Now we are in a new year. The question is what do you anticipate for 2019? Are you full of enthusiasm? Are you looking forward eagerly to what this new year will bring for you and your family? Or, are you filled with a sense of dread, worried that this year will be worst for you than the last? Can I suggest that your attitude- how you see things, how you frame your mind, your reaction to the events that come, will largely determine for you whether this year 2019 is going to be a good one or not.
Apostle Paul never let circumstances conquer him. He conquered circumstances, what happened in his life did not determine his level of happiness, success or his relationship with the Lord. I want you to notice his attitude, his dedication, his determination which shines through as we look at this passage in the Bible. Look what Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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.” I want to suggest to you that for many of you this needs to be your verse for 2019. Paul is saying that he is not perfect, we are not perfect, Is that okay? Of course. But what did he say- “but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, 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.”
Paul’s words need to reverberate in our hearts and in our minds. And with that I want to give you a few suggestions now on three things that I think will help us to have a much more successful 2019 than we did 2018.
First, we got to recognize the value of time. Let me give you some statistics; in the United States an average man lives 76 years. If we live to that age, we will have spent 3 solid years (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), acquiring an education. We will have spent 7 years, eating. We will have spent 14 years, working for a living. 24 years you will have slept. That means, almost, a third of your life, you will have slept. We will have spent 5 years, riding in automobiles. 5 years talking with each other (communicating). 1-year sick, or, trying to recover from being sick. 3 years reading books, magazines or newspapers. 12 years for personal amusement and that can be anything from watching TV, going to the movies, fishing, playing sports, building model cars, whatever it is, personal amusement. 12 years of your life you spent doing that. Now here is the punch line, lets suppose that you spent every sabbath of your life of those 76 years, that makes a total of 11 months. So, what does that tell us, it tells us, about the brevity of time, it also tells us about the priorities that most Americans have. Bible also teaches us that life is uncertain, time is the one commodity that you never can get back. You can lose fortunes and you can regain them; your house can burn down, and you can rebuild it. You can crash many cars in your life and you can replace them. Time you will never get back again, it can’t be recovered, it can’t be rebuilt. So, what we have-we have this moment. We don’t know anything about the future. All you’ve is this moment- right now. And, we need to live that way that all we have is this moment. And be aware that how precious every single moment is; what we do with it, how we spend it, because I think that is the commodity God has blessed each one of us with. And because of the uncertainty of life 2 Corinthians 6:2, the Bible says, “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Not next week, not tomorrow, now is the time. If you are reading this and you’ve not professed Jesus, you are not walking with Him, now is the time because you know what you can’t say that, “I will do it later. I am not ready to do that yet. You may not have another ‘yet’. Hebrews 3:15 says this, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” If you are reading this, you are hearing God’s voice because God is speaking through His words through His Spirit. And I am not claiming to be a prophet, I am just some guy writing this.
Next, don’t be in bondage to the past. Too many, far too many people are living with their eyes focused on ‘what was’. And that determines that everything that they are going to do. We are so blessed that God gave us a precious gift called memory, the ability to remember things. Your memory can be your friend or your enemy, the greatest blessing or the greatest curse. When you remember, hopefully you will remember pleasant things, you remember great things about this last year, not that you are focusing on that car wreck or that sickness or that passing away of someone. That happened. But, now it’s time to be like Paul and forget what was behind and look to the future. When we are so sad about our past on what happens, those are the things that cripple us, those are the things that keep us from moving forward. But I want you to remember what Paul said, ‘forgetting what is behind’. That’s what we need to do. Don’t look at what was, think about what’s going to be. Don’t look at what happened, know what God is going to do. Of all the people that had a reason to be bitter and upset about ‘what was’, Paul is at the top of the list. Paul’s past was completely misguided; he thought he was doing the right thing when he was killing Christians, thinking this is what God wants. He used his authority to persecute those who were trying to follow Jesus. Paul could have walked around with burden of guilt crippling him rest of his life, never able to be used. But no, Paul said, ‘forgetting what is behind…’. In other words, God I am committed to you, I give it to you, I seek your forgiveness for all the things that I did wrong. We need to do that; God I ask for your forgiveness for everything I messed up in 2018. But I am looking forward now, I am forgetting what lies behind, I am looking forward into 2019. Looking ahead, and I am going to live my life every day to the best that possibly I can from this point on.
And lastly, we need to establish priorities for our lives. Think about what it means, Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, 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.” (Philippians 3:13-14). What does Paul say, “But one thing I do”, all these other stuffs; some people believe that Paul was a tent maker, we know that Paul preached, that’s evident, we know that Paul went over in that whole region and established churches. Paul was a busy guy doing all kinds of stuff. But what Paul says, the top priority of all of the things I do, what is that, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. I forget what’s behind and I move forward. That should be the most important thing to us. The most important thing is the first thing, ‘press on to my calling in Christ Jesus’. Because if you don’t do that, everything else will fail. When you do that first, everything else will come in line. That’s what Paul understood, and he says, my top priority in my life is to press on. What’s the important thing to you, what’s the big thing in your life? Well, it should include few things- drawing near to God, spending time with Him in prayer, reading His Word, seeking His guidance for your life, these are the big things. These are the things that you must take first and put them into your life. Because these are the things which will determine how everything else will work in your life.
We just gone through another Christmas and once again the world is reminded that, ‘you better need to be very early out to the shopping malls on black Friday or you won’t get what you want. What world should be learning that, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). That’s the message. God in His love offered us the most wonderful gift that we could ever receive, a gift beyond measure. God, He gave to us a new life. Now the question is what we do with the gift that God has given us. God has given us this life and that’s all we get- no repeats. The scripture said, it’s appointed for men once to die and then the judgement. One life. What you are doing with that one life? God has given us each one set amount of time to share. God has given us his wonderful gift. And Jesus in this statement said- Go. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jesus gave you time and then said go. We are going into this New Year- it is not about the show, it is about the go. It’s not about how pretty the box is, it’s about what’s inside. It’s not about big party time on the new year, it’s about going around the world in this New Year and tell people about Jesus. Because that’s what matters. How you spend the time which God has given you? Someday, that’s what you will account for. How did you spend the most precious commodity that God has given you- your time? It’s not about the money that you get, it’s not about the friends that you have, it’s the time that you been given, that’s the most precious commodity. Nonrenewable, non-refundable, one time only. How are you spending it? Are you looking back at ‘what was’ or are you looking into 2019 and going in it saying ‘this is one of the best years of my life because I am going to do it with Jesus’? Amen!