Thursday, December 29, 2016

Looking Forward to . . . What?

Christmas with all its preparations and celebrations is over, leaving us immersed in the lull before the New Year. Some of us will spend this time looking back, evaluating what the past year was like – good, bad, what we didn’t get around to doing as we intended, what we started but haven’t yet completed.

Others among us, however, don’t care much for a rear-view mirror approach to life. We’re eager, excited about the prospect of the old calendar year ushering in a new one – whether to bid a fond farewell to this year and build on the positives into the next, or to thumb our noses at the passing year, shout, “Good riddance!” and hope for better things in the future.

Either way, like it or not, ready or not, in just a few days 2017 will appear, so it makes sense to start looking forward. We already know where we’ve been; what we don’t know is where we will be going. As you contemplate the New Year’s inception, what are you looking forward to? (Or, to what do you look forward, for grammar police out there who maintain we must never end sentences by using prepositions!)

If we’ve worked hard during the past year, we might be looking forward to a promotion in our quest to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. Or maybe we’re thinking the hard work will pay off with the opportunity to move to a better, more rewarding job somewhere else. Perhaps a special event is looming in the future – a wedding, the birth of a child, sending one of your offspring to college, seeing one graduate, or even saying good-bye to the workplace and retiring.

For some of us it’s not a singular event we’re looking forward to – we just want to make progress of some kind. It could be in your marriage, at work, or making positive personal changes by losing some weight, exercising more consistently, pursuing more education, or taking up a new hobby.

There’s lots we could look forward to, but let me ask this: What things are you look forward to in a spiritual sense?

The apostle Paul offers a wonderful example. He declared, 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 3:13-14).

Obviously, Paul wasn’t talking about making New Year’s resolutions. He wasn’t about to burst out with a stanza of “Auld Lang Syne.” The apostle was simply affirming his singular focus, always looking forward to the work and ministry his Lord had entrusted to him, striving to reach as many lives as possible for Jesus Christ.

Elsewhere Paul revealed his motivation, the incentive that kept him in faithful service to his Savior despite numerous trials and much hardship: “While we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). He was absolutely convinced of the imminent return of Christ, keeping that expectation in the forefront of his thinking and planning. The fact Jesus’ Second Coming did not occur during Paul’s earthly lifetime doesn’t detract from his zeal in serving Him and striving to introduce others to Him along the way.

The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews shared Paul’s “tunnel vision” for fulfilling the call of Christ. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23-24). These words, written nearly 2,000 years ago, suggest the image of a driver at the wheel of a car – or the helm of a ship – staying on course regardless of the circumstances.

It’s not wrong to look forward to making incremental improvements in life, taking a much-anticipated trip, realizing a career goal, or attaining some other personal milestone. But as the Scriptures teach over and over, being followers of Jesus we should be looking forward to being His “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13), having an eternal impact in the hearts and lives of others, and anticipating His ultimate return – whether that’s tomorrow or 100 years from now. Happy New Year!

No comments: