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Priorities for 2021

As I was thinking about the new year, I recalled the late columnist Lewis Grizzard and one of his lists of new year’s resolutions. In speaking of them, he said, “the secret of new year’s resolutions is making an easy list.”

However, today I don’t want to talk about resolutions, but I do want to talk about priority. Priority is our key to a meaningful new year. Priority is our blueprint to becoming stronger, more mature and more purposeful. Priority is our prescription for honoring God and living a more satisfying life. And I think the apostle Paul is addressing this same theme in his letter to the church at Philippi. He’s telling these Philippian believers how they could live at their best — how they should live at their best — how God intended that they live. Actually, he’s giving them a prescription for getting the most out of life. Listen to Paul’s familiar words and take them to heart: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

First, value your time! In a real sense, time is the essence of life. We see life in time frames — childhood, young adulthood and “you look wonderful.” Our watches and calendars tell us how important time is. There are two things that especially enhance the value of time — its brevity and its uncertainty. The Bible speaks of how brief our lives are. They are like grass which grows up in the morning and is cut down in the evening. At absolute best, time is short.

The uncertainty of life haunts us with its staggering figure of over 300,000 deaths in this country to COVID-19. There’s an article in the current issue of “People” magazine titled “Lost to Covid.” The authors of the article share the haunting true stories of one victim per state. The words of one mother who lost her daughter still rings in my ears, “The last time I saw her; she was on a ventilator with tears in her eyes. This isn’t how it was supposed to end.” Value your time!

Second, get over yesterday! Right here Paul tells us one of the great secrets of his life. He says, “This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind…” Paul had a bad past, but he would not be in bondage to it. He had persecuted the church of Christ and had given his consent to murder. He could so easily have been enslaved by his terrible past and paralyzed by its guilt. But he had asked the forgiveness of God and knew that God had forgiven him.

Not far from New York City there is a grave. On the marker of the grave is just one word: “Forgiven.” There is no name, no date and no other description. That marker should speak to everyone of us. As someone put it, “There comes a time when we should clean out our closets and make a trip to the waste basket.” Walk away from yesterday!

Third, live well today! Paul said, “And reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press on…” The picture here is not a casual, laid-back fearful stroll though life, but a vigorous energetic effort. The loving relationships we establish or maintain today, the duties we perform today, the knowledge we gain today, the skills we acquire today… all of this will help to keep us from being at the complete mercy of the new year or the future. Because we live well today, we will be in a much better position to mold the raw materials God gives us into meeting His purposes and our needs. Living well today and trusting the goodness of God is the great hedge against the obstacles of tomorrow.

A man was interviewed shortly after his small plane had crashed-landed at a California airstrip. Fortunately, he was able to evacuate before the plane burst into flames. A reporter asked him what was going through his mind as the plane neared the ground. His answer: “I realized I hadn’t thanked enough people in my life.” Live well today!