The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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     What a year 2020 has been! To borrow from President Roosevelt, 2020 is a year that “will live in infamy!” A common theme over the past several months has been “Enough already” as many people want to erase the past twelve months and embrace a new year. Speaking in golfing terms, a friend of mine declared “I want a mulligan for 2020.” In anticipation of the Daylight Saving Time coming to an end several weeks ago and “falling back” into Standard Time, a humorous comment posted on social media offered, “I’m not setting my clock back because who wants to spend another hour in 2020?”
     Despite the many and unique challenges presented in 2020, making an honest and personal assessment of the past year can be a fruitful exercise. Even as retail stores and other businesses inventory their year-end merchandise in early January in order to measure sales results for the preceding year against stated goals and objectives, January is also a good time for Christians to take inventory of their spiritual lives. For instance, if you were presented with a thorough review of your spiritual growth as a follower of Jesus Christ during the past year, how would your progress be measured? How many stars would you receive?
     Based on his own experience, the apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Philippi with some practical steps for improving and attaining the ultimate goal in their spiritual lives (Philippians 3:1-14). These steps remain applicable for us in the present as we see 2021 appearing on the near horizon.

     Employing an outline from an uncertain source for these verses, may I advance Paul’s challenge to Christians to Focus Your Life (v. 13). In the opening pages of his book entitled “This is the Day,” Tim Tebow offers:

“God gives us today as a gift. He wants us to pursue it, not just for selfish ambition but to do something meaningful with it. To use it to grow, to love others well, to help someone, to pursue a dream He’s put on our hearts. This is the day to live without fear of the unknown, without being chained by failure or what-ifs. This is the day to be willing to change, to be open, to believe, to hope. If we don’t attack each day with this intentionality, it’s almost like telling God, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

     Perhaps you have heard the phrase “Jack of all trades and master of none” in reference to someone. Paul was not this kind of person. Rather than declaring “These 10 things I dabble in,” Paul asserted “This one thing I do.” Spiritual growth is accompanied by a focused, purpose-filled life.    
     Christians must also be willing to Forget the Past (v. 13). Paul cried “Forgetting what lies behind…” Like Paul, we should forget our past actions, attitudes, words and deeds that were less than exemplary.  Rather than dwell on past bad behavior and actions, Paul confessed his sins to and received forgiveness from God.
     For Christians striving to achieve the goal of growth in their spiritual life, forgetting how others have wronged you, how you may have failed, and even how you may have succeeded in the past are also necessary. Paul did not spend time plotting revenge against his enemies. Rather, he heeded what he wrote to the church at Corinth “love keeps no record of wrongs.”  Paul did not dwell on failures or shortcomings in the past neither did he rest on his past laurels of planting new churches and mentoring church leaders like Timothy. Putting the past in the rearview mirror by forgetting what lies behind is key for achieving spiritual progress in the New Year.
     Lastly, Paul challenged the Philippian Christians to Forge Ahead (vv.12-14). Paul stated his intentions to “press on.” Paul’s statement depicts a runner straining every muscle in pursuit of the finish line much like a running back who is charging downfield with legs churning, arms pumping, and eyes fixed on the end zone. He will not be denied the goal.

     As you look toward 2021 with the goal of walking closer to the Lord than you may have done in 2020 and living in such a way that others see Jesus in you and are drawn to Him through you, receive Tebow’s challenge “You were made not just to survive today but to thrive in it. I want to encourage you to stop putting off your dreams, your goals, and the purpose God has for you. It’s time to become the person that He has created you to be.” 

                                                        May God richly bless you in the year ahead!