I think the following verses are great for meditating on as we move in to a new year.
Philippians 3:12b-14 I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
Paul is sharing with his readers the principle he lives by: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.
Of course, some things are important to remember and are vital to the success of our race. Such as God’s faithfulness in the past and the lessons we have learned along the way, his promises in his Word, and the example of men and women in the Bible. It’s these kinds of things which encourage us to keep running our race, to keep persevering. Paul’s not talking about forgetting these things.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, 2 [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus,” Hebrews 12:1-2a (AMP)
Paul's talking about forgetting the things that would cause him to look back and stay where he is. Paul could have looked at all that he had accomplished with God and for God, such as planting churches, mentoring young Christians, and become content with what he had already done. But this would have stopped him from continuing to move in to what God was calling him to do now. He needed to let go of these things, no matter how good they were at the time, so that he could follow Jesus and the race set before him; accomplishing what God was calling him to now. It also meant forgetting those things he had done; which God had forgiven him for. Not being weighed down by the guilt and shame of having persecuted Christians before his conversion. These things could have hindered his progress in moving forward.
God is calling us on, calling us to move with purpose and determination. If we’re to do so, it will mean letting go of certain things that could hold us back.
Sometimes we can be held back because we want to stay where we are. For example, being happy and feeling comfortable where we are, not wanting life to be any different. Sometimes we can be weighed down by fear, bitterness, anger, guilt, shame etc. These things can keep us from moving forward. If we hold on to our past it can hinder or restrict us in moving forward.
As you read this, is God calling you to forget something that is behind you? To let it go so that you are free to move forward, to move with purpose, and persistence, so you can run the race effectively? Does he want you to receive his forgiveness for past sins in your life? Perhaps you’ve always believed that what you did was unforgiveable, and they have felt like a weight around your neck. God is waiting to forgive you, to release you of your weight, if you will just ask him to.
So Paul chooses to forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead.
Perhaps as you enter a new year, and look ahead, you sense there is something new that God has planned for you. Perhaps you feel you are in a new season – maybe there’s been a change at work, retirement, health, relationships, finances, ministry etc. Have you asked God what it is he has intended for you in the race that’s ahead? Will you choose to strain towards this? Will you put one foot in front of the other, and step out in faith, even though the way ahead may not be totally clear?
We can follow Paul’s example, and run with determination and focus. The race won’t always be easy, there may be hurdles, there may be unexpected twists and bumps in the road. But we can do as Paul did: press on and strain towards what’s ahead. Committed to the race God has called you and me to run.
Paul was able to run his race because he knew Jesus had a hold of him, he was not running his race as a solitary runner. Jesus was right there beside him. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
I also know that I don’t have to run my race alone. I have Jesus beside me. It’s so encouraging to know that Jesus has a hold of me. Nothing’s going to make him let go of my hand, and whatever I’m facing right now I can be assured that Jesus is right there with me. Jesus has taken hold of me and my hand is in his. I sense his closeness. I’m reassured that I’m not in this race alone. When things are hard he’s there to whisper words of encouragement in my ear. When I slip he’s there to catch me. When I fall he’s there to pick me up, dust me down and get me going again. And most importantly he understands because he has already run and completed his race.
“Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].” Hebrews 12:2b-3 (AMP)
So, as we enter a new year, let’s keep persevering, no matter what stage of the race we are on – let’s determine to keep going, to run with purpose, focusing on our Heavenly Father, the one who called us to run this race. Let’s make up our minds today to run and finish well.
To Think About:
What may God be calling you to let go of so that you can run your race without hindrance or unnecessary weight?
What are you straining toward as you run your race? Is God taking you on a new stretch of your journey? Will you follow where he leads?
What difference does it make to your race when you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus?