Not only is today the first day of a new week, it is the first day of a new year. By God’s grace and mercy, we have stepped over into 2017. And with a new year comes new opportunities. So as I address you on the first day of this new year, I pray I your heart would be filled with rejoicing and anticipation in what lies ahead and not in the regret of what is past.
While I was reading the book of Philippians this evening, or should I say this morning ( 4:30 am EST), there are a few thoughts that I want to share. First, release the past to God. If there is anything living in your past that has been allowed to seep the life from your preset, leave it with God, refuse to carry it into your future. Paul said in the book of Philippians in speaking about his faith in Christ, in becoming all that God had created him to be, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things, or that I have reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (3:12-14, New Living Translation)
While Paul was fully aware of his own inconsistencies and imperfections, he did not allow those issues to become a source of hindrance in his life. His ultimate focus was not on his own strength or ability but on God’s. And because his focus and faith was in God’s power instead of on his own effort, he could freely release his past to God, no matter what had taken place. If we truly desire change in our lives, one of things we must do is change our focus to what God alone has the ability to bring about in our future and not where we have failed in the past. Consider this thought. We will inevitably move in the direction of our focus. We cannot move toward the wonderful future God has in store if we are preoccupied with the happenings of the past. Nor can we walk in the victory of our faith in Christ when we are engrossed in the inadequacies of our own human effort. Because Paul understood this principle, he was able to live free. So think of this new year as a new opportunity to release the past to God.
Second, remember we can do nothing in our own strength. Philippians 2:12-13 informs us that it is God who gives us the desire to do his will, while at the same time empowering us to carry out the righteous desires he has place in our hearts.
Last, in Philippians 1:6 Paul reminds us that God, who began the good work in each of us, will be faithful to continue that work so that we are complete when Christ returns. I know from personal experience that it is so easy to get over into human effort, and sometimes I need to remind myself, it never was me in the first place. It has always been him, his strength and his desire working in and through me.
God wants to make 2017 a year of victory for you and me. That being said, we will have failures. There is no doubt. But even in this, we can be assured that his mercies are new every morning.(Lamentations 3:22-23). With every sunrise comes a brand new opportunity to experience God’s forgiveness and God’s mercy, to see the results of his power at work in our lives. So be encouraged today, God has a bright future in store, but we cannot genuinely experience the wonderful future that lies ahead if we are fixated on the past.
My prayer today is that God would help each of us to remember that just as it is his will and his purpose that he has predestined for each of our lives, it is only by his power that we are enabled to live lives pleasing unto him and experience all he has promised.
May God’s blessing, peace, wisdom, love, joy and prosperity be in you, with you and upon you this coming year.