As we journey into a new year, many of us will make resolutions that we will strive to keep. Good luck! Seriously, will look to change our image or some other aspect of our person. Yet, have we took time to contemplate what the Lord might be leading us to do?
Paul, in Philippians 3:12-16, provides four attributes that we would do well to incorporate into our lives going into the new year. In Philippians, Paul confronts two distinct problems in the church at Philippi, false teachers and apathy. The latter was causing people to have the wrong mindset about their spiritual condition. The former was causing division and disillusionment among the congregants. We face many of these same problems today. After delivering the verdict of the problems this church was experiencing, Paul offers the solution to the problems. The church needed to follow Christ. Here are four points from Philippians 3:12-16 that can help us to resolve to follow Christ in the new year.
Point One: We must be truthful in our assessment of where we are in our walk with Christ. Paul declares, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected.” (3:12) Consider what Paul is stating here. At this time, he is at the final stage of his life. He is imprisoned in Rome. By now, he has accomplished much for the cause of Christ. He has led three great missionary journeys. He has planted various churches throughout the known world. He has been beating and jailed often. However, he declared that he has not reached full perfection. In other words, he has more work to do. How much more should we have this same assessment of our own lives? Jerry Rice, considered by many to be the greatest football player of all time, was known for his rigorous training regimen. Many of his peers were awed by the fact that he trained like a rookie even into the latter years of his career. This is Paul’s point in this text. We should never fool ourselves into believing that we have arrived or have perfected this Christian life. We will never experience true perfection until we one day see our Lord face to face. Until that day, we must continue to contend for the gospel of Christ.
Point Two: We must forget the past and move toward the future. Paul states, “but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” (3:13) Paul here reminds us that we cannot be hindered by the past. Rather, we must press toward the future. What was Paul’s past? Take a look at Philippians 3:4-6. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, literally in his own words, blameless. He was also a persecutor of the church, a fact that would undoubtedly plague him for the rest of his life. If anyone had cause to celebrate the past, it was Paul. However, if anyone had cause to be ashamed of the past, it was Paul. Paul was adamant in his call for believers to let go of the past. Therefore, he modeled it in his own life. How has your past achievements and/or failures hindered you from serving the Lord? Are there some aspects in life that you need to let go of this new year in order to go forward with God?
Point three: We must press forward toward the goal that Christ has called us to. Paul declares, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:14) Paul calls for us to pursue the goal of serving Christ wholeheartedly. Here is the picture of the foot race that most of Paul’s original audience would have understood. He is calling for us to run the race of the Christian life fervently, as if our very lives depended on it. Ever wonder why brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted around the world are typically very fervent in serving Christ. Because they know firsthand what it means to run the race as if your life depends on it. We ought to serve the Lord in this new year with the same fervency, as if our very lives depended on it. We ought to leave all the baggage behind and go all out for the Lord.
Point Four: We must possess the right mindset. It has been said that 90% of the game of life is played between the ears. Paul declared, “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind.” (3:16) Literally, fervency starts with the right thinking. Romans 12:2 reads, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This is a daily process. A daily surrendering of our minds to the word and will of God. It is a discipline that must be incorporated into our lives. How can we do this? By incorporating the daily routine of prayer and the Bible into our lives. Then, making a conscience decision to serve the Lord framed by the Bible and prayer. Everything starts with the Bible and prayer. You might be thinking, hey that’s easy for you to say. Listen! Just start where you are at. “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” (3:15) “Paul recognizes that Christians, though proceeding along the same path, may be at different stages of progress and should be faithful to as much of God’s truth as they understand.” (Homer Kent Jr.) You do not have to be super Christian to make a difference for Christ. Just start where you are at. Just do it!
So what is a good starting point for the new year? Take an assessment of where you are spiritually. What is good and can be carried over into the new year? What do we need to leave behind in 2018? Together, let us make 2019 the year of running with fervency in order to serve the Lord. Ready, set, go!