Heinrich Wichern once made a remarkable statement at the beginning of a new year: “Whoever allows his Bible to start gathering dust as of January 1, will find that by December 31, his soul will be covered in dust. But whoever starts searching his Bible for words of strength and life on January 1, will have radiant eyes and a joyful heart on December 31.”
Philippians 3:13-14 gives us three important pieces of advice to help us have radiant eyes and a joyful heart.
We must forget certain things!
Paul says to forget “those things which are behind.” Unquestionably, this is about what is vain, worthless, and useless. It makes no sense to hang onto things that only burden our heart and cannot be changed. We have to stay clear of what weighs us down and holds us back. There are simply things in life that have to be disposed of. These are things that are worthless, things that have served their purpose and are of no use anymore. We avoid these things because they take away time and space and bring disorder. Then there are other things that we should eliminate from our lives.
For example, let’s think about the anger we sometimes carry against other people, the prejudices and assumptions we often have, and the injustices and injuries we have suffered. We certainly must realize that it is completely pointless and meaningless to hang onto these things. They do not benefit us in the least but rather damage us!
Do not remain despondent about your mistakes. Do not burden yourself with unintended failures or unsuccessful intentions that you could not fulfill. In everyone’s life there are obstacles that often stand in the way of our good intentions. There are many things we cannot change, and it is best to forget them. We need to throw away our excessive sensitivities, our burdensome thoughts and assumptions. If we continue to think on these things, we can become gloomy and despondent, and so we must let these worthless, useless things go. Let go and forget them!
Safeguard pure, joyful memories!
If there are things in our past that need to be disposed of, then there are probably many things that need to be placed in a treasured memory.
For example, we can remember the good things others have done for us. In the past year, each of us has most likely experienced something good from our neighbors, from someone in the church, or from our family. Parents, did one of your children delight you with something special? Children, did your parents do many good things for you? Did someone invite and lovingly care for us? Did someone visit and encourage us when we were sick? Did we receive a comforting letter or encouraging message from a dear friend? Did we receive a helping hand which helped to ease our burdens? Do we forget these many kindnesses too quickly?
Paul writes: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). A poet wrote: “Count your blessings, see what God has done!” There are many valuable things that we should store in our memory! Let us list all the many blessings by name! Think of God’s benefits in your personal life and the blessings you receive through church or from people in your neighborhood. Keep in mind the privilege of communing with spiritually-minded people, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Bible, and “remember Jesus Christ!” These are but a few of the most precious treasures we have received and should never forget!
Strive for that which lies before you!
What lies before us? Completion! The return of Christ and eternity! Heaven and our awaited inheritance! This is the goal that God has placed before us! Paul says: “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Is that not wise and rewarding?
This new year could be the last year for you and for me. It could also be the year of Jesus’ return and the great final judgment. It could be the year of great mercy and high spiritual gain for us. Therefore, we want to reflect on the new opportunities and possibilities that will be given to us in this new year. Above all, take the opportunity to have an encounter with God. Seek grace and healing for your soul and experience the wonderful salvation through Jesus Christ!
May this year be a year of special blessings for you. May it be a year of strengthening your faith, delving deeper spiritually, and having special experiences with God as His child! May it be a year that brings us all closer to our Lord and connects us more intimately with Him! Recognize the wonderful treasures that may be won this year. Seek them out, because they can be yours too.