Lucia's Blog: REDEEM THE NEW YEAR!
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, January 5, 2017

REDEEM THE NEW YEAR!


"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."
Colossians 3:1-4


Yes, our New Year’s resolutions are often shallow.  They are quickly forgotten or broken within the first few days or weeks.  For whatever reason, we don’t stick to them.  Maybe we never committed to them. Maybe we needed more motivation or encouragement.  Perhaps, it is too difficult, and we give up quickly.  Sometimes it is the pressure from others that makes us quit too soon.  When the apostle Paul made his resolution to obey Christ and the power of His resurrection that He might know Christ, he did it once and for all.  What a powerful resolution!  It carried him throughout his life and motivated him to sacrifice himself to the very end for the glory of Christ. 

As far as New Year's resolutions go, there is no better way to start the New Year than with his words as found in Philippians 3:7-11.   His resolution was to know Christ more and better.  Did not Paul know Jesus already?  Indeed, he did!  And yet, Paul yearned to know Christ and by faith to finish the work that the Lord had entrusted to him.  Paul always stressed the importance of holding fast to the Gospel of Christ.  My great desire for this new year and the rest of my life is to come to know my Savior better and walk in His footsteps that others may see the Light and give glory to Him.  The resolution for this year and the rest of my life is to become a better Christian and bear much fruit for His glory.

As I look back, I am reminded that another year has passed by and I am drawing closer to the day of reckoning, whether it be the day of death or the day that our Lord returns. That day when we all shall stand before the Judge of ALL and give account for all our deeds here on earth, (2 Corinthians 5:10).  That day when He will either say, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."  (Matthew 25:34).  Or sadly He will say, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."  (Matthew 25:41). 

Let me challenge each of us to reflect on how we have used the past year and suggest some resolutions that we may discuss for this new year.  My goal is to challenge us to make better and wiser use of the time the Lord has granted us.  Let us use this new year to dress for spiritual success (putting on the whole armor of God), so that our souls might prosper in all Truth and love.  Indeed, there is only one resolution that all Christians must hold fast, and that is to walk in righteousness, obeying the Gospel of Christ faithfully, (1 Cor. 15:1-2).  So why should we hold fast to our resolution of obeying Christ?  Because holding fast to His Gospel makes us part of His divine nature; because He is our great and perfect High Priest; because He is faithful and keeps all His promises; because it is through the Gospel that we are saved, (Hebrews 3:5-6; 4:14; 10:23).  The reward will truly be worth it!  Are you resolved to hold fast to the Gospel of Christ and live for the Lord not only this year but for the rest of your life?  Let us consider the following resolutions or goals:


I.   PUT GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS:
  1. By seeking Him first and His kingdom of righteousness, (Matt. 6:33).
  2. By putting Him first before all other relationships, (Luke 14:26; Matt. 10:37).
  3. By taking up our cross and following Him over all our wants and desires, (Luke 14:26; Matt. 10:39; Ph. 3:18-19).
  4. By surrendering our will to the will of God, following Jesus’ example of submission, (John 6:37-38; John 4:34; 5:30).
II.   TEACH OTHERS ABOUT CHRIST AND THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO SAVE       SOULS:

Jesus, our Lord, has given us a great work to do:  to teach His glorious Gospel of redemption that "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16).  How can the unbeliever know of the power there is in the Gospel to save their souls from condemnation unless we teach its message to them? 
(Rom. 1:15-19;10:14-17). Therefore, it is our duty to be God’s watchmen,
(Ezek. 33:1-6).

III.    DO NOT FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLING

That is, I will regularly attend all church services, (Heb. 10:23-37).  Remember we are to attend all services, so as to encourage one another to good works, (Heb. 10:24;13:1; Phil. 1:9;1 Thess. 3:12-13; 1 John 3:14-18).  This means that we need to look out for the interests of each other, and not look out for own interests only, (Phil 2:4). Indeed, the law of Christ that we need to fulfill is that of “bearing one another’s burden,” (Gal 6:2) and we are to serve one another through love, (Gal 5:13). Loving one another as Christ loved us, is what distinguishes us as disciples of Christ, (John 13:34-35).  Having each other’s interests in mind (that’s what "consider one another" means), we are then to stir up one another; not to anger and wrath which unfortunately some are inclined to do, but to stimulate love and good works. This glorifies God, (Matt 5:16). This requires connectedness with each other rather than “disconnected lives,” (Eph. 4:16).

