Welcome, 2017. I am hearing this sigh of relief from most people I encounter these first few weeks in the new year. It seems that 2016 provided many experiences that have become almost notches on a survivor’s belt. “Yes, I weathered THAT storm! Whew!” or “I hope 2017 isn’t anything like last year.” Some have even proclaimed they’ll never be the person they were before 2016; life altered them that deeply.
As we walk into any new year, but especially this one, it seems we walk through the tunnel of chaos. One side contains the cheerleaders, rooting us on to victory, fresh goals, heightened, unrealistic aspirations, and, in short, a revolution of all we were and were not in the preceding year. But on the other side stands the fans of “Camp No Guilt”. Their chant fills the air with “Don’t listen to all that goal stuff!” or “Do away with resolutions!” and “Leave guilt behind! You are great just as you are!” And there we find ourselves, standing with the cartoonish bewilderment, swirling over our heads, thinking “Make it stop!”
The grandest question of all in this push toward a better you should be this: What does GOD expect of me?
I do believe we will find God somewhere in the middle of that chaos. I envision the walk on dry land with the towering Red Sea pushing back, threatening to cave in at any moment, but the faith of His people holding God at His Word. Faithful. Forward.
Faithful Forwardness doesn’t always include a total awareness of what you are walking toward, right? Perhaps out of insecurity or, at times, pride, I wear the badge of “Fake It ‘Til You Make It”. In other words, I may not have it all figured out just yet, but the onlookers and naysayers will not be able to sniff out any fear or hesitancy in me! This does not mean I should never expect to stumble along the way or that I won’t seek counsel from those who are a little farther along in the journey. But it does mean that I fully recognize:
- God expects me to keep moving forward. If something deep inside you isn’t motivating you to take another step or if life has knocked you down a few notches, stop now and ask the Lord for some inspiration. Then pick yourself up and at least pick up the phone. God will show you who to call for some accountability within your circle of friends, family, or leaders. (James 1:12-18)
- God knows I am human. Let me tell you that this perfectionist has to have consistent mental conversations with my own thought life, reminding myself I may not always exceed my own lofty expectations. A mistake is inevitable now and then. And the mercy of God is ever on the ready, fresh with the next morning’s sunrise. (1 John 1:5-10)
- God’s mercy and grace do not justify my fleshly desires. Anything in my life that does not bring glory to God must go. Sometimes that guilty conscience is working together with the Holy Spirit to convict my mind, body, and spirit of straying too far. This can be with everything that we might (falsely) categorize as “the big sins” to daily habits that sabotage spiritual discipline. Such desires, habits, and addictions must be weeded out, one at a time, with the Holy Spirit’s enabling to grow us up spiritually. (1 Peter 1:13-16, 4:1-11)
- What I choose to do in obedience to God’s Word and His Spirit’s leading tells the world all about Who I’m serving! Am I moving toward excellence? Do I possess joy on the inside that is revealed on the outside? Or have I given myself a permission slip to fail because, eh, His grace is sufficient. “God’s got me! He understands me!” Such an attitude only dilutes the potency of Christ’s sacrifice to pay for such amazing grace. No, better is…better. (1 Peter 3: 13-17, 1 John 2:15-17)
- I am to run MY race. Never before have we had so very many opportunities to compare ourselves with one another. But what does that accomplish? If comparison motivates us to run harder, keep going, and remain faithful, great! But for most people, comparison steals joy and, ultimately, costs achievement. We see that we aren’t doing what “he’s” doing in the way that “he’s” doing it and determine in a moment of weakness to drop out. Stay in your lane and run your race! You won’t answer for his race and he won’t answer for yours. God will evaluate if you were faithful with your assignment.
Paul urged the Philippian believers, and now you and me today, to “press toward the mark for the prizeof the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). The words “press toward” are from a Greek word that pictures a foot racer. This image is of a racer who is pressing forward so hard and is so stretched out that his entire body is arching forward as his arms reach ahead to grasp the goal before him. ♦
What is it that you are racing toward? If it is the prize set before you by God Himself, even a short term goal for the next days, weeks or months, you can know that it is worth pressing forward! If you stumble along the way, get back up! There’s still a race to run, a finish line to cross, and a prize to achieve! Fake it ’til you make it but keep being faithful and moving forward, forgetting that which is behind you.
Moving forward at a faithful speed,
♦Renner, Rick. Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Vol 1. Teach All Nations Publishing. ©2003, 24th Edition.