This Year Will Be Different
Philippians 3:10 - 17
I want to start out time together this morning by doing a little informal survey. How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? Raise your hands. Okay. Next question. How many of you have broken them already? You get points for honesty. A more scientific study done a few years ago found that 70% of all New Year's resolutions are broken in the first seven days of January.
Our friends at Happy Donuts were telling me that January is the worst month for them, because business is so slow. People have made resolutions to eat better and lose weight so they cut out donuts and kolaches. But they said if they can make it through the first two weeks of January they will be ok, because by the 15th everyone has forgotten all about eating better and business goes back to normal.
Change is hard, let’s be honest change is the most difficult thing we can do. It’s not just finding the motivation, change goes against nature. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states, Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it. The trick is finding a force powerful enough to compel us to change.
For so many of us we struggle with making needed changes in our lives because January 1 of any new year just isn’t a powerful enough force. Our problem is we wake up the same people we were when we went to bed. We may have some new determination or resolve. But other than that, nothing’s different. I’m not saying New Year's resolutions are bad things. It’s a good idea to assess your life and identify areas where you need to improve. That’s healthy. I’m just saying that there’s more to it than making a resolution.
You have had several days in this new year to try, and struggle, and fail. But I really believe that you and we all want to be better... better spouses, better children, better employees, better students, and better Christians. So this morning let’s not only resolve to make this year different, let’s see if we can help one another make this year different. Many of us make resolutions because we crave long-term change in our lives. My goal is to equip you to make some changes so that on December 31 you can look back and say, You know, for the first time in my life, this year really was different.
It begins in your head. The first step to making change in your life is to change the way you think. Our scripture reading this morning came from Paul’s words in Romans 12:2, Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Now that’s not just positive thinking. I am sure that you have heard the illustration about the glass of water, the pessimists say the glass if half empty. The optimists say the glass if half full. But this morning I want you to forget all that.
We all agree that optimistic thinking is a good thing while pessimistic thinking is a bad thing. The problem is that neither are going to help us make the changes we need to make. What we need is action-oriented thinking.
The pessimist says the glass if half empty. The optimist says the glass is half full. The action-oriented thinker says, Looks like I need some more water. It starts with your thinking but very quickly it has to move you to action. You aren’t going to think more water into the glass. You’ve got to do something if you want this year will be different.
If you have your Bible with you this morning, hold it up and then let’s open them up to Philippians 3:10 - 17. (Read text)
If you want this year to be different ...
First we need to Focus on Long-term goals, not just short-term resolutions.
That's what Paul did. He didn’t just think about what he had to do today. He looked ahead. He states his long term goal in verse 10. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. I want to attain to the resurrection of the dead. In verse 14 he says it this way; I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul was a big picture person. To many times we get consumed with a single, snap-shot resolution and we forget about the whole picture. Paul looked down the road and the long term goal of becoming like Christ, of attaining the resurrection, and it was the big picture that shaped his short term decisions.
You can almost hear Paul asking, What’s my goal? What's the destination I want to reach? And I love his answer, I want to be like Christ. I want to attain the resurrection. So how does what I am doing now, affect that long term goal?
Let’s unwrap this idea a little bit by looking at this idea of focussing on long term goals works out in a fairly common New Year’s resolution. Let’s say a guy decides he’s going to quit smoking because he knows it isn’t good for him. So December 31, at 11:45 p.m. he lights his last cigarette.
He wakes up full of resolve to quit smoking, but by noon January 1 he’s craving another. So he eats everything in site. By June he’s gained twenty pounds. He’s not a smoker any more but he’s exchanged one health problem for another. He thinks, I’d rather smoke than be this overweight, so he goes to the store, buys a carton of Marlboros and loses the weight. But now he’s smoking again.
The man in our story didn’t have a long-term focus. His only goal was to quit smoking. And he did. But achieving that short-term goal created other problems. So instead of a short-term resolution to quit smoking he needed a longer-range goal to live a more healthy life.
If he was an action oriented thinker he would have done things differently. First, he’d see his doctor and say, Doc, I want to live a healthier life. I smoke like a ‘69 Plymouth with a blown head gasket. What can I do? The doctor would have done a check up to be sure everything was in good working order and given him advice about what to expect when the nicotine withdrawals hit. He might have prescribed medications to help with that and helped our friend chart an exercise and diet routine. He would have insisted that he include friends and family in an accountability program to help him break that bad habit and develop good ones.
In other words, he would have helped our friend realize the larger goal. The Doctor would have helped him see the bigger picture and then focus on areas that he could change to meet his goal. By being action oriented in his thinking he would have see how working on smaller things will bring about the bigger picture that he desired.
Many of us decide that we want, and need to get rid of some sin in their lives. They say, Okay, this year is going to be different. I'm not going to ______________ more. You fill it in. Lust. Cuss. Lie. Cheat on my taxes. Skip church. Gossip. Say nasty things about the preacher behind his back. Did I hit yours yet? We figure out the what but never ask the why. Why do I want to stop lusting or cussing or lying or skipping church? The answer to the question why? tells us what our long term goal is.