We live in an increasingly technologically connected world today, and, as a consequence, we are more “disconnected” from each other than ever before! But God requires that we stay personally connected with each other so that we may not have hypocritical love but “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another.” (Rom 12:9-16).

Our mutual exhortation has to be an ongoing relationship, and not just during mid-week classes and Sunday meetings. The Bible warns us in Hebrews 3:12-13: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  It is vital that we stay connected, on an ongoing basis, so that we might be able to exhort and encourage one another, helping each other not to give in to sin and to stay on our course.  Remember that sin can harden our hearts and that we need each other to stimulate us to good works.

IV.    GIVE AS WE HAVE PROSPERED:

This is one of our financial goals, (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:12-14).  It must be purposely planned ahead of time and carefully.  We must do it with the right attitude of heart, and proper manner, (2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).  God loves a cheerful giver, (2 Cor. 9:8).

 V.    PRAY WITHOUT CEASING:  (1 Thess. 5:17-18).  
  • By rejoicing always.  Our joy must be based on what God has done, not on our circumstances. 
  • Talking to God continually through prayer not just for intercession, but for confession, thanksgiving, praise.
So, examine your life and ask yourself:  What part does prayer play in my everyday life? Remember, Jesus is our great example.  He would pray for hours on end.  He would pray so intensely that He would sweat as drops of blood falling, (Luke 22:41-44).  Jesus stressed to His disciples the importance of prayer.  So why not try harder to pray properly without ceasing?  "You do not have, because you do not ask."  (James 4:2-3).

VI.    CULTIVATE GODLINESS:   (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 Tim. 4:8)
  • Pursuing Purity in Our Lives:  
Purifying our life of all improper entertainment, Internet smut, bad company, TV, books.  Walking with understanding, discerning between right and wrong; in newness of life, as those who have a new heart which is pure.  This inward purity of heart does not conform to the standards of the world.  The Word of God can help us purify our hearts.  God demands that we be pure in heart and mind.  As those who once mourned our past sins and repented, let us cease to practice lawlessness.  Let us walk in righteousness filled with what is right.  Let us also hunger and thirst for righteousness, and be filled with what is good and pure. And let us not grieve the Holy Spirit but rather let the Word of God purify our heart into righteousness and holiness.  

God wants us to exercise ourselves toward godliness, (1 Tim. 4:7).  He demands that we continually train our minds and hearts with His Word; striving toward the goal of holy, righteous and devoted living.  So, let us strive to effectively exercise toward godliness, using discipline to learn and apply God’s Word in our life.  Without consistent and rigorous spiritual exercise, there is no room to develop ourselves to our maximum potential.  We will either grow and increase spiritually or begin to weaken and die slowly.  Take heed!

Godly exercise promotes inner peace, hope, and joy.  So, are you getting your exercise, or are you willing to start exercising vigorously toward godliness?

VII.   BRIDLE THE TONGUE:  (James 1:26; 1:19-20; Ps. 39:1)
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
(Proverbs 18:21)
As Christians, our speech must be characterized by grace, edification, praising, softness and tenderness.  It is not always easy to bridle our tongue, (James 3:2-8).  But we must train it to edify and give life to our soul and the souls of others.  Remember that the more goodness there is in our heart, the more will come out of it, (James 3:9-11; Luke 6:45).

Let us learn not just this year but for the rest of our life, to season our words with meekness and fear that we might reach out to others and teach them the good news (the Gospel).  Instead of using our words to tear others down, let us use them to build them up. Let us use the words of our mouths to encourage others and to teach the lost. Let us use our tongues wisely and not foolishly.  Moreover, let our words be few and let us be careful with them.  Remember that the message of Christ and His church can get lost, if we are unwise with our words.

