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As we arrive at the beginning of a New Year, we often make resolutions. Many of them involve either losing weight or getting in better shape. But I hope those are not the only things we are resolving to do.
I read a list of resolutions made by different people who had to become more realistic with the passing of time. For instance, a person who was thinking about his weight gain resolved in 2001 to get his weight down to below 170. In 2002, he said he would watch his calories until his weight was below 200. And in 2003, he resolved to follow a new diet until he got below 220. In 2004, he said he was going to develop a more realistic attitude about weight loss.
Another person who made a resolution about getting in shape resolved to work out five days a week. The second year, he resolved to work out three days a week. By the fourth year, he planned to work out one day a week. And finally, he just resolved to drive past a gym at least once a week.
We may have many, many years ahead and many more opportunities to make resolutions. Then again, we may have only one year ahead. Or part of a year ahead. When our son Christopher went to meet the Lord at age 33, it was so unexpected. But the good news is that he was living for Jesus Christ. He was glorifying God with his life, and he is in heaven now, though obviously he is greatly missed.
The Bible says that it is God who determines the length of our days: “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5 NIV). That is why it is useless to worry about the length of our lives. And more tragic than a life not lived for as long as we would like to have seen it lived is a life that has been wasted.
I realize that as God’s servant, everything I have is on loan from him: My life. My family. My health. My career. My ministry. My possessions. My future. It all belongs to God. So the idea is not finding out how God can bless my dreams and ambitions and goals. Instead, my objective is to find his goal and his purposes and then align myself with them.
Some people want God along for the ride as their celestial big buddy. But God does not want to be our copilot. He doesn’t even want us in the cockpit.
The fringe benefits of being a Christian are appealing, such as the promise of heaven and the fact that God has a plan for our lives and promises to provide for and protect us. These things are great. But what about being a servant and doing God’s will? The more we know of God and his plan and purposes, the more willing we will be to do what he wants us to do. The potter who is molding us is also a father who adores us.
Jesus told a story about servants who were given a task to fulfill. At the end of the story, Jesus said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'” (Luke 17:10). True servants of Jesus want to do what God wants them to do. We are just doing our duty as servants of the Lord. Yet sometimes we can lose sight of this.
The apostle Paul warned that in the race of life, we can very easily get off track or have someone cut in on us: He wrote to the churches of Galatia, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7 NKJV) Sometimes poor choices in friends and companions will cause us to get off track. They tend to drag us away from our commitment rather than encourage us in it. At the very least, they can slow us down. And at the worst, they can sidetrack us. We all know people who can drag us in the wrong direction. So think about who your companions and your friends are, because they can cut in on you in the race of life.
How did you do over the past year as a runner in this race? How well did you run? Did you make progress? Or did you go backward? Did anyone cut in on you? Did you lose your focus – lose sight of your priorities? Did you get off track?
As I get older, I think more about finishing the race. It is great to start off with a burst of energy, but what about crossing the finish line? Sadly, a few of the believers I knew when I first became a Christian have made a mess of their lives through wrong choices and getting sidetracked. They are not finishing well.
Then I think of others who started out with not that much promise, but they are doing very well today. So my goal is not only to start well, but to finish well. Because if you are running a race and have maintained first place throughout all the laps, but walk off the track during the final one, you will be disqualified. And all of that running will have come to nothing.
Jonathan Edwards said that he resolved never to do anything that he would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of his life. Maybe there was something you were doing yesterday that you really would have been ashamed of if it were the last hour of your life. Or maybe you are planning to do something today or tomorrow or next week that you know would not be the right thing for you to be doing if it were the last hour of your life. If that is the case, then I suggest that you change your plans. I suggest that you get your life in a place where you don’t have to be ashamed of what you are doing – a place where you will be ready, no matter how or when God calls you into His presence.
It is not enough to simply start out well. You need to finish well, too. So run your race well.