself as better than them, so I thought that I could take a break from growing my relationship with Christ.
Freshman year hit me pretty hard with classes feeling overwhelming in the stress of a busy schedule, so I turned to friends and mindless tasks to keep me distracted. I stopped examining my heart and confronting the negative emotions that I knew I was facing. I got really good at being able to put on a mask and lie about how I was doing by saying all of the right things in small group and telling my parents only 99 percent of what I was feeling.
Apathy and discontentment entered my life as I continued to keep myself busy to escape the sinful and negative thoughts I knew I had built up in my heart. I kept saying I knew God was the only source of my joy, but I obviously wasn't living it. The apathy led me to fall back into my old habits of lust. I knew how to flee and fight it, but I was choosing not to. I was fully aware of my sin, but I didn't hate it. I kept clinging to anything I thought would bring me joy, but these temporary highs would only leave me longing for more.
As sophomore year started, I grew anxious, as I was injured for months, and classes were harder than I was expecting. I continued to dismiss any feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear and bottled them up as I turned to fun circumstances, lustful thoughts, and homework to keep me distracted from what I was feeling. Eventually, by the grace of God, I felt convicted of my sin and knew I needed to confess it. Sadly, I let the fear get in the way of telling my parents as I waited for the perfect time to confess.
Thankfully, one day my mom randomly asked me how I was doing with my thoughts, and I broke down and told her everything. I decided to go to RE:GEN for Students here at Watermark, and I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions I have made. I learned what it looked like to bring my sin to the surface and let others in. Through inventory, I found that the root of my sin was my pride. Thinking that I was too good for God's grace is what led me to grow numb to his mercy.
As I walked through the steps of healing and finding freedom from my sin, my desire to turn to him in my brokenness allowed me to flee the temptation and find rest and peace. Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." What a joy it is to have a loving God who sympathizes with us and meets us where we are. You do not have to work to be perfect in order to find peace in him.
Throughout the summer, I continued to learn that my joy was not found in fun events, as many of my summer plans got canceled. Starting my junior year, my sister left for college, which left me unexpectedly feeling lonely and bored at home. I started filling my time focusing on solely school and striving to be perfect in every class. However, through godly friends, small group leaders, and parents, I've been reminded that my worth is not tied to my performance and that grades have no eternal value. Through prayer and devoting time daily to remind myself of the gospel, I've been able to battle my pride through what Christ did for me on the cross.
It's still a daily challenge to choose to guard my heart and feed my soul with godly things by setting my mind on things above. If you can relate to any part of my story, I want to remind you of these things. Don't minimize or excuse your sin. Instead, bring it directly to Jesus, who has already suffered the punishment we deserved. There's nothing in this entire world that can bring you joy apart from the Lord. No test grade or fun experience can provide the eternal joy that comes from devoting and trusting in the Lord daily.
James 1:2 says, "Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds." I challenge you today to bring your sins into the light and to cling to the joy Christ has given us. Let your own unrighteousness drive you toward Christ instead of the things of this world. Face the trials and negative emotions that come your way by laying down your own plans and desires at his feet so you may live an eternal life full of everlasting joy. Thank you for listening to my story.
Chris: Thank you, Emerson. That's encouraging. It's such a great reminder. I want to remind you, dads, if you're interested, this Thursday we're starting DadU on Thursday mornings at 6:30. We're going to do a six-week study. If you want to be encouraged and equipped, we'd love to see you there. My prayer is as you go into this new year, we're just overflowing with God's amazing grace that he showered on us, that we're encouraged as we hear stories like Emerson's. Will you pray with me?
Lord, thank you for your faithfulness. We thank you for Psalm 71 that's a reminder of your faithfulness through all generations. Whether we're young or whether we're old, Lord, you are the one we can turn to, who we can rely on. God, I pray that as we go into this new year, we truly would delight in you and abide in your Word, that your grace would overflow. As we think about who you are and what you've done, that it would overflow in what we talk about.
God, we pray that we would build faith in the younger generation, that we would see it as our amazing privilege and responsibility to teach young people what it looks like to be faithful followers of you. We can only do this in the name of Jesus, and it's in his name we ask this. Amen.