We stand at the threshold of a brand new year—2014. I must confess that I have reached the age where I have reflected on many years past and have looked forward to many new years in the present, as I stood perched on the cusp of another January 1. For those like myself who have witnessed more New Years than I wish to remember, it can seem as if each December 31st carries with it similar emotions.
At the end of each year, we tend to become reflective, casting a backward glance over the last 365 days that raced past us. We recall various victories and memorable moments for which we feel pride. We muster renewed resolve to finally achieve certain accomplishments that have heretofore eluded us, despite our sincerest hopes the previous December 31st. We also tend to peer into the unknown of the coming year, trying to determine what it is we must accomplish before the next year draws to a close.
The problem is that too often this process degenerates into something mechanical and predictable. Anyone who has made New Year’s resolutions to try and lose weight knows what I’m talking about. Every year we make a sincere commitment to lay off the cookies, pass on dessert, and choose more sugar-free options, and we really mean it. Nevertheless, it seems that events conspire against us to ensure that our most fervent aspirations have been thoroughly discarded by mid February. We limp through the remainder of the year rehearsing the plethora of reasons why this was a “bad” year for keeping our promises. Eventually another year looms before us, rendering previous commitments outdated and superfluous. And the cycle continues.
Having experienced this cycle numerous times, we may still go through the annual rite of identifying areas of our life that need to improve, but we know full well that we will have no more success in our new endeavors than we had with the previous ones. As a result, we fail to experience the changes that would make our life much more healthy, effective, and happy. It is tragic when people surrender themselves to living life at a level far below what God intends for them.
The apostle Paul didn’t always get things right on his first attempt. But he never gave up. He once told the Church at Philippi, “Not that I am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). Paul would have been quick to acknowledge that he had not achieved all of his personal goals in the previous year. He had fallen short in some areas. Nevertheless, he remained undaunted. He had a new year before him. His focus was still on the goal. He would charge into the New Year with full confidence that God would grant him the ultimate victory.
I need to be reminded of Paul’s perspective now and then. Sometimes I can become frustrated or disappointed with myself for not losing that weight like I vowed I would, or not getting that project finished or not reading that book or studying that material even though I had an entire year to do so. It is tempting to resign myself to failure and quit trying. Nevertheless, there is a voice that whispers deep within my soul that to do so would be a tragic mistake. I am haunted at the prospect of having so much God wants to do in my life and yet coming away with little. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit within me who absolutely refuses to allow me to become complacent with less than God’s best. So, like Paul, I press on.
This issue is important for several reasons. For one, the way you bring glory to God is to fulfill our God-given design and purpose. If God designed you to be healthy, in shape, and looking your best, then you dishonor your Maker if you resign yourself to remain overweight and out of shape. If God called you to exercise your mind so it is sharp and effective for His service, then you dishonor Him by being intellectually lazy and refusing to read books that could enlarge your thinking. If God called you to write a book or develop a new ministry at your church, or to reconcile a broken relationship, then you dishonor your Creator when you make excuses and do nothing. For this reason, you must push forward and finish what God began in you.
The second reason, however, is because your life is too precious for you to settle for less than your divine capacity. God has a purpose for your life and it is essential that you fulfill it. For example, God might intend for you to lead an important ministry in your church that will see many people come to know Christ. But you have allowed yourself to gain a lot of weight in recent years. You have no energy. You experience various health issues as a result of your excess weight. Eventually you withdraw from the ministry due to poor health and lack of vigor. It’s sad. Because had you followed through on your New Year’s commitment to lose that weight, you would have had the health to accomplish what God intended for you.
Third, others need you to accomplish God’s will. I have learned the sobering reality that when I fail to do God’s will, it costs others. Even if I am willing to forego God’s blessing for my life, I owe it to others to carry through with God’s plan. Again, if I fail to lose the weight God asked me to, then my family, friends, and colleagues suffer. I don’t have the energy to spend time with my family or to undertake new projects. I may be sick more often and ultimately die prematurely, all because I failed to heed God’s call to lose weight when He told me to. There simply is too much at stake for me to be careless with what God tells me to do with my life.
As you enter 2014, what unfinished business do you have? Are there some changes God asked you to make that you have not yet followed through on? Have you grown discouraged? Are you considering giving up? Don’t do it! There’s too much at stake!
Instead, do as the apostle Paul did. Press on! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. May 2014 be your most amazing year yet!