January 1, 2016
The Amazing Race
By Skip Heitzig
As you know, today marks the very first day of 2016. I want you to stop and consider the race you're running—the race toward Christlikeness, toward godliness and effective service in the kingdom. When you read the letters of Paul the apostle, you find that he often spoke about the Christian life as a race, and that was his thought in Philippians 3:12-16. From this passage, there are five essentials for running the race well that I want to share with you for the New Year.
The first is to have a healthy, holy dissatisfaction. Notice Paul said, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended" (vv. 12-13). Boy, is that relieving to hear! If anybody could rest on their laurels and be self-satisfied, it would be Paul. But what this tells me is that none of us can or will reach perfection on this side of heaven. It also tells me that it's a healthy sense of dissatisfaction that pushes us onward and upward.
Have you grown spiritually in the past year? Are you climbing higher? Rather than looking at your life and saying, "I can now go on cruise control," instead say, "By the grace of God, I'm going to go higher. I'm going to go further."
The second essential in running this race is concentration. Verse 13 in the Phillips translation says, "But I do concentrate on this"—this one thing. Winners in a race are winners because they concentrate and specialize and don't let other things distract them. And that's essential in our spiritual growth. Sometimes doing too many things and spreading yourself too thin kills your effectiveness in any one thing. So, don't major on the minors. Keep the main thing the main thing.
The third essential is direction. You need to learn to let go of certain things and go in one particular direction. "One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (vv. 13-14). If you want to be miserable, live your life looking back over your shoulder. It's healthy to take an appraisal of your life, but don't let the past hinder your present running; let it go. If you want to have a great New Year, then think about what God has in store for you this year.
The fourth essential is determination. "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on…. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (vv. 12, 14). The word press means to put every ounce of effort and energy into something—in this case, your Christian walk. I wonder what would happen in 2016 if we put as much dedication into our spiritual life as we do into our hobbies. What would your spiritual life look like?
The fifth and final element is participation. "Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind" (vv. 15-16). Notice Paul repeated the words we andus. He wanted to make the point that you've got runners all around you. There will be times this year when the race will get discouraging and you'll need the refreshment of others.
So, in this New Year, I want you to think progress, not perfection. Focus on the future, not the past, and think together, not alone. Most importantly, finish the race. I read a story about a mountain climber who died and was buried at the base of the Alps. On his gravestone, they put his name, date of birth and death, and a simple three-word epitaph: "He died climbing." What a great thing to say of a mountain climber. He died climbing, in the very pursuit that was his life. It would be a great thing for us to have on ours: that we died climbing, going onward and upward.
We don't know when the finish line will be. But God put you on this earth to finish your race—and with joy (see Acts 20:24). So focus on what He has for you this year—concentrate on this one thing—and you'll find that the Christian life is the most amazing race that anyone could run.
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