Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
Well it’s that time of year again when in a fit of optimism many of us make great promises to ourselves about what we are going to do in the New Year; many of which we usually abandon about the second week in January. I would like to suggest a few commitments which I guarantee you will make a radical difference in your life if you will just follow through on them. I guarantee you that the start of 2018 could become one of the most significant events in your life if you will make three commitments that God in His Word encourages us to make.
1. COMMIT YOURSELF TO FORGET YOUR FAILURE
We don’t have to live our lives imprisoned by our past. All of us have failed in some way in our lives over the last year. Probably we won’t see our failures recorded for history on TV but they are recorded in our hearts and minds. For many of us our failures are painful memories. We might have failed in a relationship, made a wrong decision, been disobedient to the Lord. Remember, our loving Father is a forgiving Father. Let’s seek His forgiveness and ask His help to leave those failures in 2017 and not carry them forth into the new opportunities God will be giving us in 2018.
2. COMMIT YOURSELF TO GIVE UP YOUR GRUDGES
Colossians 3:13 (NIV) says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” God is challenging us directly and personally to give up our grudges. That is what he means when he says forgive each other whatever grievance you may have against one another. A grudge is a deep ongoing resentment that we cultivate in our hearts against someone else. A grudge is an unforgiving spirit that leads to unforgiving attitudes and unforgiving actions. Grudges are dangerous; they destroy marriages, families, friendships and churches. If you know you are holding a grudge against someone then God has something to say to you: He says “Give it up.” How can we expect God to forgive us (above) and bless us in 2018 when we are not willing to forgive others and give up our grudges? So another thing we need to leave in 2017 is every grudge we’ve been carrying.
3. COMMIT YOURSELF TO RESTORE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Romans 12:18 (NIV) gives us a huge challenge: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. God tells each one of us to do all we can to restore our relationships. Some relationships might have gone wrong in our lives because of what other people have done and they might well not want that relationship restored. God recognizes that. That is why he starts by saying “If it is possible”. But let’s be honest some of our relationships have gone wrong because of what we have done. God is saying if you have caused a rift in a relationship then you have a responsibility to do everything you can to restore it. That everything includes the one thing we all probably find most difficult, asking for forgiveness. Maybe God is saying to some of you that this change of year is the right time to restore the relationships you have ruined by going and sincerely saying that you are sorry for those angry words or those selfish and unthoughtful actions. Will you rise to that challenge and make a commitment to restore your broken relationships as we start this new year?
When I read Pilgrim’s Progress I find myself visualizing the scenes as John Bunyan describes them. One of the most vivid scenes is when Christian trudges up the hill of Calvary and the huge burden of sin and guilt that he is carrying falls off his back. Bunyan describes it this way: “He ran thus till he came to a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and little below in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back; and began to tumble, and so continued to do so until it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more”. Hallelujah! What an experience, when God removes the burden. As you enter the new year, with God’s help, won’t you release those burdens you are carrying? Will you forget your failures, give up your grudges, and restore your relationships? These are baggage you need to leave in 2017. I’m recalling a song I used to sing as a child, “Roll away, roll away, roll away, All the burdens of my heart roll away”. Isn’t it time you released those burdens and let them roll away where you won’t have to deal with them “no more”?
—– Pastor Steve