I love the New Year ( I also love the Christmas Holiday season too). I love how it reminds us of a “Second Chance.” It is a time to reflect on the past year and then to look forward to a New Year with a fresh start! Now, a person could do that at any time of the year, but the changing of the year just lends itself to starting anew.
The one thing that I learned as an adult is that things happen when I make goals and plans. Yes, there are those opportunities that fall into our laps on occasion by they are the exceptions. We make progress in our lives when we establish goals and then follow through with a plan to move toward that goal. There is a lot a truth in the saying, “Those that fail to plan, plan to fail.” So what are your goal and plans for 2016? If you have not made any, let me encourage you to set goals for the New Year!
Shortly after I became a Christian I came a across the verse that became my life verse. It is a verse that I will often scribble below my signature on cards, letters and even sometime in electronic communications. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12–14) I love these verses because they encourage me to push forward to realize everything that I could be for Jesus Christ. I want you to notice that Paul is very realistic in his expectation. He realizes that he is not perfect and that he has not arrived. One of the first motivations for making effective goals is having a realistic perspective of yourself and then setting realistic goals. Paul was motivated by the knowledge the he has a lot of room for improvement. I believe that this perspective also helped him to leave past disappointments and failures in the past. It is through God’s mercy that he is able to move on from past failures and through God’s grace that he is able to anticipate progress in the future. And through all of this he points us to the benefit of a relationship with Jesus Christ. The gospel does more than just clean us up and bring us into the family of God. It continues to motivate us to give our best to be the kind of Christian we can be through Christ’s power working in us.
One of the greatest deterrents to making goals is our past failures. We often think I have failed in the past why should I try in the future. But what we often miss is the progress that we made even if we did not complete the goal. There have been times that I tried to complete a certain Bible reading program in a year. And at the end of the year, I did not complete it. Some look at that and see failure. I look at it and see progress. While I did not complete the goal, I did make progress by reading the Bible throughout the year even with the days I missed. The goal has been a constant challenge and as a result I have benefited from it.
And so like Paul, we should be “straining” to move forward in our spiritual growth and ministry for Christ. I wonder if Paul is picturing a runner giving his best at the end of a race, even to the point of stretching out his body to cross the finish line to win the race. So, what areas in your life do you need to stretch yourself to improve? Go ahead make a goal and then work out a plan and put it into practice. You will be surprised what you can change when you set a goal!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson