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Posted: January 1, 2011 12:00 a.m.

A great new year ahead

I learned recently that Tanzania is proceeding to cut a highway through the Serengeti National Park, endangering one of the last pristine wildlife refuges in the world. Add this to other worrisome topics, like the economy, the Wiki-leaks fiasco, or Ted Turner’s opinion that we should adopt the Chinese policy of one child per family, and the list of world woes can seem impressive.

Some news outlets are prone to sensationalize stories to increase audience, but even so, there apparently is no shortage of bad things to report. A dour and pessimistic outlook would seem to be the rational way to go.

Forgive me, though, if I take an opposing view. As I look at world events, I am optimistic. I see resolutions to conflicts on the horizon. I see strength in a nation that knows its history of perseverance, ingenuity, peaceful compromise and success. Our strong work ethic and love of free enterprise continue to inspire others around the world. We are a nation of creative minds that dare to envision a bright future.

But I have other reasons to be hopeful, reasons born of faith. God is still in charge. Christ’s redeeming work is still unfolding in the world. The body of Christ is stronger than ever, especially in places where religious persecution is commonplace. The Good News is still good news. Never before has there been so much potential for good to be done, and so many glad hearts willing to give it a try.

Consider these news reports that never made the headlines:

— Volunteers in mission are on the rise. Religious-based mission groups of every stripe are increasing in numbers, as are secular groups like Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, and Boys and Girls Clubs. MedShare International, which distributes surplus medical equipment and supplies to beleaguered nations, is growing exponentially.

— We are winning the war against malaria. The World Health Organization has reported a greater than 50 percent decline in malaria deaths in the hardest hit areas, like Ethiopia and Rwanda. Nothing But Nets and other programs to eradicate the scourge, are showing great success.

— While religious fanatics are giving people of faith a bad reputation, churches, synagogues and mosques around the world continue peacefully to worship God and tolerate one another. In their finest moments, they even celebrate their diversity.

— Political leaders make news when they lock horns against one another, but with less publicity they are finding solutions and compromises that benefit us all.

I believe the future is bright indeed, because I have faith in the human spirit. More importantly, I have faith in God’s plan for us. Paul was facing hardship of his own when he wrote to the Romans (Chapter 8), "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us… We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose… If God is for us, who is against us?... Who will separate us from the love of Christ?... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

These are lofty words, but they are not unrealistic, nor are they irrelevant. They will work as well in America in 2011 as they did in first century Rome. Let us watch with the eyes of faith as God’s new creation continues to unfold in the year ahead.

 

The Rev. Brian Dale is the pastor of Allen Memorial Methodist Church in Oxford.

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