Why is today called “New Year’s Day”? The commissioners of a large prison in Ohio besought the governor to pardon five convicts for good behavior. Their request was granted.

At the end of six months, 1,100 prisoners crowded inside the prison’s chapel. The president of the commissioners announced, “I hold in my hand pardons for five men.”
Then he read the first name: “Reuben Johnson will come up and get his pardon.” He held it out, but no one came forward.

The prison chaplain spotted Reuben in the crowd of inmates, but the prisoner searched all around him to find the man fortunate enough to be pardoned. When he caught Reuben’s eye, he declared, “Reuben, you are the man.” Again, Reuben looked around. He thought surely the chaplain must have been talking to someone else.

After two more attempts were made to call Reuben, the old man stood up and fearfully made his way to the platform. He took the pardon and went back to his seat, where he wept in awe of his newfound freedom.

As the inmates formed ranks to return to their cells, Reuben joined them. The chaplain had to tell him, “Reuben, get out of the ranks; you are a free man. You are no longer a prisoner.”

For many, the New Year offers nothing more than a new, 365-day prison sentence to the guilt, frustration, bitterness, disappointment, and anger which confined them the previous year. It doesn’t have to be this way for Christians, for we have been set free. When, like Reuben, we finally understand what it means to be spiritually free, old baggage loses its power to weigh us down, and we can anticipate the opportunities each new day holds in store.

Are you discouraged because of closed doors, missed opportunities, failures, and losses from the past year? A pardon has been issued with your name on it. From this day on, you can live in freedom. You are free to think, act, and serve the Lord unhindered. Embrace the newness of the New Year today.

Devotional by Pastor Jim Scudder, Jr.