Welcome to 2022, Happy New Year! It seems like just a short time ago I put up the Christmas decorations and now they are all down and put away. Each new year comes with all kinds of hope and unknowns. Many people will say “I hope this year brings…” fill in your own response. For many their hope is for better health, a new job or a little stability in their lives. How many people will take the time to write down their goals? A lot of research has been done on goal setting and one thing that is commonly found is that goals that are written down are more likely to be achieved.
Leaders who work with their people to identify goals for the new year are really helping them get the most out of their work. Goals should be set following the SMART principle – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely (time specific). What about each of us? We too need to set goals that meet the same criteria. What is it that you want to achieve in 2022? Create a timeline to get things moving. What will you have done by the end of March? What about the end of June? Be specific with yourself but make sure that you can achieve it. Don’t set a goal to get your degree by June 30, 2022 if you have two years of classes to take. Setting goals is like making a shopping list; you are sure to get everything if you know what you are shopping for.
“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
This is great advice to start the year – forget about what happened in 2021, it is behind us now. There is nothing we can do to change what we’ve done (or not done) but we can focus on what is ahead. Don’t dwell on the past. This time of year can be so hard on people; sometimes filling us with regret for what we’ve done or great remorse for the things that we didn’t do. Put all of that behind you and give those worries to God in prayer.
Get it off your chest and out of your system so you can focus on what God has planned for you. The prize that Paul talks about in this verse is a life of worship in Christ that will lead to eternal life with the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God wants us to be happy and will guide our lives toward the final goal but we have to let Him. Keep your eye on the prize of eternal life by keeping His word close to you, spending time with Him in prayer and keeping your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. You can have goals for this life and God wants you to achieve them when they align with His plan. God will not lead you astray so leave the past behind and strain toward what is ahead. Have a great 2022!
“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own”. Matthew 6:34. Worry can easily consume us if we let it. We can spend energy worrying about money, careers, health, family or anything that you can imagine. These are all “real world” problems that should not be ignored or diminished but they cannot be allowed to consume us either. Tomorrow is important from a planning perspective, a helping others perspective and a spiritual perspective. According to this verse, you might ask, “shouldn’t we just stay focused on what matters today and not worry about the future?”
I’m a believer that the future matters because what we do today doesn’t just have an impact on today alone but will also impact our future and the futures of those around us. Why do we speak up and teach or mentor someone who makes a mistake? I’d suggest that we say something not to show off our own knowledge but to make those around us just a little better. If you don’t care about today, what will tomorrow look like? I learned a very scary statistic today – the U.S. will have trouble filling its incoming military ranks in one generations time because the future youth won’t be able to qualify for service because of diminished physical abilities, poor cognitive test scores, previous drug use or the over use of behavioral medications. The key to the verse is worry. It says nothing about taking decisive action or helping others to achieve more. The old acronym T.E.A.M – together everyone achieves more holds true. Let’s not worry about tomorrow but let’s all work together for a better tomorrow.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” John 17:20
I once heard a story about a firefighter’s first day on the job back in the early 50’s. He was mopping the kitchen with an old fashioned “stringy” mop when one of the strands got caught under the table leg. He left behind the single strand but his Captain saw it and asked why he left it. He replied that it was only one strand and it wouldn’t matter. His Captain calmly explained that if he left that one and another was left tomorrow and so on that, soon there would be a full mop under there. Picking it up, he realized that “tomorrow” is important.
Jesus cared for tomorrow too. He is telling us that he was praying for those currently spreading the good news and for those who would grow in faith because of what they had heard. He was praying for us too! Jesus knew that future believers were just as important as the present ones. His focus remained on being our Savior despite knowing he had ahead of Him. This verse confirms that Jesus prayed for you and for me and, that the Bible is the inspired word of God (the message). Each of us will have doubt about our future and we all will, at times, have doubt about God’s love, thanks to sin and the devil’s work. We must stand strong over those doubts knowing that Jesus once prayed for us and continues to keep watch. The past holds nothing but the future is where we can find eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Forward looking is a skill that I’ve been either blessed or cursed with – I haven’t decided yet. I often can see the impacts of actions two or three steps out. I’m not clairvoyant, I’m more practical and approach most things with common sense and a strong dose of reality. The challenge in our lives today is that when we look forward, we often do it with our own point of view as a lens. When we look to our future through that lens, we see all of things that we want, desire or can make happen through our own work. We often fail to recognize what God is planning for us. When we start to rely on our own thoughts and actions to get ahead, we are leaving out the one who is really in control – God.
