Maybe this last year was another year of failed resolutions and disappointments. Likely there were some highs and lows, but perhaps it didn’t amount to what we had hoped. Perhaps we are tired of trying harder to get nowhere. But there is hope.
The way to progress is not to try harder in the flesh but to believe stronger in the spirit. The flesh is weak (Mark 14:38), and fortifying it through resolutions will only get us so far. We need the power of the Spirit of God working in our hearts and transforming our minds to provide lasting change. Discipline is only as good as the faith of the person exerting it. May God increase our faith as we rest in Him Who is the Faithful One!
Paul had done a lot of ministry by the time he wrote the letter to the Philippians. Yet he correctly understood that even he had not arrived yet. He was still short of being perfected. Did he give up? Did he lose hope? Did he decide to make some fleshly resolutions and simply try harder? Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s resolutions were of faith and centered on Christ. He accepted the fact that he was a work in progress. He didn’t beat himself up for his imperfections, nor did he gloat in his successes. The sum of everything to Paul was Christ Who was by faith sanctifying him and Who would one day perfect him (Galatians 2:20). So his focus was not on perfecting himself but on the God Who would eventually perfect him. By the end of this year of service to the Lord, hopefully he could look back and see how God had conformed his heart and mind to be more in line with the character and mind of Christ.
Paul emphasizes forgetting what was behind. He is not saying to forget all things past, for we are to remember the sacrifice of our Lord and how God has worked in the Scriptures, even meditating upon them. In his letters, Paul references the past many times, particularly as he shares his own conversion experience. Paul’s point is not to forget the past altogether but to stop dwelling on past sin, defeat, and failures. We must make an intentional choice to leave the garbage and disappointments behind, for they can single-handedly cripple us from effective service and ministry. We are to fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It accomplishes nothing of spiritual value to dwell on sin, hurt, suffering, or difficulty. We are to dwell on Christ and look forward to what He is going to do. We should enter each successive phase of life with hope of what God can do, not living mired in failures of the past. There are things that we, like Paul, wish we could have done differently, but Paul doesn’t dwell there. He chooses to reach forward and press on toward the goal. He is focused on the future such that his future hope impacts his present. We need to live in light of finishing our race in Christ strongly even if we have had a few, or many, poor early stages. We must reach for the prize, running as if we want to win (1 Corinthians 9:24). Each day, we must set our focus by faith on the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This is a call toward holiness, growth, sanctification, and maturity in Christ. It is a call toward eternal priorities, and it is a call toward putting our faith in what God can do.
If we want to suffer another year of failed resolutions, we can dwell on the past, stay mired in sin, and not even attempt to reach forward. But we must press on in faith, trusting God that He will cause all things to work for our good. May God’s glory be lifted high in our lives this upcoming year, and may we let our future hope of glory impact how we live each day in the present. May God give us strength to press on and reach forward, and may God grant us faith to believe that God is able even when we are very unable. One day, by faith, we will reach our goal, but it will only be because of Christ at work in and through us. To Him be the glory both now and on that wonderful day.