There are basically two types of people when it comes to a new year: 1) there are those that love to make New Year’s Resolutions AND 2) those that loathe making New Year’s Resolutions. The funny thing is that regardless of which camp you fall into…almost half of our goals will be forgotten by the end of January.
I believe part of the reason we fail to live up to our New Year’s resolutions is because we have good intentions but they’re not really God intentions. And there’s a huge difference between the two.
My challenge for us this year is to go beyond good intentions and begin to seek what God wants for us and what He wants to do in us! The good news is that we don’t have to look far to discover what God wants to do in ALL of His followers.
God’s desire for each and every one of us to be more and more like Jesus. The Apostle Paul put it this way…”For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29), “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1), and “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1).
Jesus shows us how to live as God intended for us to live…fully dependent on the Spirit of God, fully obedient to the Word of God, and fully reliant on the power of God thru prayer. This seems like an impossible goal until we accept one simple truth: God loves us. God loves us just the way we are…but He refuses to leave us that way. God wants us to be like Jesus by modeling our lives after His.
One of the questions I often get as a pastor is: Where do I begin? Thankfully the writer of Hebrews gives us a great starting point to begin to model our lives after Jesus. He uses an athletic metaphor and says that the journey of being like Jesus is a RACE.
Hebrews 12:1–3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
Much like a marathon, our spiritual race requires PREPARATION. If we are to run well, we must prepare properly. Part of our preparation is removing anything and everything that hinders us from running as fast as we can toward Jesus. Yes, that involves avoiding sin. But according to this passage there’s more to it. We may be carrying around things that aren’t necessarily bad, but they are not God’s best. Hebrews is teaching us that whatever has our attention, our time, our resources, and our strength…that keeps us from following Jesus is a weight that’s slowing us down.
Not only must we prepare for our spiritual race, we also need the right FOCUS. Fixing our focus on Jesus allows us to RUN with perseverance the race marked out for us. Jesus is the founder and finisher of our faith. In other words, He is the model and example for how to be found faithful and run our race to the end. Jesus is the one who went the distance for us. He’s the one who conquered every obstacle. Jesus is the one who endured fatigue & thirst & exhaustion & beatings & crucifixion…so He could die & redeem every runner. We can endure the race because Jesus endured the cross…but to do so we must FIX OUR FOCUS on Him!
There are 3 ways this text can help us start to become more like Jesus this year:
1. The only way to win the race is to keep your eyes on Jesus.
Don’t be distracted by the things of the world. Keep running. Don’t look back. Fix your eyes on Jesus and run with all your might for the finish line.
2. When hard times come, start with Jesus and then work back to your circumstances.
If you start with your problems, it will be nearly impossible to find the Lord. Start with Jesus. Go back to the Bible. Review what you know about our Lord—His mercy, His grace, His kindness, His power, and His wisdom. Once you have Jesus, then you can allow Him to lead you through your circumstances.
3. When you feel like giving up, remember that in God’s eyes you are already a winner.
Jesus not only ran our race for us, but He has fixed it so that you cannot lose! He has already won the victory and He shares it with us. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:57)
My prayer is that we all say what Paul said at the end of his own race…
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”