Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.
— Philippians 3:13
Today is the second day of the new year. If you are like many other believers, you have mentally made a list of things you’d like to change or accomplish in your life and in your walk with God this year. We often call them “New Year’s resolutions” — but for us as Christians, that list should actually consist of Spirit-led commitments before the Lord concerning areas of our lives we need to focus on to further our own personal growth in the months ahead.
So if you haven’t actually taken time to write down the goals God has put on your heart, it would be good for you to do that today. Writing down your vision on paper often helps you nail down what you really want to do. Keep that paper as a reminder to help you stay on track and to gauge your progress throughout the year.
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As I have talked to people over the years, I have found that New Year’s resolutions can often be summarized into the following categories. Of course, people make countless resolutions at the beginning of a new year, but the most common commitments they make are to:
- Lose weight.
- Start exercising.
- Get finances in shape.
- Work on marriage and family relationships.
- Make a deeper commitment to the Lord.
These are noble and admirable resolutions. However, for you to reach any of these goals will require a fierce determination on your part to be a finisher and not just a starter! The truth is, most people have made some of these same commitments in the past and didn’t achieve them. However, as we saw in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, if you have already repented for past failures, you are not to live in the regret of what you didn’t do yesterday. Now it’s time to focus on the future. With the help of the Holy Spirit, this year you can gain victories you’ve never gained before! But to reach these goals, you must be very determined and committed.
This is why the apostle Paul continued to tell us in Philippians 3:13 that we must persistently be “…reaching forth unto those things which are before.” This statement is packed with divine insight, so let’s take a few minutes on this second day of the new year to examine the words in this verse and see how they will help us achieve our goals in the months to come.
When Paul wrote that we must be “reaching forth” to the things before us, he used the Greek word epekteino — an old word that was used to picture runners in a foot race. It is a triple com- pound of the words epi, ek, and teino. The word epi means upon; the word ek means out; and the word teino means to stretch out or to strain forward.
When these three words are compounded into one word as they are in Philippians 3:13, where Paul urged us to be “reaching forth” to the things before us, it portrays the mental image of a runner who is running with all his might toward the finish line before him. As he approaches the goal in front of him, he reaches out (ek) toward the goal before him. Straining with every ounce of his being (teino), he stretches out and presses toward the finish line. At long last, he leans forward to lay hold upon (epi) the goal — the finish line. If the runner is to reach that goal and receive the cherished prize, he must give his very best effort to the race. He can reach the finish line and win the prize, but it will not happen without a firm commitment to be the best — nor will it occur unless he possesses a willingness to push harder than any of the other runners. This prize will go only to those who are the most determined and who have pushed the hardest!
This lets us know that if we are to accomplish our Holy Spirit-inspired goals and win the prize, we’re going to have to focus on those goals — and on God and His Word — as we commit to giving 100 percent of our efforts to achieving the desired result. Therefore:
- If you are to lose weight this year;
- If you are to establish that long-talked-about exercise regimen to get into physical shape;
- If you are to get your finances in shape the way you want to;
- If you are to enhance your marriage relationship;
- If you are to grow in your relationship with the Lord — you are going to have to run your race to win!
These goals are noble, but such aspirations are not attained accidentally. Success doesn’t come without sustained commitment. If you are going to do better this year than you did last year, you must make a decision that by God’s grace, you’re going to maintain your commitment until you reach the finish line and you can say, “I achieved my goal through Christ who strengthened me!” A haphazard, “take-it-easy-and-don’t-be-too-hard-on-yourself ” approach will not cause any significant changes to take place in your life. If you are really committed to fulfilling these objectives, you must ask the Holy Spirit for His help and then start reaching forward toward these goals with every ounce of your heart, mind, soul, body, and strength.
This is precisely why I encourage you to write down your goals! When a runner runs, he keeps his eye focused on the finish line before him. That finish line is always in his sight and gives him direction as he runs. As longs as he keeps his gaze fixed on the goal before him, he runs in a straight line. But even the best runner with the best intentions will wander off course if he has no visible goal to keep him on track.
Similarly, you need clearly stated goals. So I must ask you: Can you articulate your goals? Have you written them down for this year? Today is your golden moment to begin “reaching forth” to the wonderful possibilities that God has in store for you! If you’ll determine to focus on Him and on His plan for your new year, the Holy Spirit will empower you to make it all the way to the finish line as a winner!
The second part of Philippians 3:13 could be interpreted:
“You need to keep your eyes on the goal before you — straining with every ounce of your being to reach that goal, even if your success demands that you push harder than you’ve ever pushed before. This prize will go only to those who push the hardest. So give it your best shot!”
This new year is your gift from God to achieve those dreams and longings you’ve put off again and again. Now is the time for you to commit yourself to the race and start running forward with the power of the Spirit to lay hold of the goals you and God have set for your life this year!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I am so grateful that You have gifted me with this new year and this new opportunity. I thank You for a fresh start to be more fruitful and to accomplish more for Your glory this year than I did last year. Help me set goals that are realistic and attainable so I can reach them by the power of the Holy Spirit assisting me. I ask You to strengthen me with might in my inner man to apply the determination and commitment to reach these goals. I praise You for the supernatural ability at my disposal according to the power that is already at work in me through Christ. I look to You to empower me as I press forward toward the finish line before me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I can do all things through Christ who empowers me! I finish what I start, and I accomplish whatever I set my heart to do. I do not set goals based merely on my desire, but I listen to the direction of the Holy Spirit as He guides me in setting goals for this year. He knows me better than I know myself, and He knows what I should achieve this year and where I should apply my efforts. I run my race this year with commitment, determination, and diligence. At the end of this year, I will say with a satisfied heart: “With God’s help, I have achieved each goal I set out to accomplish!”
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What goals have you set for this year? Do you know your goals so well that you could articulate them to someone else if that person asked you what they are? As an experiment, why don’t you sit down with someone you trust and see how well you can articulate what is on your heart to achieve before the year’s end?
- Have you written your goals down where you can read them, review them, and gauge how well you are doing in achieving them? If you know your goals, write them down and put them in a visible place — such as on your refrigerator or on the mirror you use every morning — so you can be reminded of the commitments you have made for this year.
- I assure you that you’ll do better at achieving your goals if you make them a part of your daily prayer. How can you help yourself remember to do that? Perhaps you could write down those goals and place them on your refrigerator or on a mirror you use each morning. It might also be good for you to write them on a piece of paper that you keep in your Bible or prayer journal so your goals are easily accessible for you to pray over each day.