We are starting a new year. What do you anticipate for this year? Are you full of enthusiasm, eagerly looking forward to what each day will bring? Or are you filled with dread, worried that 2011 will be worse for you than 2010? Your attitude, your frame of mind, and your reaction to events will largely determine whether 2011 is a year of victory or a year of defeat.
The apostle Paul was never one to let circumstances conquer him. Rather, with God’s help, he was determined to win the victor’s crown. Listen as his attitude, dedication, and determination shine through in these words found in Philippians 3:12-14.
With Paul’s words fresh in our minds, here are some suggestions to help us be our best in 2011.
I. RECOGNIZE THE VALUE OF TIME
A. First of all, the value of time is very important.
How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade.
How do we value ONE MONTH? Ask a mother whose baby arrived prematurely.
How do we value ONE WEEK? Ask an editor of a weekly magazine.
How do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who lies terminally ill in a hospital.
How do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who missed a plane and a very important engagement can never be rescheduled.
How do we value ONE SECOND? Ask on Olympic medalist. Ask someone who barely avoided a car accident. Ask someone who is saying goodbye to a loved one for the last time.
B. The Bible often speaks of the brevity of life.
It compares life to the weaver’s shuttle rapidly going back and forth; to the shadows of summer that quickly disappear; to grass which grows, dies, and then is burned.
C. The Bible also teaches us that life is uncertain.
Time is like a valuable commodity in a very delicate vessel. The vessel might break at any moment, and we might lose everything. We have no assurance of thefuture, but we have this moment—and that is all that we really have.
Because of life’s uncertainty, the Bible says, “Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation.“ The writer of Hebrews says, “When you hear the name of the Lord, don’t harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). Because life is uncertain, we must take advantage of the time that we have.
II. LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND
We are special beings in that God has given us the ability to remember. Memory can be your friend or your enemy. When you look back on the past year, I hope you will remember some pleasant things, but you’ll probably also remember some unpleasant moments.
At times we may dwell upon the negative and begin feeling sorry for ourselves. Maybe this past year was a time of great transition in your life. Perhaps your children grew up, married, and left home, and now you’re struggling with an empty nest. Or maybe you lost your job and are having difficulty making ends meet. Maybe a loved one died and you’re dealing with grief and loneliness. Or maybe last year sin got a real hold on your life, and now you feel the burden and guilt of that sin.
Past events and experiences can cripple us and hold us hostage to our pasts. The apostle Paul said, “I forget about what lies behind.” Paul could have been burdened by guilt over his past actions. He had persecuted the church. He had used his authority to kill Christians. By his own admission he said, “I am the chief of sinners.” He could have been crippled by this tremendous burden of guilt, never becoming the great apostle whose words and life teach us still.
But Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind . . .” In other words, “God, I commit it to you. I seek your forgiveness for all the sins of the past, and I look forward to what lies ahead. And right now I’m going to live today the best I can.” At the start of a new year, this is an important prayer for us as well.
III. SET PRIORITIES
To make 2011 a good year, we must establish clear priorities. Paul says it this way: “This one thing I do.” Paul obviously did more than one thing. He made tents. He preached sermons and established churches. He healed the sick. He wrote letters. He did many different things. But he said, “The top priority in my life is to press on toward the goal for the prize for which God has called me.”
Paul’s words remind us of what Jesus said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
During the past Christmas season, the world was reminded again that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16). In His love, God offered us the most wonderful gift we could ever receive. How will we respond to this gift? Listen to this story:
Once there was an old beggar woman who ran out of money. She was very poor and couldn’t pay her bills. Her landlord had threatened to throw her out if she didn’t soon pay her rent.
She had only a candle, and on Christmas Day she warmed her hands over the candle’s flame. When she heard a knock at her door, she was afraid to answer for fear that the landlord had come to throw her out of the humble cottage.
Blowing out her candle, she sat quietly in the dark and waited for the visitor to leave. A few days later she learned that the knock on the door had been the knock of a friend coming to bring her enough money to pay her rent and her bills.
How many times have we heard the gentle knock of the Savior, who wants so much to come in and free us from the burden of sin, but we have ignored His knocking?
Today God’s invitation is offered to all who will accept and receive Him as Lord of their lives. Jesus came as a baby in the manger, but He also came as the Redeemer, and today He waits patiently to walk with us into the new year.
General Conference Ministerial Association