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 9 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, 2 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.
3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life,appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
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.