I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.
Philippians 3:12-16 (CEV)
We are sliding into the last days of 2018, and looking forward to 2019. Good business managers know that it is important to take an inventory each year; to evaluate what has worked and what has not worked, and to make a plan for the next year based on this information. This morning, Rev. Singleton encouraged us to take an inventory of ourselves.
If you notice the first sentence of the scripture above, Paul says "I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect." I think most of us can relate to Paul. I know I can. In some ways, I don't want to look back over this year. I am afraid that when I do, I won't like what I find. But, I also know that my pastor is right. Just like business managers look at the past in order to go forward, we have to spend some time evaluating ourselves so that we can be better in the coming year.
First, we need to determine what we have done that has not pleased God. If we find sins in our past, we need to ask for forgiveness. First John 1:8-9 says: "If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away." So, once we have confessed our sins, they are taken away. We don't need to carry them into 2019.
We may need to leave more behind than our past sins. We need to take a hard look at what prevents us from giving God our very best. There may be habits, activities, or even people that we need to break free from. We may need to reconcile with someone, and not bring hard feelings into this brand new year.
When we've rooted out the things that could hold us back, we need to make sure we have given God praise for the good things this past year has brought us. In Psalm 50:23, Asaph writes of God: "The sacrifice that honors me is a thankful heart." And then, when we have praised Him for our victories and our blessings, we can look forward to the blessings and victories that he has for us in this new year!
As Christians, we have to live differently than others. We are held to a higher standard. Paul likens it to a race. Rev. Singleton likened it to a "full-court press." Having a basketball-playing son, I know that this means we never let our guard down. We don't get to wait at the other end of the court for our chance to get the ball. We are working for it every minute. We are not waiting for the good life. We are living it to the fullest each day! The Journey is the Joy! So as we step into this new year, let's walk with purpose in the way that Jesus leads us.
Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.
Hebrews 12:1-2a (CEV)
This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 (NASB)