Straining Toward the Goal

I find myself almost every mid-January feeling lousy about how its only taken 2 weeks for me to let my New Year’s resolutions fade into the background. This January has been no different. I think I’ve excersized only twice in the past 15 days and let’s just say I have done my part to finish off all the stale Christmas cookies. Really…I have no self-control. I also have lost patience with the kids and not been faithful with my time in the Word.
So I started thinking, “What if my goals are all wrong?” I know that I set some really good ones. And as I mentioned in my previous post, I fully intend to approach these goals with an air of grace. And so, I still know that I’ve got time and freedom to reach my goals. Heck, 2 days of excersize is a whole lot more than what took place in 2011!
I read Phillippians 2:13-21 today, and this is the famous straining towards the goal passage. I thought it was rather fitting for how I was feeling. And for all the times I have read this passage on the back of a field day or Christian basketball t-shirt, I saw a few new things today.
Paul’s goal is knowing Jesus and the power of His ressurrection, sharing in his sufferings, and becoming like Him in his death. And, apart from learning the guitar and losing a few pounds, my New Year’s resolutions aren’t that far off from his. As he talks about reaching for this goal he gives some good advice: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead.” How often do I let my past failures and hurts immobilize me. I can get stuck in this endless cycle of focusing on how bad things have been or how wrong I’ve been, and forget about all the ways in which God has saved me and redeemed me in those situations. Or, even on how awesome I used to be, or am, and how if I just muster up enough goodwill and motivation, I can do it all by myself. And in either situation, I forget how God will actually be the One doing the work in me. I think the enemy loves to have me dwell on the past and keep me from moving forward and drawing closer to God and those who are in community around me. Romans 12:9 comes to mind: “Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” Phillippians 2:16 echoes this, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (That being freedom in Christ.)
And Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
God will take me, just like Jeremiah, through some hard times-some painful times, in fact. But his plan for me is for wholeness, and for a hopeful future. I love meditating on “wholeness”. Almost immediately my shoulders relax and I feel at peace with almost anything or situation. “Wholeness” includes healing and restoration and joy. Thank Jesus that is in His plan for me.
A second bit of good advice from Paul: processing life in any other way, without focusing on that future hope, is immature. And that God will reveal that immaturity to us. Hmm…need I say more. Thank you, Jesus, for revealing my immaturity, for revealing to me when I am focusing on the past and not focusing on my future hope and on Your plan for me. I love that my God doesn’t just leave me stuck. Even in those moments of resigning to failure and even more those moments when I am focusing on all my worldly value in my good works, He still saves me. He pulls me out of the pit.
And the third thing that sticks out to me today in Phillippians: Paul encourages us not to do it alone. Our goal setting and reaching, even if we are doing it right and focusing on our future hope in knowing Jesus more and more, cannot be attained without the Body. We are encouraged to “imitate” and keep our “eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” In community, we hopefully find ourselves surrounded with fellow believers who are straining toward that future hope, who are wanting to share in His sufferings. Hopefully, in Christian community we are also speaking truth in love to each other and therefore, sharpening each other and moving together towards that goal. Paul gives a warning, explaining that there are those who have set their minds on earthly things, not that future hope and glory, and have rather put their glory in their shame and sinfulness. These people he says, “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Through a loving and truth-filled community, firmly rooted in the truths of Scripture, we can help each other along the way, so that too is not our end.
And so, as I think about my own goals and ideas for the future, really all I want is to know Him more and to share in His sufferings. So I put the past behind. I will try to not fixate on what is behind me, but to move forward, focusing on the promises He has for me in His word. And I will be vulnerable with the safe community around me, so that I can grow and walk in the examples of love and patience and discipline around me.
“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” Phillippians 4:1

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