VIII.   GROW IN GOD'S WORD AND WISDOM:

To accomplish this, we must be committed to studying God’s Word daily.  There is a big difference between reading and studying.  The Word of God is not hard to understand.  There is great potential if one has an open heart that yearns to learn, (Eph. 3:3-4; 2 Peter 3:15-18).  So, why not grow in grace by feeding on the everlasting Word of God, that you may walk in righteousness and glorify our Father in heaven?  Those who are faithful disciples of Christ ought to be growing through daily Bible reading, reflecting on the same Word that they might be able to share the Gospel of Christ with others verbally and by their good works.  Devotion to the Word of God is profitable for all things.

Many Scriptures stress the need to grow and mature spiritually:
  1. "Be no longer children, but grow in Christ."  (Ephesians 4:14-15).
  2. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  (2 Peter 3:18).
  3. "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing."  (2 Thess. 1:3).  The Thessalonians grew exceedingly in their faith.
  4. "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment."  (Phil. 1:9).  Paul prayed for their love to abound more and more.
When Christians fail to grow, many problems result.  Some go back to the world, the kingdom of darkness; others start causing strife because of their ignorance of the Scriptures.  Others become stumbling blocks because of their irregular attendance, worldliness, ungodliness, and indifference.

To grow in God's Word and in wisdom, there must be a desire to grow.  We will never grow unless we want to grow.  That simple!  There must be a desire for pure spiritual milk, the Word of God, that by it one may grow up into salvation, (1 Peter 2:2).  Sadly, some seem to want to stay spiritual babies. They refuse to grow up.  It is easy to stay a baby without any responsibilities whatsoever.  And just as a baby needs to be fed, dressed and his diaper changed.  It is the same in the church when members don't want to teach, rebuke sin or simply do the Lord's work.  It is a free ride!  God demands that His children, Christians, be productive, useful, mature, and actively serving in the Lord's cause.  It is vital that Christians turn from sin, repent, and go to work in His vineyard; bringing forth the fruits of repentance.  This will indeed lead us to spiritual growth thus improving God's work.  Otherwise, we are wasting our time and accomplishing nothing as children of God.  Ask yourself, do I want to grow into the likeness of Jesus?

It is crucial that we feed on the Word of God to grow spiritually.  A child cannot grow up without proper food.  Children need nourishment.  To grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, there must be a desire to study the Bible and attend church meetings.  He needs the regular nourishment of the Word of God for wisdom.  In Hebrews 5:11-14, Christians were rebuked for not growing as they should.  Why didn't they grow?  Because they did not study the Scriptures for regular nourishment. Alas, how many Christians remain spiritual midgets or fall away because they fail to search the Scriptures daily!

Psalm 1:1-2 exhorts us to meditate on God's Word day and night.  So, why is it that we get very upset when we go for days without food or nourishment but are content to go for days at a time without feeding on the Word of God?  (Psalm 119:47;48, 95-99; Josh. 1:8).

So, how much time have you spent watching TV, on Facebook and other social media instead of feeding on the Word of God that you may grow in wisdom?  How much time have you spent watching sports, reading the paper, magazines, etc. as entertainment?  How much time have you devoted to a particular hobby that is not necessarily immoral but is not necessary?  How many hours have you spent studying the Word of God this week, the week before and so on?  How many church services have you missed that you could have attended?  Are you nourishing your spirit or your body?  Are you feeding your mind on God's Word or worldly pleasures?  Be honest and answer those questions.  If you need to change, then repent and start exercising godliness that you may grow spiritually.  Exercise and practice are vital for spiritual growth and discernment.  Where do you get that from?  From the Bible!  Therefore, study it over and over again.  Talk to others about the Word.  Drill yourself and memorize it!  Get in and dig in! Don't expect spiritual maturity without Bible nourishment.  We all need to grow as Christians and everyone can indeed grow if we earnestly study the Bible and start applying the Bible principles of growth.

IX.   LEARN TO BE CONTENT AND BE GRATEFUL:
(Phil. 4:11-12; Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:6-8)

Let us make an inventory of all of God’s blessings.  It is sometimes helpful to look at other people’s lives.  You might be surprised how blessed you have been.  Where do you think the apostle Paul wrote the words of Phil. 4:11-12?  Yes, in prison!  So, let’s imitate Paul’s attitude of heart and learn to be content in all circumstances of life.

