In previous years, I have asked the Lord for a word, a theme, or a phrase, or verse for the new year. This year is no different in the approach; the timing this year is a few days later than normal due to work responsibilities and schedules.
So what is the Lord’s focus for me in 2021?
Press on, and look ahead.
This comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:
2 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.(Philippians 3:12-16, English Standard Version)
Let me clarify and say this is not saying “keep your head down and don’t look around”. It’s more like “look up, look ahead, and keep your eyes focused on the Lord; don’t spend all your time looking back”.
When Jesus asked several people to follow Him, they had all kinds of reasons why they needed to take care of other things first and follow Him later. Jesus’ reply to the last person making excuses was “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62). Growing up on a farm, I get it. To plow a straight furrow, you set your sights on a landmark, an immovable object on the horizon and drive toward it. To look back is to focus on the wrong thing.
These days, there is much focus on the past, to dig up information on historical figures long dead and call them unworthy of any good they did at the time. Even people still alive are publicly chastised for past words or actions that were taken out of context. It’s as if the people in question committed some unforgiveable sin, never to be allowed to demonstrate a changed nature, or even ask for forgiveness.
So each of us has a choice – to worry and look back at our past, fearing what others might think, listening to the accuser try to shame us for being who God made us to be. Or we can choose to claim Christ’s forgiveness, confess our sins when the Lord brings them to our attention, and move forward in His grace.
And that’s my choice in 2021 – to look forward and join Jesus where He is inviting me to work with Him, pressing ahead.
Here’s another paraphrase of the same passage that expresses this well:
12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.(Philippians 3:12-16, The Message Bible)
15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
What’s your word, theme, phrase, or verse for 2021?
I would love to hear it, and to pray your focus for you, as you do the same for me.