How do you and I take the good from 2015 and continue that into 2016? And, just as important, how do we not take the bad from last year into this New Year? We don't want to repeat everything from our past. Yet it is baggage, wounds, scars, residue of both our own failures and those inflicted upon us - intentionally or randomly - that weigh us down. How do we stop dragging this stuff around, hunched from the burden of carrying them, or sluggish with the gunk?
Our focus these past two Sundays, << rewind & restart >>, have aimed at exactly these issues.
December 27 we looked at a simple tool for helping us do this, an exercise of listing both highlights and lowlights. This is followed by reflecting on those (and only those) actions we did (not what others did) that contributed to both the highs and lows. Don't list people, actions, circumstances, etc., outside your control. Focus only on what you contributed, both good and bad. This is the key to making this section work!
And finally, decide what to retain and what to release. What will you continue? What will you stop, and in so doing ask for, receive and walk in the forgiveness, grace and faithfulness of God for both what you retain and what you release.
Pause your reading here. Take a sheet of paper or use this handout we provided and work through the steps above. Then you'll be ready to continue with part 2.
On January 3 we took a page from Apostle Paul's book - specifically his letter to the church in Philippi (see Philippians 3:7-16) to learn how we can release, retain, and restart. Paul, though "successful" in the world's eyes, left it all to follow Jesus. At the time of his writing his letter to Philippi, Paul had had a full second career equally or even more "successful" than the previous. Yet now he finds himself a prisoner in the Imperial capital, Rome. He'd always wanted to go to Rome, but maybe this wasn't what he had in mind? Instead of being depressed and despondent due to his loss of personal liberties, the theme of his letter is JOY. He says this in 16 ways in just these four short chapters.
How did Paul find and live in joy in the midst of difficult circumstances and a very uncertain future? How did he not live overburdened with regret? And he had a lot to regret, even murder. Paul is now, by the lifespan of his day and age, an old man. Imprisoned. Yet full of joy.
He shares his "secrets" in this passage:
1. He's not focused on the past (see vv. 7-11). You cannot drive forward looking in the rear-view mirror. Or at least not very fast, far nor effectively. You're bound to crash. Yet when we live our lives with regret, nurturing past hurts, reviewing our failures and the shortcomings of others as they've impacted our lives, we're trying to drive our lives while looking into our own rear-view mirrors. Here's a complimentary thought: There's a reason the windshield is far bigger than the rear-view mirror!
2. He lives in the present (see vv. 12-14). Not past tense looking backward, nor in the future of "I will" or "I want to," Paul says in the present tense "I press on" and "But this one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on..." Are you living in the present, not the past nor the future? Like Paul, we look and press toward the future, but we don't live there. What's the difference? People living in the future have a dreamy outlook unattached to present reality. True 'futurists' are living in the present, working specifics toward the dream they're pursuing. Quite a difference. Let's live in the present while looking through the windshield and driving in that direction.
I opened my message with some pretty stark and possibly depressing statistics. These were all about New Year's resolutions:
- 25% will abandon their resolutions within 1 week.
- 60% will have abandoned them within 6 months.
- 10 times: The average person makes the same resolution 10 times unsuccessfully.
- Only 5% of those who lose weight on a diet keep it off. 95% regain it and more.
- 86% of heart attack sufferers make lasting changes in their diet and exercise.
What's going on here? Resolutions don't work. And they don't typically because they live in that dreamy space of the future, un-grounded in our daily present.
But I won't leave you here, depressed about your New Year's resolutions. There is good news...something that does work.
And, according to Michael Hyatt and many others, when you go through the simple act of writing your goals down, your possibility of success jumps to 42%. Yep. That's all. Just writing them down.
Why is that? Because it makes us crystallize our thinking, focus our desires into achievable goals with action steps. That's the difference between goals and resolutions.
To help accomplish this, take a sheet of paper or use this handout to establish and pursue your 2016 goals.
Note that the very first box is "spiritual goals." Why is that? As Paul told his disciple Timothy, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come," (1 Timothy 4:8).
Benjamin Mays said this:
The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach." And, "Not failure, but low aim, is sin."
People set, appropriately, goals in all areas of their lives: Relational, financial, career, educational, etc. Yet how often we drift in the spiritual. This isn't biblical at all. Jesus didn't drift. Paul didn't drift. Moses didn't drift. Spiritual giants don't drift. They act with purpose. And that's part and parcel of what made them spiritual giants. Here's another 'secret:' You and I can be 'spiritual giants,' too, simply by making spiritual goals with God and pursuing them.
Benjamin Mays also said this, and I believe it's true of both you and me:
"Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done."
What spiritual goals will you set with God and the people of God for 2016? I close this this thought from Denis Waitley,
"The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don't define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them."
Share your thoughts, highs and lows on your journey in the comment section below. We can all dialogue together, edifying one another in our spiritual goal pursuits.
May the blessings of God be rich upon you in 2016.