Being grateful is the key to spiritual victory.  Joy is the result of a grateful heart. A thankful heart is the product of a person who always chooses to give thanks and be content no matter what the circumstances.  It is the person who never compares himself to other people but always to Christ.  It is the heart that realizes he is rich beyond measure because he is a child of God and that in Him he finds His portion. It is the heart that is always looking for reasons to be content and give thanks.

X.  HELP THOSE IN NEED:  
“35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me..’”  (Matt. 25:35-40).

The chief sin of the rich man was that he refused to help those in need.  He lacked mercy and compassion, (Luke 10:30-37).  We see this same sin in the parable of the good Samaritan, (Luke 10:30-37).  So, let us not follow their bad example but rather Jesus’ example of mercy toward others.

XI.    TRUST THE LORD MORE AND STOP WORRYING:

Look around and see how faithful God has been to you and others.  Consider all of God’s promises to us, (Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 5:7; Matt. 6:31-33; Phil. 4:6-7).  Learn to trust Him for the little things; then you will trust Him more easily for the bigger things. 

Let us learn and then choose to trust in God, depending on Him to help us through His Word and prayer, (Psalm 34:4). It is our responsibility to choose to trust God in all circumstances.  Trusting in God is a powerful weapon that helps us to lay hold on His promises and cling to them despite our adversities that so often overwhelm us. Trust is the mark of a Christian's maturity. “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

XII.   PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD:  (Eph. 6:10-18)

God’s spiritual armor provides protection against Satan.  Our battle is real, personal, defensive and not meant to be fought alone.  We must learn to dress for spiritual success.  The spoils of victory are our own souls and the souls of others.  So, let us keep on going and find strength in God through His Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and prayer.  

We are to withstand and resist steadfastly.  The enemy will not attack us once or twice but rather with multiple assaults, and often with a stealth approach, (2 Pet. 2:1ff, 2 Cor. 11: 3-4,11-15). It may be a direct attack strategy, (Eph. 6:16, James 1:2-4, 1 Pet 1: 6-7). We are warned to stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore, having been warned and prepared, we are to resist until the devil flees from us or is repelled, (James 4:7). The word withstand/resist is the same word used in Ephesians 6:13, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

We are to put on the whole armor of God, both defensive and offensive.  Therefore, to withstand is both to defend strongly and to resist as being on the offensive. Jesus used the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit to resist Satan.  We must use the Word of God as a weapon to resist the devil.  Though we may resist the devil successfully, we are to continue to be sober and vigilant, putting on the whole armor of God.  Why?  Because Satan is going to attack us again, when he finds an opportune time as he did to Christ, (Luke 4:13). 

XIII.    REAP IN WELL DOING, DOING WHAT IS RIGHT:
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."  (Galatians 6:9).
So, if you haven’t started yet, to sow to the Spirit to reap everlasting life, now is time for you to start doing it!  Therefore, stop sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption.  Do good! (6:10).  It is not an easy road to travel, but we must do it if we want to inherit eternal life.  Satan throws many obstacles in our way, making it difficult to persevere. It is easier to quit than to persevere. Thus, God has instructed us to “not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (6:9).

The Word of God stresses that our reaping (that is, our desired reaping) is conditioned on our not fainting or losing heart. We have chosen to enter the race, so we must continue to “run well” (Galatians 5:7). We have decided to enlist in His army, so now we must keep on being “a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).  Since we have been born into God’s family, we must continue to be “obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14). We have entered the Lord’s workforce, so now we must keep on being “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Indeed, the minute that we obeyed the Gospel, (Romans 6:3-4) we made the wisest decision of our life.  Therefore, we must set our hearts to “keep the faith” and “finish the race” well, (2 Timothy 4:7).

The Book of Hebrews gives strong exhortations to all Christians to hold fast our commitment. To do that, we must not faint or lose heart.
  1. “But Christ as a son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” (3:6).
  2. “For we who have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” (3:14).
  3. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession."  (4:14).
  4. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.” (6:11).
  5. “Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (10:23).
Brothers and sisters, whatever bumps, rocks or valleys you may encounter on your road to heaven, do not lose heart in doing what is right!!  Satan will tempt us to throw in the towel, but we must keep pressing on, always looking to Jesus and our ultimate prize, which is heaven with Him forever, (Hebrews 12:2).  I am so grateful that He did not lose heart and give up on me and you when He endured such undeserved, merciless treatment at the hands of wicked men. Words fail me to express my gratitude to Him!!!

