Today is the 361st day of the year. There are only five days left of 2008. As we get ready to break out the new calendars there is bound to be some retrospection, but before we get too carried away thinking about the past, let’s remember a few words from the Apostle Paul.
"My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done," (Philippians 3:13-15 CEV).
If there ever was a person who had reason to dwell on the list of his accomplishments, it was the Apostle Paul. He was a highly educated Rabbi and a Roman Citizen, who could move easily between Jew and Gentile alike.
Authorized by the Jewish leadership to arrest the Jewish followers of Jesus, Paul, whose Hebrew name was "Saul," was transformed on the road to Damascus by a vision of Jesus Christ. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Jesus asked him.
Saul / Paul became a Christian and one of the greatest evangelists in history. It was Paul who began to share the faith with the Gentiles. It was Paul who traveled back and forth across Asia Minor, seeming to start a new congregation at every stop.
It was Paul who was led by the Holy Spirit to cross the Aegean Sea and bring Christianity to Europe — an event with huge historical ramifications. And it was Paul’s concern for the new church that led him to write letters to the congregations, 14 of which were included in the New Testament. Paul’s influence on Christianity is second only to Jesus’. Surely if anyone had reason to sit back and say, "wow, I sure have accomplished a lot" — it was the Apostle Paul. But his words are, "I don’t feel that I have already arrived, but I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead — I run toward the goal."
The year 2008 is almost gone. Smile at your successes, hold up the T-shirt, look at the pictures and enjoy the praise, well done.
Now let it go. There is work to be done. Press on.
And, what of the mistakes of 2008? Now say this with me, "That was in 2008." The past does not need to define the future. Learn from the past, but let the future be defined by your choice to follow Jesus.
Like a Boy Scout navigating across county with a compass, set your compass to Jesus, and if you take a wrong step or two, just look at the compass again, get your bearings and press on.
A brand new year is just about to begin — a new page to write on, a new canvass of time on which to paint, a new semester in the school of life. Lord willing we have 365 more opportunities to do something, to accomplish something, to achieve something for the glory of God. Keep your eyes on Jesus and press on!
John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn and Mansfield UMC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org