Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
2021 is a year now written in history. 2022 is a blank page, a clean slate. I love a clean sheet of paper, a new page in my planner or my journal. A new page is full of possibilities. I think that must be why we celebrate New Year’s Day. It signifies “out with the old, and in with the new.” It’s a day of forgetting the past and looking forward to the future. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, however. I found that I would be full of good intentions, but they never seemed to last. In fact, I would often cast them aside before the month of January ended. Sound familiar?
Instead, I set New Year’s Prize Goals. In addition to blank pages, I love prizes. Prizes are something to look forward to, little things that brighten my day or encourage me in my endeavors. Sometimes the thought of a prize, like one piece of chocolate at the end of a hard day, is enough to keep me motivated. Several years ago, one of my spiritual mentors introduced me to the concept of quietly sitting before the Lord during the time between Christmas and New Year’s to take stock of the year behind me and prayerfully look forward to the upcoming year. This is not always an easy process, seldom accomplished in one sitting, but over the years I’ve come to look forward to this special time of planning with the Lord. And I find that setting prize goals with God always results in forward momentum. It is my prize time, and Philippians 3:12-14 is an important passage for me as I establish my prize goals. Here’s how I do it:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect”
As I begin, I recognize that God is in the process of refining me, conforming me to the image of His Son, and this his process will continue until He takes me home. And so, I press on, I persevere, and I keep going. To press on carries with it the metaphor of pursuing, as in a race, and to speed on earnestly. Jesus took hold of me, and He has a purpose in my life. I want to intently pursue Jesus and to follow Him with all my heart. Troubles and heartaches are never a reason to quit; joys and happiness are never a reason to grow complacent. As I begin a new year, I need to do so with my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith.
“But one thing I do”
Then, with my Bible and my journal open, I spend time simply sitting still and quieting my mind and heart before the Lord. I choose a verse or short passage of Scripture to read and meditate on. Being still and quiet is never easy for me and my Type A personality, but that’s where my journal comes in. As thoughts and details pop into my head of all the things I need to accomplish, I jot them down and then immediately go back to reading or meditating on God’s word. Writing them down insures I won’t forget them and enables me to focus. I want to remain still and quiet and know that He is God. This is His time, and by quieting my soul I allow Him to prepare my heart for His ministry in my life.
“Forgetting what is behind”
Then I take stock. This is not a time for self-recriminations. It is a time for honest conversation with the Lord. Is there sin in my life I need to confess and repent of? Are there failures that I need to acknowledge? Were there dead-end roads I went down? Again, I use my journal to list these things, and I prayerfully lay them at the Father’s feet, gratefully acknowledging that Jesus paid by price to cleanse me from my sin. I remind myself of the truth of Psalm 103:11-12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Anger, bitterness, blame, doubt, fear, anxiety, selfishness, and disappointment are just a few of the things that need to be left behind.
“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2)
As I take stock, there is also a time for remembering. Remembering God’s faithfulness in my life in specific ways is setting a memorial in my heart that encourages me when I encounter hardship and difficulty along the way. Perhaps it is the birth of a child, perhaps it is the grief of a lost loved one; perhaps it is His provision in unexpected ways – the smile from a stranger, the card from a friend. For me, even the sun warm on my face is cause for praise. In all things, God is faithful. It is who He is. Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, God is faithful. Jotting down highlights of His faithfulness over the past year puts my focus in perspective.
Through this process of silent reflection, prayer, the Word, and journaling, God will often emphasize the prize goals that I need to focus on and the muscles I need to develop as I press on. Each year I specifically ask God to help me set prize goals spiritually, physically, and personally. For example, in 2022 I believe God is asking me to live in faith believing in the truth of Ephesians 3:20, that He can do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine according to His power at work within me for His glory. Ephesians 3:20 is my verse for 2022, the spiritual prize I will strain towards throughout the year. I also know I need to increase my physical exercise, and I want to expand my writing efforts. These yearly prize goals are broken down into measurable and achievable goals for each month, and then further broken down into weekly goals. And I establish small prize rewards each month for achieving my goals, because I love prizes. All this becomes part of my planning journal that I continually refer to as I press on through the year.
The ultimate prize for a believer is the joy of heaven and eternity with the Lord. This is “the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Let us, therefore, press on together in 2022 toward that prize, “forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.”
What will God write down in His-story at the end of 2022 for you? What prize goals is God asking you to set? Perhaps it will be reading the Bible through in a year; perhaps it will be reaching out to someone a little farther ahead of you in the journey and asking them to mentor you; perhaps it will be applying a specific truth from God’s Word to your life or setting aside even five minutes a day to sit quietly in His presence. It may be exercise or eating changes; it may be decluttering and organizing. Maybe you are wanting to save for something specific or take a course that will help you professionally; maybe you want to start a garden or learn a new language. Whatever prize goals God is calling you to set this coming year, I encourage you to ask someone to join you on your journey. Having a prayer and accountability partner makes all the difference when we get tired and pressing on seems impossible. I know for certain that prize goals set with the Lord are goals achievable by His power and in His strength.
I would love to journey with you as well. Please consider letting me know how I can pray with you and for you as we press on together.
Happy New Year. To God be all glory and praise forever and ever.