For several years now, I have taken time and given much thought to a theme or driving principle for the year. I begin the process in the fall, September or October. When I decide I contact Premier Designs and have a bracelet engraved with the word. Then I wear the bracelet all year as a reminder. Two years ago my word was “persevere.” Last year I chose “Go further!” And for 2021, my word is “makarioi.” Makarioi is the Greek word used in the Beatitudes, often translated happy or blessed.
Makarioi. It means so much more to me.
A couple years back, I did a sermon series on the Beatitudes and I discovered that the word Jesus used was much richer than what seemed to be the typical, superficial translation—especially when translated happy. The word has more to do with thriving or flourishing.
Think about it for minute. There’s nothing happy about being dependent, or mourning, meek, or persecuted. Jesus wasn’t advocating living in misery. The perspective he offered related to the way we face the circumstances of life. Will we choose to recognize how blessed we are in spite of what is being thrown at us, dragging us down, discouraging us…You get the idea.
Will we choose to strive, to thrive, to flourish?
Here I will have to echo Paul’s words: not that I have already obtained all this, but I press on (Philippians 3:12-14).
Until then, I’ll wear the bracelet and keep pressing on.
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. (Philippians 3:12, NIV)
Life seems full of road blocks the inhibit our forward progress. And while we try to figure out how we can get around (or if we even want to try), we look up and see so many things undone or done wrong in the rearview mirror. How can we ever move ahead when what’s behind pulls on our attention?
What keeps the believer moving forward? Knowing that what is expected is not perfection in the sense that we never make the wrong move, flub up, or experience what Paul describes in Romans 7: the thing I want to do, I don’t; and the thing I don’t want to do I keep doing. It’s a horrible tug of war.
Paul gets it—gets us. Inevitably, striving for perfection ends in frustration, shame, and defeat. Focusing on moving forward, taking the steps, making one right choice and then another, is progress. Pressing on to become the person God wants me to be is moving in the right direction.
Pressing on is intentional. Pressing on is work. Pressing on gets me to where God wants me to be, to be who he wants me to be.
Jesus is quite clear on which direction we need to be moving. When he invited people to follow him several gave flimsy excuses about taking care of other things first. To them, and to us he states: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62, NIV).”
Statics show us the majority of people who made New Year Resolutions have already given up on them. Perhaps they were unrealistic or lofty. With every intention of reaching the goal they gave up when life got difficult or they got bored or another option caught their attention or fancy.
Disaster, disease, and disillusionment throw detours in our path, and the easy response is to give up. The enemy loves when we give up.
The Apostle Paul knew a lot about discouragement, but he never gave up. He wrote this to the believers in Philippi: Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12, HCSB).
I make every effort. I press on. With all the strength of the One who has taken hold of me, I grab onto that goal and keep moving forward.
No matter what. Don’t quit. Never give up. Here’s the good news: We are MORE than conquorers. We win. I know—I read the end of the book!
Stay the course. Keep determined. Hold to your resolve. How? Paul tells the Philippians that, too!
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Philippians 4:13)