So, let us choose this year and the rest of our life never to lose heart but to persevere and finish well.   Remember that though we might not see the fruit of our work, the faithful do appreciate it. Our leaders need to keep at it, ever watching out for the well-being of the souls of others, (Hebrews 13:17). Do not grow weary in serving; the faithful are grateful for you. Teachers, you have an influence on those whom you teach. And though you may not see it, remember you are doing a great work for the Lord. Thank God for those few who appreciate and acknowledge your efforts!  Parents, children are a great blessing from the Lord; and though at times they can be a hair-pulling challenge, do not lose heart, but hang in there, teaching them the Truth, living that Truth before them, being patient with them.  Remember, that our reward is far greater if we do not quit.

XIV.    REDEEM THE TIME:  
"15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."  (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Let us purpose in our heart to stop wasting God’s time and start being wise by making proper use of His time.  God has no use for us when we waste His time, and He will judge us for it on that final day.  Time is limited, and once it is gone, it can never be recovered!  Are you making the best use of the short life God has given you here on earth?  Think about it!

The Lord requires that we be good stewards that we might be found faithful, (1 Corinthians 4:2). That implies being wise users of the time which He has placed in our hands. It is easy to understand this concept, and yet it is so hard to apply it in our daily lives.

It is vital that we understand and grasp the idea of redeeming the time.  Why?  Because so often doors are open for only a limited period of time. So, if we do not take advantage of the opportunities with which we are blessed, they might disappear and never return to us.  Remember that life is both fragile and uncertain. It is like a vapor, a shadow, or a flower – gone “before you know it.”  Hence, it is crucial that we understand and learn to appreciate the short time that we have been given to live.

May the Lord help us to be grateful for each day, each hour, each moment and never waste time but rather redeem it.  Be honest and ask yourself, “What is taking way too much of my time?”  Prioritize! As a follower of Christ, God must come first.  Family comes second, and everything else last.  So, if there’s anything that is eating up and taking away time from the Lord, His kingdom of righteousness and from your family, now is the time to start doing what is right before it is too late!!  Now is the time to start making an inventory of how you’re using your time and choose to take control of how you’re using it!  “Redeeming the time” is a serious duty.  Let us get our priorities straight and start working on self-discipline!!

XV.    LEARN TO BE MORE OF A SERVANT:
"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28)
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."  (1 Peter 4:10-11)

We could not have a better example of a servant than our Lord Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul presents Christ's model of servanthood for all Christians.  He points us to the humility that is needed to live as servants of God and others.  Jesus, our Lord, existing in the form of God with all the sovereign rights of deity, emptied Himself by taking on the form of a slave, becoming man (truly human).  He voluntarily laid aside His royal rights in submission to His Father.  In doing this, He humbled Himself that He might die even the death on the cross.  Jesus our Lord and Christ deliberately chose to become a servant for us, but at a significant cost.  God demands all Christians to live as servants, serving others with the Lord Jesus as our perfect example.

Since Christ was the Servant and left us a great example to follow, we His followers are to be servants like Him, (Matt. 10:25).  We are to decrease, (John 3:30).  What this means is that we must empty ourselves of all arrogance, selfish ambition, and prominence.  We must learn to serve others in the Spirit of Christ.  The Spirit will affect how we interact with other non-Christians and, in particular, with those of the same precious faith, (Gal. 6:10).  Serving one another in the army of committed volunteers is what must motivate us.  It is our faithfulness and devotion to Christ that compels us to be sacrificial servants.  Understand that the only way we are going to decrease is by increasing in our servanthood.  Of course, this requires humility that so often is hard for Christians to maintain. Our goal is to get to know one another better to find out how we can serve each other better and help each one carry his loads, cares, and burdens that he may not have disclosed.  

To be good servants of our LORD, we must learn to submit!  (Luke 17:7-10).  We are required to do whatever our Master asks, whenever He asks and however He asks whether we like it or not.  Our Master wants us, as servants, to submit to His will alone.  The servant/slave must be in complete subjection to his Master!  We are God's bond-servants, (Phil 1:1).  Let us purpose in our heart to learn the principle of servanthood toward our brethren and die to self, putting the needs of others above ours.  Of course, this will require that we dispose of all pride and the elevating of self, expecting nothing in return for our service.  It is not easy to learn or develop the heart of a servant and to live for others but we must if we want to serve God and enter the kingdom of heaven.  It will demand our everything!  Let us start being more of a servant to our God, to the church, to our family and all men.

