What was your goal for 2020?

I set a goal to run 2020 miles in 2020. Fortunately, I was able to accomplish this on December 30, 2020. However, many of my goals remained incomplete. I can blame some of my failures on coronavirus. However, many of my goals were unmet because of me. I just didn’t make them a priority. Oh well… there’s always next year!

Every new year I feel the pressure to make new goals. Do you? Here are some goals people make:

  • Lose 20 pounds.
  • Finish my college degree.
  • Pay off the credit cards.
  • Purchase a new car/house/motorcycle/cell phone.
  • Get a new, better job.
  • Get engaged/married.
  • Read through the Bible.

We all have unfinished goals of life.  Maybe they were goals that we shouldn’t have made.  Or maybe we haven’t been as consistent in our efforts to reach that goal.  When people have many unmet goals it becomes simpler to not make any goals. That is why many no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s feels better to not make any goals than the disappointment when you fail. However, I still think we should set some good goals so we can move forward in life.

The Apostle Paul is a person we can use as a model as we strive for any goal, especially the supreme goal – Jesus.  As a Christian, we have a goal – Jesus!  to know Him better, to be like Him, to be with Him.  I want that to be my life goal. 

In Philippians 3:12-16, Paul uses the idea of a runner to encourage Christians to pursue the goal of Jesus. But his example is also instructive for any goal.

For my new year’s sermon of 2021 I shared these five essentials for achieving goals. I hope it helps you set some good goals for this year. I also hope your will set JESUS as your #1 goal this year!

1 – Dissatisfaction of Previous Attainments

“Not as though I had already attained” (Philippians 3:12)

This is the statement of a great Christian who never permitted himself to be satisfied with his spiritual attainments. Obviously, Paul was satisfied with Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:10), but he was not satisfied with his Christian life. He refused to be content with past victories and successes.

A runner will plateau if he is satisfied with past performances. This is why many runners sign up for the next race as soon as one is over. They don’t want to lose their edge.

Many Christians are self-satisfied because they compare their ‘running’ with that of other Christians, usually those who are not making much progress. Had Paul compared himself with others, he would have been tempted to be proud and perhaps to let up a bit. But Paul compared himself with himself and with Jesus Christ. He wasn’t there yet.

2 – Devotion to a Single Priority

‘this one thing I do’ (Philippians 3:13)

Too many Christians are involved in too many things. The secret of progress is to concentrate on one thing at time. The believer must devote himself to running the Christian race. No athlete succeeds by doing everything; he succeeds by specializing.

A good runner can’t let anything distract him when he’s running his race. We’ve all heard the danger of “distracted driving.” If you want to succeed in achieving your goals, you must concentrate on one at a time.

Having one goal doesn’t give you the option of letting go of everything else. We all have multiple things that we must keep balanced in life. But you must determine what is that ONE THING that you cannot let slip. Devote your time, energy, finances, and passion to that ONE THING. For me, I want it to be Jesus.

3 – Direction to an Unreached Potential

‘forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before’ (Philippians 3:13)

Paul broke the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past. There were things in Paul’s past that could have been weights to hold him back, but they became inspiration to speed him ahead. The events did not change, but his understanding of them changed.

Don’t let your past be a barrier to your future. Too many Christians are shackled by regrets of the past. They are trying to run the race by looking backward!  No wonder they stumble and fall and get in the way of other Christians! 

Some Christian runners are being distracted by the successes of the past, not the failures; and this is just as bad.  The things which are behind must be set aside and the things which are before must take their place. The past is over – forget it! Press forward.

4 – Determination to Reach the Destination

‘I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14)

Paul was determined to reach a prize.  When he reaches the goal, he will receive the prize. 

What is Paul’s prize? He calls it a ‘high calling’. Many Bible scholars believe he refers to the final day when he will stand before before Jesus to be rewarded. It’s like the winner’s stand at the Olympic games. Paul is looking forward to his reward from Jesus. That’s his big motivation. 

If you aren’t a runner, you really don’t understand why someone would do it. But for a runner, you know. You are looking to the finish line. You want a PB (Personal Best). You want to be a winner.

Paul’s expression “I press” is used by other ancient writers to refer to a hunter pursuing his prey. I’m not a hunter. But on November 15 in Michigan hunter’s will get up early in the morning to sit out on a cold, windy day for the chance to see a deer. Why? Because they want to shoot a big buck. It’s the same for the guys who get out on a frozen lake to go ice fishing – they want to snag a fish. Everyone has a heart to get something. What are you ‘pressing’ for?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christians put as much sacrifice, determination and passion into their spiritual life of following Jesus as they do their hunting, fishing, running, shopping, video games, politics or whatever they are pursuing?

5 – Discipline to Obey the Rules

‘if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you’  ‘let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.’ (Philippians 3:15, 16)

It is not enough to run hard, a runner must also obey the rules.  Any infringement of the rules would disqualify an athlete. Though our goal is Christ, we must followHhim by keeping the ‘spiritual rules’ laid down in the Bible.

Lance Armstrong was the greatest bicycler in the history of bicycle racing. He won the Tour de France seven years in a row after recovering from cancer. But he was stripped of all his awards and received a lifetime ban from all sports when it was discovered that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. His achievements were taken away because he did not obey the rules.

For any athlete, the issue often comes down to not what he thinks or what the spectators think but what the judges say. Many times a judge will overturn a play on the field because a closer look reveals something wrong or illegal. One day each Christian will stand before Jesus. If we have disciplined ourselves to obey the rules, we shall receive a prize.

It is exciting to run the race daily, looking toward Jesus. It will be even more exciting when we experience that ‘upward calling’ and Jesus returns to take us to heaven.  Then we will stand before Him to receive our rewards.  It was this future vision that motivated Paul, and it can also motivate us.

It is time to quit being a spectator and become a participant. Get in the race. Start running. 

Elevate your involvement in your own Christian life and make JESUS your goal this year. Get to know Him better. Become more like Him. Prepare your life for when you will see Him in Heaven.