A new year is before us, full of possibility and opportunity: 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. What will you do with these minutes, hours, days?
This is typically the time of year to make resolutions. We resolve to change— to lose weight, to exercise more, to be a better person, to dispense with bad habits and begin good ones.
If we are interested in keeping our resolutions this year, we should learn from the apostle Paul and his example in Philippians 3:13.
I. FORGET THE PAST
A. “Forgetting what is behind” (verse 13). Paul is talking about forgetting in such a way that the past—good or bad—will have no negative effect on one’s present spiritual growth and condition.
1. Forget past wrongdoing that could paralyze you with guilt and despair. Paul definitely remembered past misdeeds. As a persecutor of the church, he had much that he wanted to leave behind
2. Forget the accomplishments that might make you complacent. Paul didn’t want to dwell on his spiritual progress. This might have made him content with where he was, satisfied with his spirituality. He realized he had a long way to go if he wanted to know Christ fully and completely.
B. Put previous failures behind us to keep our new resolutions. Sometimes we make resolutions only to find that we have soon broken them. Research suggests that 80 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions won’t keep them for more than a month.
Maybe our failure to keep past resolutions makes us hesitant to make any for 2011. But if we follow Paul’s example, we will forget our past failures.
II. IMPLEMENT A PLAN
A. “Straining toward what is ahead” (verse 13). “Straining” refers to continuous concentration, like that of a runner in a race whose ceaseless personal exertion and intense desire help to achieve the hoped-for victory. This phrase paints a picture of a runner with body bent over, eyes fastened on the goal, never giving a backward glance. In other words, this runner is focused and determined. Once we decide on a plan of action, we must pursue it with great exertion and intensity.
B. Concentrating on a solid plan will help us keep our resolutions. Set some goals with the following questions in mind:
1. Will this goal glorify God? The Bible says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). God wants your goals or resolutions to bring Him glory. Goals might include: spending more time with your children, volunteering to lead a ministry at church, continuing your education, exercising regularly, purchasing a house, or getting married. None of these goals are necessarily right or wrong. The question is: How will our goals glorify God?
2. Will this goal make you more like Jesus? As we make resolutions for ourselves, this is really one of the ultimate questions. Would Jesus spend His time this way? Would Jesus have this as a goal? These are excellent questions to consider.
3. Will this goal make a positive contribution to the world? Some goals aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re just not important. One way to evaluate a goal is to measure its impact on others. Will this goal make a positive contribution to your family, co-workers, church, community, or the world?
4. Will this goal enhance my ability to witness? Everything we do with other people is an opportunity to witness. Do your goals for 2011 intentionally involve you with people so that you can be a witness for Christ? Do your goals specifically get you involved with people who need to know Jesus?
III. ACTION PLAN
Once your resolutions have been made, they must be translated into action. A lot of us set worthy goals, but then nothing happens. For success, try organizing your activities around the following categories:
A. Personal life. Many of us don’t spend enough time developing our personal lives—our spiritual well-being, our prayer life, our fitness level, our emotional health, and our willingness to grow in wisdom and knowledge.
B. Family. It is important that our goals and activities include our families and strengthen these relationships.
C. Church. When we don’t participate in the services and activities of our church, we get out of balance. We can’t be all that God wants us to be without being involved in the family of God.
D. Work. Work is a part of life. If we do everything for the glory of God, we will put forth our best effort at work.
E. World. We are citizens living in communities. We have a responsibility to the people around us to be good citizens and to look for ways to serve our communities.
IV. SOME POINTERS
We’ve seen that Paul’s methods for reaching a goal include forgetting the past, developing a plan, and moving toward what lies ahead. Now let’s consider how to best fulfill our resolutions.
Paul says, “I press on toward the goal” (verse 14). If we are going to press on toward our resolutions in 2011, we might want to remember these useful tips:
A. Go slow! It’s unlikely that we can change everything all at once. The key to keeping our resolutions is to make just a few and stick to them. It’s better to work on a little at a time and succeed than to try to do everything at once and accomplish little or nothing.
B. Ask the Lord for help. Say frequently, “With God’s help, I will use this year to improve myself in this area of my life.” That’s really what resolutions are all about. With God’s help, we seek to become more like Jesus, our example. He wants to help us become more like Him.
C. If you break a resolution, don’t give up! You don’t have to wait until January 2012 to start over. Remember Paul’s words: “forgetting what is behind.” God is continually making us new. If you have a relapse, talk to God about it and then get back in gear.
Starting a new year by making resolutions can help us achieve better health, stronger families, and a closer walk with God. By making resolutions, we say, “I want to be better prepared for heaven by living a more godly life right now.”
General Conference Ministerial Association