In chapter three of his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
As we look to a new year, we must not concentrate on the things of the past. We, like a runner, must look ahead and concentrate on finishing the race and receiving the prize. I am not saying that we don’t remember the lessons of the past. We learn from our mistakes so that we can avoid them when we encounter them in the future. The race we run every day is not a sprint; it is a marathon. In order to win in a marathon, speed is not the primary method for winning. It is a small part of the equation. The real strategy is to maintain a constant pace, avoid obstacles that may slow us down and maintain a laser focus on finishing the race.
Notice what Paul says about what he focuses on. He forgets the past and looks forward to what lies ahead. He continues to press on until he reaches the end of the race. We must be the same in our faith. We must not only run to receive the heavenly prize but we must also run away from those things that will slow us down or ensnare us.
Paul, in chapter six of his first letter to Timothy, writes, “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.”
By pursuing “righteousness and a godly life”, we are able to remain on course and able to avoid the pitfalls of going off course. Paul’s words to Timothy and to the brothers and sisters in Philippi need to ring true for each of us. If we concentrate on living a righteous and godly life, we cannot lose our way and run in the wrong direction. When we lose sight of righteousness, that is when we begin to experience problems in our lives.
I want you to think about the times in 2021 where you have veered off course and found yourself thinking about something else. How was that part of your race? If you are like me, I can tell you that that part of the race was very difficult. When I tried to find my own way, I struggled even more and got more and more lost with each step. Relying on my own strength and sense of moral direction only got me in a worse situation. However, when I realized the error of my way and looked to God for help, things changed in a big way and I was given directions back to the course and placed on a firm footing to start again.
As you celebrate the new year, take time to understand the lessons of your past difficulties and apply them to the rest of your race. Remain dedicated to finishing it and focus only on Him who gives you strength, protection and guidance each and every day. If you just do those things daily and forget the past, you can and will stand firm in His grace in the coming year ahead.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,