As the year draws to a close and a new year looms on the horizon, it is common to intentionally think through goals or resolutions for the new year, things that we hope to accomplish or do better than we did this year. I know for myself, however, these good intentions all too often become nothing more than that, and many of those resolutions that looked so good on paper are forgotten and don’t become a reality.
But what if I were to approach this new year, not so much with a set of new goals or purposes to strive for, but with a renewed commitment to pursue that which matters most in all of life? The new year does provide a good opportunity to reflect on what is truly important and to resolve anew to commit to the pursuit of that which is eternally valuable.
As I was thinking about this and reflecting on what the Bible says about that which we should be seeking after and pursuing as our goal, I was reading through the book of Philippians. Paul’s life goal was very clear to him, and so foremost was it in his mind that everything else faded in comparison. He says it in chapter 1, verse 20, like this:
“according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.”
That which Paul was earnestly looking for with great confidence and hope was that Christ would in all things be exalted. This was not a new goal, but that which had characterized his life since the day of his conversion. Yet this desire and focus had not diminished with time, but had continued to drive everything that Paul did!
In chapter 3 verses 7-14, he says it this way:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Again, this was not a new goal in Paul’s life, but that which continually characterized his life from the time he came to know Christ. The more he came to understand and experience the surpassing value and beauty of Christ, the more he desired to know Him and be like Him, and this one pursuit overshadowed everything else, so that in comparison everything that was previously valuable from an earthly perspective seemed worthless.
In 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul again states clearly his supreme goal in life:
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
In Colossians 1:9-18, Paul’s pursuit of and focus on Christ spills over into his prayers for those he had ministered to, and his concern for them is inseparable from and driven by his desire that Christ would have first place in everything:
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God...For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
As I prepare to begin a new year, I can think of no better way to sum up what my pursuit ought to be in the coming year than the words of David in Psalm 27:4:
One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.
As I fix my eyes on Him and marvel and wonder at His beauty and majesty every day, this will give me the confidence and motivation to run with endurance the race that He has set before me each day. It is only by His grace, through Christ, that I can live a life that has meaning and purpose, and it is Christ and His work on my behalf that gives meaning to all that I do. If I am focused on Him each day and continually in awe of Him, then I will be pursuing the right goal, the only one that is truly worthy of pursuing!
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.