HOW TO FACE THE NEW YEAR
"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 & straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
It’s good to be able to start over afresh. Boys & girls are back in school. Young people have headed off to college. After the holiday season, many are already doing our jobs & the activities of the New Year. What do you anticipate for this year? Are you full of enthusiasm, looking forward eagerly to what each day will bring? Or are you filled with dread, worried that 2005 will be worse than 2004 for you?
Your attitude, your frame of mind, your reaction to its events will largely determine whether it is a year of victory or a year of defeat.The Apostle Paul was never one to let circumstances conquer him. Rather, with the help of God, he was determined to win the victor’s crown. Listen as his attitude, dedication, determination shine through in these words found in Philippians 3:12-14.
With Paul’s words fresh in our minds, here are some suggestions to help us to prepare for 2005.
I. MAKE FULL USE OF YOUR TIME
First of all, recognize the value of time.
ILL. How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade.
How do we value ONE MONTH? Ask a Mother whose baby arrived prematurely.
How do we value ONE WEEK? Editor’s of weekly newspapers know.
How do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who lies terminally ill waiting for a loved one who is late.
How do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who missed a plane, a train, a very important engagement that would never be rescheduled.
How do we value ONE SECOND? Ask an Olympic Medallist, OR someone who just missed having an accident.
Of course we know that time is a human invention.
The Bible says, "With God a day is as a 1,000 years, & 1,000 years as a day."
God deals with eternity, & therefore time is not an important factor with Him.But time is important to us because we live in a limited time frame. We begin with infancy, then go on to adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age, & to everything that follows. We measure life in segments of time.
Now, what makes time valuable? Oftentimes it is scarcity. If there is a scarcity, then that product quickly escalates in value. So, if something is rare, it is usually valuable. But if we have a lot of it, it loses its value. Now, the same is true with time.
Maybe that helps explain the generation gap. Young people feel that they have plenty of time, therefore time loses its value, & they aren’t too concerned about wasting or squandering it. On the other hand, as we get up in years a bit, we begin to realize that our time is becoming rare & therefore more valuable. So those of us over 50 tend to look at those under 20 & say, "Don’t squander time, because it’s very valuable." They reply, "No, it’s not. We have lots of time. So we can waste it any way we want." And the wider the age gap, the wider the generation gap - because of the different values that we place on time.
The Bible tells us of the brevity(shortness) of life.
It compares life to the grass which grows up, dies, & then is burned.
ILL. Statisticians tell us that the average life span is now around 75 years.
If we live to be 75, most of us will have spent 3 solid years, 24 hours a day, acquiring an education - grade school, high school & college.
We’ll have spent 7 years eating, 24 hours a day, - some more, some less, obviously.
We’ll have spent 15 years, day & night, working.
We’ll have spent 5 years riding in automobiles or airplanes.
We’ll have spent 5 years talking with each other -again some more & some less.
We’ll have spent 1 year sick or recovering from sickness.
And get this, we’ll have spent 24 years of our life sleeping!
We’ll have spent 3 years reading books, magazines & newspapers.
And 12 years amusing ourselves - watching TV, going to the movies, fishing, etc. T
hat totals up to 75 years - & that is what the researchers say, on the average, most of us will have done with our lives.
(3 + 7 + 15 + 5 + 5 + 1 + 24 + 3 + 12 = 75 years)
APPL. As I looked at these statistics, let’s suppose that you spent every Sunday of your life, for 75 years - through infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age - in God’s house worshiping during the Church Service. Now if you did, how much time would you have spent worshiping God? Figure it out - the answer is less than 5 1/2 months. But let’s double that, because you’ve always attended S.S. You’ve never missed Sunday School in all your life. That makes it 11 months. Think about that - 5 years in an automobile & just 11 months in Church & S.S.! 12 years amusing ourselves in front of a TV, & just 11 months in Church & S.S. And that is just if you always attended S.S. & Church, & never missed!
That tells us a little bit about the brevity of time, & it also tells us something about our priorities in life.
"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is."
Time is like a valuable commodity in a very precious & delicate vessel. It might break at any moment & we might lose it all.
Because of the uncertainty of life, the Bible says, "Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation." The writer of Hebrews says, "When you hear the name of the Lord, don’t harden your hearts." Because life is uncertain we must take advantage of the time that we have.
II. DON’T BE IN BONDAGE TO THE PAST
Secondly, don’t be in bondage to the past.
We are special beings in that God has given us the ability to remember. Your memory may be your friend or your enemy. When you remember, hopefully you’ll remember some very pleasant things about this past year, but chances are that you’ll also remember some negative things. In fact, sometimes we dwell upon the negative & begin to feel sorry for ourselves.
Maybe this past year was a time of great transitions in your life - deal with the empty nest syndrome. Maybe your job came to an end & you’re having a tough time making ends meet. Maybe a loved one died & you’re trying to deal with the lingering grief & loneliness you feel. Maybe it was a time when sin got a real hold in your life, & you now feel the burden & guilt of that sin.
You see, those things can cripple us & hold us in bondage to the past. That is why Paul said, "I forget about what lies behind." Paul had a lot that was behind him. Paul had a very shaky past.He persecuted the church. He used his authority to kill Christians. By his own admission he said, "I am chief of sinners." He could have walked around all his life with this tremendous burden of guilt crippling him & he would never have become the great apostle we know & love today.But Paul said, "…forgetting what is behind…" In other words, "God, I commit it to you. I seek your forgiveness for all the sins of the past, & I look forward to what lies ahead. And right now I’m going to live today the best I can."
The Answer to Letting go the Bondage = to Develop a Positive Attitude towards the Future.
III. WE NEED TO ESTABLISH A PRIORITY IN OUR LIVES
Finally, I think that we need to establish a priority in our lives.
Paul says it this way, "This one thing I do."
Now Paul obviously did more than one thing. He made tents. He preached sermons & established churches. He healed the sick. He wrote books. He did a lot of different things. But he said, "The top priority in my life is to press on toward the goal for the prize for which God has called me."
ILL.An expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students. After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a one-gallon, wide mouthed jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen big-sized rocks & carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar. When the jar was filled to the top & no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” “Really?” he said. Then he reached under the table & pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel into the jar & shook it, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled & asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them said.“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table & brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in & it filled all the spaces between the rocks & the gravel. Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water & began to pour in the water until the jar was filled to the brim.
Then he looked back at the class & asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”One raised his hand & said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it!”“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
What are the big rocks of your life? They should include these: Each day drawing nearer to God, spending time with Him in prayer, & seeking His guidance for your life through reading His Word. Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all. It was Jesus who said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God & His righteousness, & then all these things will be added unto you."
ILL. An old woman ran out of money. She couldn’t pay her rent. She couldn’t pay any of her bills. The landlord had threatened to throw her out if she didn’t soon pay her rent. She had only a candle to keep her warm, & on Christmas Day she warmed her hands over the candle. A knock came at her door & she was afraid to answer for fear that it was the landlord coming to kick her out of her humble abode.She blew out her candle & sat quietly in the dark & waited for the intruder to leave. Two weeks later she found out that the knock on the door was the knock of a friend who had come to bring her enough money to pay her rent & pay her debts.I wonder how many have from time to time heard the gentle knock of the Savior who wants so much to come in & free you from the burdens of your sin. But you have ignored His knocking.