Where are you headed this year?

As we reach the end of 2018 and the start of another year, it’s a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the past to help refocus and set the tone for the future. This past month has been a time of reflecting and refocusing, particularly as I approach graduation from medical school (as long as I pass my exams!) and starting work as a doctor. I recently prepared a Bible study for the local CMF (Christian Medical Fellowship) student group – although intended for healthcare students, I thought I would share my notes on here as it probably applies to all Christians, whatever their field of study/work.

Where have you been running towards this past year? What have been your personal, professional/academic, relational and spiritual goals? Have you achieved any of them?

Philippians 3:8b-14 tells us that Paul’s goal was to know Christ. To fellowship in his sufferings through identifying with him. To live in the power of his resurrection. To become more like Christ in his death and resurrection. To be one with him.

8b … that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Our identity is first and foremost as a citizen of God’s kingdom (Phil 3:20-21). We must keep reminding ourselves that we are not defined by our work or study, our role in society, our achievements or failures; we must keep focused on eternity. Whatever work we do, let us remember that it is only a temporary role in which we serve the Lord. He has called us to run this race towards the completion of our salvation. It is not a personally-set target that we achieve through our hard work, but we run (note that we must still be active, not passive) towards a heavenward call from God to us, towards His pull of grace.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of life and lose track of where we’re actually going. When you feel like you’re surrounded by mountains of things to do, or things aren’t going the way you expected, lift your eyes to refocus on Jesus and remember why you’re here – to love and serve the Lord, because He loved us first.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life,appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

We must daily fix our eyes on Jesus. A daily intentional refocusing at the start of the day. Our hearts are inclined towards self, pride, others’ opinions, achieving good results. We need to make an intentional effort to set our minds and hearts on heaven. To know Christ. To fellowship in his sufferings through identifying with him. To live in the power of his resurrection. To become more like Christ in his death and resurrection. To be one with him.

Were your goals last year in line with your higher calling? Do you need to shift focus or adjust your goals? What targets will you set yourself for the next year? How might you live it out? What might that look like in your day-to-day life at work, home, church etc? The rest of Colossians 3 is a good place to start if you’re stuck for ideas 🙂

I was surprised to find an article posted by Desiring God yesterday that ties in quite well with this post. Check out “When our waiting will be over” by Jon Bloom – it’s about a song that reminds us of the promise of Home we hold on to and stirs up hope in our hearts again.


Rejoice in the Lord, always

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

What is joy? And how do we keep it despite circumstances and feelings?

Joy is one of the things that sets a Christian apart from the rest of the world. Paul commands (note imperative, meaning not optional) the Philippians to rejoice always. It’s easy to say, but how do we actually do it? During the ups and downs of my faith journey, I am most filled with joy when I have had an intimate experience of God, a divine revelation of Himself. But all too soon this fades away and I find myself having lost the joy of the Lord to the mundane-ness of my everyday life. Not that I don’t love Him or believe in Him anymore, but just joyless, unexcited.

Over the Christmas holidays, my church had a winter retreat around the theme ‘Rejoice’. How perfectly timed it was, since this was exactly what had been bothering me for the past few months. We studied the book of Philippians, focusing solely on this theme – I would encourage you to try the same, as it was such a great blessing!

Rejoicing is a choice

Joy is not just an emotion. It’s different to happiness, and it’s not dependent on fun either. I guess it’s not dissimilar to love, in the sense that it is a choice we make on a daily basis. It being a choice is very significant. I can choose to rejoice. I don’t have to be affected by circumstances or emotions when it comes to rejoicing. Meaning I have the ability to rejoice all the time. Praise God!

Rejoice in the Lord

The reason we can choose to rejoice in all circumstances, is because our joy does not come from things that change. Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in who He is. Rejoice in His unchanging love. Rejoice in His gift of salvation. Rejoice in the hope we have of eternity, because of all He has done. Rejoice in the Lord who does not change – He is our solid Rock, our Anchor, our Foundation – this is the reason our joy does not change!

Rejoicing is a battle

There are things that help us keep our joy, and things that take away our joy. I strongly recommend you read through Philippians and write a list of what these things might be. Some things that increase our joy include being content (4:11-12), interceding for each other (1:19), and proclaiming Christ (1:18).

Examples of things that make it harder to rejoice include changes in environment (e.g. Paul’s imprisonment), hostile attitudes of other people (e.g. the selfish preachers in 1:17), and ill health or death (e.g. Paul’s potential execution). These things are mostly out of our control, but Paul changes his perspective on these things and chooses to rejoice over them:

  • He rejoiced over his imprisonment because it expanded his ministry to authoritative figures he would not have reached otherwise, and encouraged others to speak the word of God more boldly
  • He rejoiced over the selfish preachers because Christ’s name was still being proclaimed, no matter what their motivation
  • He rejoiced over his potential execution, because his death would bring him to his heavenly home with Christ.


Not all downers are out of our control though – some things we can and would be wise to avoid. Such things include selfish ambition and conceit (2:3), grumbling and dispute (2:14), and setting our minds on earthly things (3:19). This kind of links with things we can do to increase our joy – serving and giving to God (2:17-18 & 4:18) is the opposite of selfish ambition, humility (2:3) does not allow for conceit or dispute, being content protects against grumbling, and proclaiming Christ fixes our eyes on heavenly things instead of earthly things.

There are many others, and they are truly life hacks!

Rely on the Holy Spirit for help

No matter how hard we try, there will be times when the going gets tough. Remember that with all these things, we need God’s help. Rely on the Holy Spirit (2:19) for strength and perseverance in making these small changes to your life, in order to hold on to that joy in Christ.

Meditations on Matthew 23

One word: HYPOCRISY. Jesus hates hypocrisy. It is self-centred protection, trying to please and impress the eyes of people.

What is hypocrisy? It is teaching one thing but not living it out. It is burdening others with the truth, but not burdening yourself – walking the easy road. A lot of pride is entangled in a hypocrite’s heart – the attitude that I am better than those that need to be taught.

How foolish! How revolting! How… me!

Jesus, forgive me for my rotten heart. My proud tongue is keen to teach things that I myself do not strive to live out. My eyes have become haughty. They keep sinning by looking for faults in others, whilst avoiding and refusing to address my own. I have been a Pharisee. I am a hypocrite.

Lord Jesus, I am broken and do not even acknowledge it most of the time. My fear paralyses me. Lord free my spirit from its fears so it can believe. Free my spirit so it can trust you. Heal my messed up heart so it can love you and my neighbours wholly.

I ask you for a sincere heart. Take away this criticising judgemental heart and mind. Renew my thoughts and my heart. Teach me how to love. Open my eyes to the depth of your love for me and for this world. Lord I want to be fully immersed in your love!

If anyone relates to this prayer, know that you are not alone in this struggle! Let us continue fighting against this attitude of pride within ourselves, continue asking the Author of our faith to free us from unhealthy, unholy thinking habits and to teach us daily to walk in His way of love.