XVI.  FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH:
"6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-8)
Many think they’re ready to fight, but are they really ready?  Fighting the good fight of our faith is like going over a cliff side without knowing until we get there.  Once we get there, because our faith is tested with perhaps error in the church or sin in our family and friends, we find ourselves falling and compromising our faith.  When we allow everything or anyone to interfere with our faith and service to the Lord, we have made a terrible mistake.  God demands that we fight and put Him first; putting all selfishness to death, taking up our crosses and following Him.  

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, the apostle Paul acknowledges the certainty of his death as he expressed his feelings, '"6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness... "  Knowing this, are we fighting the good fight of faith?  According to Ephesians 6:12, our fight is not “against flesh and blood.”  It is a spiritual battle!  In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we read, “we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”

The fight requires us to use God’s weapon which is His Word, the sword of the Spirit, (Ephesians 6:17).  It means that we use the Scriptures to cast down arguments that are contrary to the Word of God.  This was how Apollos helped the church at Achaia in Acts 18: 27-28: “when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”

In Titus 1:9-14, the elders are commanded to be the ones who are "9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain... Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.”

The fight requires us to hold fast the faithful Word as we have been taught that we may be able to by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who CONTRADICT.  Our fight is against those who CONTRADICT the faithful Word of God that we have been taught and the weapon for the fight is SOUND DOCTRINE.

Sadly, many are not involved in heart and mind in this fight.  They choose to be mere spectators in the battle of their soul, heart, and mind and of course of others as well.  They refuse to be involved in the fight. They are merely observers. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said: “he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  We cannot be just critics and observers; we must be in the battle itself! Some may have become battle shy.  They prefer not to preach or teach the whole counsel of God lest they upset and offend some people.  Others become battle-weary; they have grown tired of preaching and teaching the Word of God. Whatever may be the circumstances, let us make a renewed effort not just this year but always to rise and fight the good fight of faith as is required of us by our Lord (I Tim 6:12).  Remember that our spiritual battle compels us to preach and teach the Word so that souls may be set free from the slavery of sin, as they hear the Word of God and obey the Truth for salvation.(John 8:31-34).  In Romans 1:16 the apostle Paul declared,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” 

We must continue to preach the Gospel so that souls may be saved from their sins. This fight requires that we teach and preach the Word so that our brethren might remain sound in the faith and not drift away into sin and error (false doctrines that are man-made and have the appearance of human wisdom, Col 2:23; Titus 1:13-14.  Therefore, let us take the opportunity in this New Year to realign our lives with God’s Word and to renew our commitment to God’s Word, to search the Scriptures daily with all diligence, knowing and understanding God’s will, handling it accurately, (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim 2:15; Rom 12:1,2; 2 Pet 3:16-18) so that we may walk in the light of His Word to please Him in all things, and win souls to the obedience to the Truth that they may be saved, (2 Tim 2:23-26).


CONCLUSION:

As Christians, it is vital that we set goals in our life.  Without goals, life will be lacking challenge. When we lack challenges in life, we start lacking motivation and remain stagnant.  All of us need to set goals and be diligent to achieve them.  Goals help us to use our abilities and talents to our maximum potential.  When we put all this into practice, it will help us to grow spiritually unto maturity.  On the other hand, when one lives without goals, he is living life aimlessly, without meaning and dull. Those who are without goals are described as:
“Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud. And like the early dew that passes away, Like chaff blown off from a threshing floor. And like smoke from a chimney.” (Hos. 13:3)
Jesus was very sure of His goal while He was on earth.
  1. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mk. 10:45).
  2. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."  (Lk. 19:10)
  3. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  (Jn. 10:10)
So, what are your goals this year and for life?  What sort of goals are you setting? We often hear people say, “I want to be a millionaire by the time I reach 30,” “I want to retire by the time I reach 40.”  As Christians, do we include God in our goals in life?
"13 Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.'"  (Jas. 4:13-16)
What is your goal in life? What did Jesus ask us to consider before we set our goals?
Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22).
Paul said, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well-pleasing to Him.” (2 Cor. 5:9).  Paul reminds us that the goals we set will determine our aims in life which we need to carry out conscientiously.

