12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Can you believe it? We are watching another year pass into the annals of history and a New Year unfolds before us. I am 49 now it seems that time is the enemy in some ways, the years seem to move by so quickly. This is the time that New Year resolutions are being planned, a practice as common as the people who are planning them. Now to the best of my knowledge this is not a Biblical concept instead they were created by man as a way of resolving or making an oath to do something new or different than we did in the past, nothing wrong with that. Have you made any? Are you making some now? I thought a great deal about those often grandiose goals we set for ourselves based on the passing of one year to the next and something struck me about how we make these “resolutions.”
Would you agree with me that most of us make New Years resolutions based on areas where we struggle or have a particular weakness or want to improve something about ourselves or our lives? Again nothing wrong with or wanting to get better or change something that is not productive. Where I think we have such a difficult time in keeping these resolutions is that they focus on the wrong things, our weaknesses. Most of the time we focus on our ability to bring about these changes based on our desire to change and be different. As I was reading the Word this morning I thought it was quite coincidental (spelled G O D) that I was reading from Philippians. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi regarding the “prize” of Christian living and gives us an excellent plan for creating change in our lives that has a positive affect both now and eternally.
“Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.” When we focus on those things that have a negative impact in our lives or behaviors that are prohibiting us from being all God designed us to be it is easy to become discouraged and loose our enthusiasm for maintaining our commitment, or our resolutions. Now I am not suggesting we just accept failure and habits that are not productive for us, I am suggesting though that we, like Paul, rethink how we approach change. Paul encourages Christians to forget what is behind. This instruction includes not only our failures, our sin, our weaknesses it also includes our victories and successes as well. I believe what Paul is really saying to us is we should not allow the failure and weaknesses of the past to drive our thoughts and actions about the future and at the same time we cannot rest on our victories and successes. To focus on our failure and weakness can be discouraging at the least, and to rest on success causes us to become lazy and complacent.
So then how do we resolve to change and grow? First we must do exactly what Paul tells the Philippians, we must close the door, let go, of the past. As the old year fades into history so do our failures and weaknesses. Remember 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” I believe the secret to change is based on who we are in Christ and the strength we gain from that relationship of renewal. What the Bible is telling us is when we focus our goals and plans on being more Christ like our chances for success increase exponentially. Instead of saying I resolve in 2011 to start an exercise program and loose 20 pounds for example, what we should do is say, I resolve in 2011 to honor God by focusing on eating more healthy food and using some of my time with God to be more active. In other words the act of healthy eating and exercise should become a devotion and action that praises God. For example I will eat in a way that honors God and His temple which is my body, and instead of watching TV or sitting around I will go on a walk with God or go to the gym and pray and worship Him as I exercise. By doing this we focus on our strength which is God, and not on our weakness which is our flesh. When we invite God into our plans, all of them, I believe He honors all that we do and our chances for success are increased in a huge way. I also believe that God wants to be involved in all of our lives, even the little stuff, He loves us that much.
We must not forget the other part of Paul’s instruction here “straining toward what is ahead.” In other words it is not easy to achieve perfection, excellence, and true Christ likeness. Now I know we all realize that perfection in this life is impossible, that’s why we needed Jesus to begin with. Paul however does not use that as an excuse because he tells us that even though he had not obtained perfection in this physical world he still pressed on towards that goal. The difference is that when we work at, strain, press on, towards our goals with our true strength which is God and the Holy Spirit which lives in us, we have the power of Heaven and the universe on our side. God becomes our coach and motivator. We must close the door on the past and look forward to what is ahead. If we focus on our failures and weakness they don’t get stronger and better they only cause us to continue to be weak and discouraged. God tells us that He is our strength in weakness and our power in strength. In other words if we focus on Him He is strong where we are not and He will provide and increase our power where we are strong.
As the New Year approaches, I hope that we can all resolve to be all we can be for the glory of God and to become more like Jesus in our day to day “strain.” Don’t let the failures of the past determine your actions in the future, instead let the power and strength of God through the Holy Spirit become your motivation and focus for success.