Jesus: The Alpha and the Omega
Are you looking to the new year with hope or trepidation? Anne Le Tissier encourages us to focus on the one who is outside of time and who holds us in his hands
New Year’s Resolutions may well accompany Big Ben chiming out an old year and heralding the new. But no matter the aspirations we have on 1st January, some, if not many, of the circumstances filling the next 365 days may prove to be outside of our control.
Job loss, accident, rejection, storm damage, ill-health or bereavement are just a few of the unplanned events that might sadly affect our good intentions or mapped out goals. And while some of us anticipate the New Year with great excitement, others feel disillusioned and discouraged by previous New Years’ anticipations that fell foul to unplanned upheaval. Some may even face the New Year with fear and trepidation, wondering if things can possibly get any worse.
So if, like me, certain events of the past year have undermined your expectancy for the next, then pause to drink deeply of the awesome truth available to us in Jesus, who says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13).
‘Alpha’ and ‘omega’ are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. God exists outside of time - he was before that which he created and will outlast it; he is the source and the goal of life. He is the first and last, the beginning and end of history itself; history that includes the lives of you and of me. And Jesus Christ, the resurrected, living, Son of God, revealed himself to the apostle John, sharing and applying his Father’s titles to himself, as only he can.
“My times are in your hands . . . All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be . . .” (Psalm 31:15;139:16)
I enjoy vegetable gardening, and when we moved to the Manse, I hired a rota-tiller and ploughed up a third of our long stretch of lawn. Winter frosts helped to break down sticky clumps of clay, digging it over cleaned the patch of unwanted stones, but I still had to wait a number of months for the right season for planting, so used that time productively to plan it.
I decided what I wanted to grow and where, taking into account the special needs of certain plants for sun or shade, then worked out the different sowing and harvest cycles to make best use of the garden.
Eventually, the time came for the first seed to be carefully sown in composted drills, one type after another. But I didn’t just abandon those seeds, seedlings and plants to their own devices. I watched them, nurtured them, watered them, sprayed them, fed them - and yes, I admit that from time to time, I talked to them!
When it got too hot and the ground baked hard, I was constantly out with my watering can. When the storms hit and the wind threatened, I was propping them up with canes. When disease struck, I cared for them, according to their need. But I never gave up on seeing through the season to encourage those seeds to fulfil their potential and harvest the crops they’d been chosen for.
Now I hope this doesn’t sound too twee, but isn’t that a picture of the Master of our lives - of the one who knows and determines the beginning and the end of life in this world?
It was he who chose us before creation that we may know and love him (Ephesians 1:4). It was he who designed the heavens and the earth as a suitable place in which we could live (Genesis 1). It was he who prepared in advance the works that we would do in order to produce the fruit he wished us to bear (Ephesians 2:10). And it was he who determined the time and place in which each of us would live (Acts 17:26).
Furthermore, we are promised that Christ will always be with us (Matthew 28:20) - that God will never leave or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). He is the First and the Last, but he will also be with us at the centre of life’s ups and downs, if we choose to let him.
“Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21)
Of course, it’s easy to say or write these truths in theory, but if we’re stepping into a New Year burdened with uncertainty, perhaps it’s an appropriate moment to reflect how well we engage with them in practice.
Four years ago, I sensed I should leave paid employment to focus on my work as a freelance writer. My husband and I trusted God to provide for our needs and believe we’ve been good stewards, but that trust and careful budgeting was severely challenged when we recently experienced an unexpected financial need - one that was impossible to meet from our limited resources.
My trust and dependency was further challenged 36 hours later when, as a result of God’s impeccable timing, I happened upon an ideal opportunity to take on a second job which would enable us to meet this financial need.
But as grateful and amazed as we were at God’s provision, I hate to admit that I resented this unexpected intrusion into the life and work I’d grown to cherish, and which provided such personal pleasure and fulfilment.
A couple of weeks went by as various arrangements were put in place, during which time the Lord tended me gently, pruned off a few unhelpful appendages to my life and disciplined my attitudes.
Fully surrendered and bowled over by his grace, I was ready to adapt and take on this second job. But, the very night before I was due to start, yet another unexpected event shook up my organised, tidy life, so much so that I felt like I’d been turned upside-down with my pre-arranged, compartmentalised ‘plans’ mixed up and shaken out onto a disorganised heap on the floor.
Within a couple of days, I was flying to Guernsey to be with my family as we grieved for the untimely death of my brother.
Our circumstances may not be exactly as we would have chosen, expected or anticipated; we may not have the material wealth we’d like, we may not be part of certain relationships we hoped for, we may not feel as fulfilled in our work or social environments as we’d originally thought we would be; but if we believe Scripture, then we have absolute assurance that our days are in God’s eternal hands; that they are planned and purposed by him whose thoughts and ways are far higher than our own, that we have a hope for the future that is an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19).
That’s not to say we don’t make plans or pursue relationships and activities that we believe are meaningful, helpful, will glorify God and might ultimately bring us happiness. But unless we keep these pursuits in perspective with the true source and goal of life - the knowledge of the Alpha and the Omega - we shall certainly fall prey to feelings of confusion, bitterness, dismay, pessimism, fear, loneliness, and so on, as some aspects of life don’t turn out as we’d anticipated or hoped.
I can truly say as I sit here writing, waiting for my brother’s funeral, that the presence of the Alpha and the Omega has propped me up, watered and fed me, spoken tenderly to my heart and simply been with me. I don’t believe I’ve reached the end of my season, so there’s still more fruit to bear.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” Hebrews 6:19)
I may not be ‘feeling’ the happiness that I would choose, as I survey the remnants of shattered hopes and dreams, strayed across the path of my unpredictable life. But one thing I do know, God is with me. And, as David said: “‘apart from [him] I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2). Apart from the secure, faithful, protective, all-knowing, eternal, loving presence of Jesus, nothing in this life can compare - not money, not work, not dreams, nor even these precious yet fragile relationships that come and that go through different stages of life.
In Christ alone we find completeness, wholeness and purpose in life. Sometimes it will glow with the pleasure of happy, fulfilling, comforting circumstances; but sometimes it will take us through cold, shady valleys, knowing only that the Lord is with us. He who takes hold of our hand and says, “Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13)
So wherever you are in life on 1st January, be confident of this, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Take it further
REFLECT: Happiness gained from pleasure, success and right relationships in this world is temporary and often fickle; but we can know Christ’s joy (John 15:11), as we keep our hearts focused on the true source of life, as we live with increasing dependence on his presence in every part of life, and as we set our sights on the joy that awaits us, living with him for eternity.
PRAY: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38)
Lord Jesus, you are the source of my life. You are the only goal worth pursuing. May your rivers of living water flow out of my heart to nourish and to bless others along the path of life you’ve chosen for me.
READ: Revelation 22:12—17; Psalm 32; Isaiah 55:6—13