We must leave our past behind! And, when we strain toward the future, we should be straining toward the teachings of God. We need to start recognizing when He is opening doors for us. Humans are prideful creatures and we often pat ourselves on the back for work that God did in our lives. I’ve written several times about being significant to others, instead of being successful and how we must let God guide our paths. Just when we start thinking that we are in control, God will often remind us that we aren’t as powerful as we think we are.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and 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.” Philippians 3:14-15
St. Paul was telling the Philippians to leave the past behind them, to forget their old ways, old habits, old beliefs and old understandings. His advice to us today is the same, look toward the future and to what you can do today to live a better life. No matter what you’ve done, leave it in the past. At the time Paul wrote these letters, the people of the world were leading pretty brutal lives. They raped, pillaged and murdered each other. It was an “every man for himself” world. They watched human slaughter for entertainment in places like the Coliseum in Rome.
He was telling them to leave all of it in the past and focus on the future prize promised by God – eternal life through Jesus Christ. I have no idea how many people read this each week but I will bet that no one has lived a life today like those who lived in the First Century. No matter what you you’ve done, look toward the future you have through Christ. God wanted you saved, that’s why He sent Jesus to die for our sins – then and now. You are forgiven! As it is written in Acts 10:43 “…Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” There are no other versions or ways to say it; you are forgiven. Now start living and looking toward to the future with Jesus Christ.
Once again, I find myself with another painful reminder of the lesson: “no good deed will go unpunished”. Two weeks ago I sat on a discussion panel at a state association meeting representing elected officials who were once or are still, fire service members. I have a completely different perspective than many of my counterparts because 1) I am retired and 2) I am more closely connected to city management than line functions at this point in my career. We were asked what we thought our department needed to improve on. A question like that cannot be answered because no one wants to speak poorly about their own agency. In an attempt to answer very generically and broadly about what the fire service needed to do as a whole (prefaced extensively), I gave an answer about how differing requests from labor and management send mixed messages to elected officials that call into question reliability of the messages. It was a statement intended to help future conversations. It wasn’t received that way, people thought I was referencing current events and I heard about it from both our fire chief and his union. In these circumstances, we often find ourselves exclaiming, “What difference does it make anymore! No matter what I say, it always gets twisted!” Shouldn’t we just stay focused on what matters today and not worry about the future? If I had done that, I would have been silent just like everyone else and we’d have moved on to the next question. I’m a believer that the future matters, so I spoke up. The point of the panel was to tell what it looks like from the elected perspective. I hoped to have an affect not on today but the future by signaling how a fire chief could prevent future issues. I paid a price for my willingness to help. I would do the same format again if I had the chance because I believe in the purpose just not this particular outcome.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” John 17:20
I once heard a story about a firefighter’s first day on the job back in the early 50’s. He was mopping the kitchen with an old fashioned “stringy” mop when one of the strands got caught under the table leg. He left behind the single strand but his Captain saw it and asked him why he left it. He replied that it was only one strand and it didn’t matter. His Captain calmly explained that if he left that one and another was left tomorrow and so on that, soon there would be a full mop under there. Picking it up, he realized that “tomorrow” is important. Jesus cared for tomorrow too. He is telling us that he was praying for those spreading the good news at that time and those who would grow in faith because of what they had heard. He was praying for us! Jesus knew that future believers were just as important as the present ones. His focus remained on being our Savior despite knowing what he had ahead of Him. This verse confirms that Jesus prayed for you and for me and, that the Bible is the inspired word of God (the message). Each of us will have doubt about our future and we all will, at times, have doubt about God’s love, thanks to sin and the devil’s work. We must stand strong over those doubts knowing that Jesus once prayed for us and continues to keep watch. The past holds nothing but the future is where we can find eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Let go of the past and look toward the future.