I want to quit gossiping because I want to be more like Christ. I want to be faithful in my church attendance because I want to grow spiritually this year and find true peace. I want to be honest in everything I do because I want to keep in step with the Spirit of God. When you make a resolution ask yourself, why? It will help you develop that long-term focus.
Secondly, If you want this year to be different, focus on progress, not perfection.
Obviously, when we make a resolution, we want to keep it all the way. Let’s say that you resolve to be in better shape that’s the big picture. The smaller picture is that you want to start walking a mile every day, and not just two days a month. Perfection is the goal, but we’re going to have to settle for progress.
Look at what Paul says in verses 12 - 13: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Paul is saying, I keep moving forward. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better.
A basketball player’s goal is to hit every shot he puts up. He never takes the shot thinking, I’ll miss it this time... unless he plays for the Mavericks. The goal is perfection, to score every time you shoot, but no basketball player has achieved that. Instead, as they work toward that goal, they measure their success by the progress they make. Are they scoring more points per game? Are they hitting a higher percentage of shots? Their focus is progress, not perfection.
Action-oriented thinkers do the same thing. They focus on progress. That’s because they know that perfectionistic thinking is counter-productive. If it has to be perfect, then why set myself up for failure. I’m not even going to try.
An action-oriented person thinks, Okay, we didn’t win every game, but we did better this year than last. Let’s see if we can improve.
Okay, so you didn't achieve the goal of never yelling at the kids. But did you cut the yell rate by 50%? That’s progress. Press on toward the goal. So you didn’t lose fifty pounds. Did you lose 10 pounds? That’s progress. Press on toward the goal. So you didn’t pray every day. Did you pray more this year than last year? That’s progress. So you didn’t read the entire New Testament this year, did you read the gospels? That’s progress. Press on toward the goal. If we'll focus on progress instead of perfection, this year will be different.
Thirdly, Focus on the how, not just the what.
The what part is easy. We know what we want. It's easy to say, I want to be a great parent. Knowing how to pull it off is the hard part. Wanting to have a happy marriage is easy, knowing how to have a happy marriage isn’t always easy. The how requires some thought.
If we are going to figure out the how in life we must set a strategy. Just making the resolution won’t cut it. You have to have a plan. Let’s say that you resolve this year to be a great parent. Your big picture this year is to make sure that your kids have a great parent. Now you have to take the time to think about the little ways that you are going to make that happen.
What can I do now for my children that will allow me to have a better relationship with them and keep me from paying for their counseling when they are in their thirties. What is the how that I must do to make my big picture a reality?
Once a week, I’ll spend thirty minutes with each child doing something with them they love to do. One day a week, I’ll help them with their chores so we’ll have a chance to talk while we work. I’ll pray for and with my kids every day. I’ll make a point of being positive with them before they go off to school. I won’t use that time to nag or complain about anything. If there’s a problem that needs addressing, we’ll tackle it when we’ve got time to do it right. I’ll take them to church every time we can so they can experience the blessing of worship. I’ll be sure they are involved in the Youth program.
You get the idea. The more specific your map is, the better. This may sound redundant, but action-oriented thinkers think in terms of specific actions. What specific things can I do to accomplish the long term goal?
Paul put it this way in verses 16-17: Let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers and sisters, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. Paul says we must live the truth you know, follow your leaders, live according to the plan we gave you. Unless you develop the how, your what will never be achieved.
As we close this morning I need to make one last point that is very important, and if we don’t take this last step everything else is absolutely worthless. I've saved it for last because it's the most important. You can develop a long-range focus, you can focus on progress instead of perfection, you can develop the how so that you achieve the what, but none of that will truly transform your life . . . unless you have Jesus Christ in your life.
I’m not talking about knowing about Jesus, or showing up three Sunday’s a month so you can feel like you have paid your dues for the month. I’m talking about having a relationship with God that is deep and life giving.
Without Christ in our lives, nothing else maters. Families are in turmoil without Christ, Job’s are meaningless without Christ, and physical accomplishments are empty without Christ in our lives. We were called to have abundance in our lives, and that can only happen when we give our lives to Christ.
The greatest way that this year will be different is if you will take advantage of the opportunities God has given you to worship Him, experience His peace, and know His love.
Questions For You To Consider
As a group read our text from the sermon found in Philippians 3:10-17 (If different people read a verse a piece from different translations it gives a unique feel for the text)
What is a resolution that you made for this year?
Would you say that you are pessimistic or optimistic in your outlook for life? (Not what you want to be, what you really are)
In verse 10 Paul says that he hungered to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. What do you hunger for?
Are you more likely to strive for excellence in your business life, family life, of spiritual life?
Do you really want to have a deep relationship with God?
What will it take to make you hunger to know Christ? What are you doing right now to grow in your knowledge of Christ?
What is something that you need to let go of because it is keeping you from giving yourself completely to Christ? (Job, family, time, selfishness)