Study Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7. The sermon starts with a series of statements, each of which begins with the word “blessed” or “happy.”
I am sure all of us want to be happy in life.  So, what do you think will bring happiness in your life? Jesus begins with those who are humble in spirit and those who mourn with others, especially because of sins, those who are gentle, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who through persecution learn to live peaceably with others. These are the ones who desire to live righteously before God and men.
Jesus set goals for us that we might please God:
  • Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify our Father in heaven.
  • Keep your heart pure. 
  • Remove obstacles which may hinder you from serving God faithfully. 
  • Love your neighbor, and also, love your enemies. 
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 
  • Pray fervently in your life. 
  • Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 
  • We should not only hear His words but be doers of the same.  
Indeed, all these goals set by Jesus are not easy to attain. Therefore, it is crucial that we read and study His Word and make every effort to practice it.  If we don’t put it into practice, we cannot be pleasing to God. We must make it our aim!

The apostle Paul set a clear goal, and that was to gain Christ, (Phil. 3:8).  He wanted to go to heaven, (Phil 3:14). He said, “one thing I do”  (Phil. 3:13).  Paul said, “reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:13).  “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I also laid hold of by Christ Jesus." (v.12b). Two words in verses 12 and 13 describe Paul’s intensity in achieving his purpose, “press on” (v. 12) and “reaching forward” (v. 13) which means Paul was pursuing his goal with the same singleness of purpose and stretching forward to achieve this aim. What goal?  “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (v. 14), which is heaven.

God challenges us to set His goals.  They are not only challenging but also practical. God will not demand of us something which is beyond our capabilities. On the other hand, He will not underestimate our talents. He knows our abilities and knows what we are capable of doing. All of us have talents that we must not waste.
“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2).
“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord…” (2 Cor. 4:5).
All of us must set goals such as bringing others to Christ and growing into spiritual maturity. These goals must be steadfast.  Don’t wait for opportunities, but rather make it your aim to please Christ, (2 Cor. 5:9).  Those who are wise will set spiritual goals, reflect upon them and plan them.  They ask themselves:
  • Have I been faithful to the Lord, using my time, resources and abilities, according to the will of God?
  • Can I correct my sinful habits that I may start growing spiritually?
  • Are there any hidden sins in my life that need to be purged out to please God?
  • Am I seeking the kingdom of God first and His righteousness, or my own well-being?
  • Who have I tried to bring to Christ and save from the slavery of sin?
  • Whose souls will I try to save this year?
  • Have I allowed trivial matters to consume my time and distract me from the real issues that give me eternal salvation?
  • Have I set a godly example in the past in my daily walk with Christ to others?
  • Will I set spiritual goals and achieve them this year?
  • Am I too busy and distracted from the things of this world?
Let us ponder these questions.  Consider the following poem and meditate on it:

Too busy to read the Bible;
Too busy to wait and pray;
Too busy to speak out kindly 
To someone along the way.
Too busy with cares and struggles 
To think of life to come;
Too busy building a mansion here 
To plan for the heavenly home.
Too busy to help a brother 
Who faces the winter’s blast;
Too busy to share the burdens 
When self in the balance is cast.
Too busy for all that is holy
On earth beneath the sky;
Too busy to serve the Master
But too busy to die.


Let us use our time well and not allow anything or anyone to distract us from serving our Lord.  God demands that we put Him first and put self to death, take up our cross and follow Him and His example.  We must strive to live for Christ and not self!  (Gal. 2:20).

The truth is that this might be the last year of life for many.  Will you be one of them or will you live to see many more years?  Only God knows!  Therefore, let us love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength as if each day was our last.

May we as Christians live up to our God-given potential, evaluating our strengths and weaknesses. May we carefully consider what is really our best for the Lord.  May we work diligently to acquire new skills and talents to the glory of God.  May we further our service in God’s kingdom not only this year but each day of our walk with Him.  May we reflect upon all these things as we begin a new year aiming to achieve an A+ in all that we do!
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  (Col. 3:23).

Luci