My friends, I don’t feel I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. All of us who are mature should think in this same way.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear that little voice telling me “You have arrived,” it isn’t from heaven. It’s just my phone telling me I made it to the destination I entered! If you haven’t “arrived” either, you don’t have to be depressed. The Apostle Paul started churches all over the known world and wrote half the New Testament, but he could say the same thing. Our earthly life is a road trip, not a final destination. The year 2020 was a rough ride for everyone, but a new horizon is before us. What changes would you like to see in your life by this time next year? How do you imagine those changes are going to come? Is it godly to be content with where you are in life? Or should we always be striving for improvement? How do we balance these two ideas? From Paul’s directions to the church he started at Philippi, here are some ways to help you choose a better route for yourself in 2021 as you make the Apostle Paul your guide.
Don’t dwell on the past: you’ll get off-track
The most common type of car accident is called a “sideswipe.” It most often happens when you try to navigate without looking ahead. Your eyes are distracted by the rearview mirror or the view to one side of your car. Distractions in life can sideline us just as they do on the road. Paul looked at life as a race with a prize. In a race, a driver has no time to dwell on what’s in the rearview mirror. Race cars often don’t even have side mirrors. Professional drivers watch the road ahead intently. In fact, they have to look far ahead of where they are. They only glance rapidly at other cars or the terrain. When Paul said he “forget(s) what is behind (in order to) struggle for what is ahead,” (Philppians 3:13) it was in that spirit — it’s not as if he literally forgot his past, learning nothing from it. But he did not dwell on life’s rear-view mirror. He was fixated on that prize far ahead of him. If you really want to win, you must consistently do the things that are part of winning. Set your priorities first and maintain them. You don’t want to spend too much time on things that distract you or keep your mind fixated on your past.
Stick to the travel agenda: “redeem the time”
Have you ever had to give family or friends an ETA (estimated time of arrival) only to be delayed? If you do not keep your arrival as a first priority, temptations along the way can waste your time. It would be fun to stop and visit the national park on the way to your relative’s home, but it would be better to enjoy such an experience with her. On the other hand, a cross-country journey with your family may be made much more of a treasured memory if you prioritize the togetherness and opportunities along the way over the destination. It is the goal that determines how you spend the journey. If your goal is to be in God’s will, you’ll pay attention to how you spend your time. (See Ephesians 5:15-17) This year is a journey, and how seriously you take your goals will determine how you spend each day. Your time is a resource and you’re a steward of it. “Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.” (John Piper, “Don’t Waste Your Life”, p. 10)
Maintain your balance: lay aside excess baggage
A family road trip is different from a drive to work during rush hour. Both are very different from an auto race. Just bringing up the different experiences helps you feel the different emotions associated with them: Relaxation. Tension. Excitement. You can reduce fear and anxiety and other negative emotions just by having a plan and sticking to it. Your spiritual life is like that, too. Scripture challenges us to “lay aside every weight” (Hebrews 12:1-2) — everything that hinders progress toward cherished goals needs to go. By faith, apply the principles in God’s Word to your life.
You’ll have better focus, experience less confusion, waste less time and feel better about yourself if you have “SMART” goals. They need to be
•Specific and well-defined,
•Measurable so that you can see progress,
•Attainable but challenging to you,
•Revealed to you from God’s Word, and
If your goals don’t have eternal value, you need to re-evaluate your goals. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to be what God wants you to be. Turn your goals into godly plans, then work out that plan, taking worthwhile risks. Step out in faith. What you believe will determine what you do. What you do will determine what God does in your life.