One time, a friend asked me to speak at his church in California. Lenya and I flew to Los Angeles International Airport, and as we waited for him by the curb, she told me, "He is not coming. You're not speaking here this weekend." And then she pulled out some tickets to Hawaii and explained that she'd had him invite me because she knew she couldn't get me to go on a vacation any other way. It was a pretty cool surprise.
Where are you going this next year? You might have plans already made, but God might have some surprises for you. He might be saying, "You're not going to do that. You're going to do this. I have a whole new life, a whole new future in store for you."
We can either "veg out" or we can reach out. "Vegging out" is when we stop and just look back on what God has done. And that way we eventually become irrelevant. Instead, we should reach out and say, "Thank You for what You've done, but Lord, please do more in the future!"
Here are four principles from Philippians 3 that you can use in navigating the future:
Principle 1: "Don't settle down, buckle up." By that I mean, anticipate great things in this next year from the hand of a great God! Even Paul the apostle said there was still room for him to grow (see vv. 12-13). So we'll never reach perfection this side of heaven. And it's our sense of imperfection that drives us upward and onward. A growing Christian is never satisfied with his or her present spiritual state.
Principle 2: Don't do everything; choose one thing. Narrow your focus. Note the phrase "but one thing I do" in verse 13. Jesus called the rich young ruler to do the one thing that was missing from his life (Mark 10:17-21), and He pointed Martha to the one thing that was needed (Luke 10:38-42). So "keep the main thing, the main thing." Concentrate on what God has specifically for you. Say yes to the right things and don't get distracted by everything else.
Principle 3: Don't look backward, move forward. "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" in verse 13 reminds me that some Christians are spiritual cripples who have been paralyzed by past hurts, bitterness, and grudges that they hold. Letting the past dominate the present puts a stranglehold on the future. So let it all go!
Principle 4: "Don't travel alone, walk together." In verse 16, Paul says, "let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind." In other words, don't isolate yourself, move forward together. Runners do better in packs; they encourage one another. And we as Christians do better when we move forward together.
If you're just sitting in the bleachers: Be a participant, not just an observer! The church needs all of us. If you're not utilizing your gifts within the church body, you're robbing the rest of us of your participation! God wants you to be engaged in the process, with everything in you. So surrender your will to God and simply ask, "Where are we going, Lord? What do you want me to do?"
The expression "reaching forward" in verse 13 depicts an athlete straining to reach the finish line, putting everything into the race. If you were to put as much effort into pressing on in your spiritual life as you do on your hobbies, what would your life look like a year from now?
So walk boldly into the future, allowing Him to do something wonderful in and through you. Let Him give you the ticket to a new destination, a whole new adventure you never thought of and never planned on. Be open, and be excited to see what He will do!
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