Onward Toward the Goal

Many people are no doubt excited about a new year having arrived – in view of all that we experienced in 2020. There is no way to really overstate the historic nature of 2020 with all that we experienced: the global COVID-19 pandemic, a divisive and expensive presidential and national election, racial and social unrest not experienced since the 1960s, threats of extremism here at home and abroad, economic setbacks not seen since the Great Depression, and general uncertainty about the future among many people. There is a widespread sentiment that 2021 will surely be better – could it be any worse than 2020?

Let me address this important question from the perspective of our Christian faith. No doubt, the year of 2021 will bring its own challenges. While there is “light at the end of the tunnel” relative to the COVID-19 pandemic with the availability of the new vaccines and improved treatments, we must realistically acknowledge that the next few months, and perhaps even beyond, will continue to be very difficult with continuing spread of the virus, high infection rates, and thousands of lives being lost. It will most likely be the middle of the year before a large number of the American population will be vaccinated, which immunologists tell us will be necessary to reach a point of relative safety. Even then, COVID-19 will continue to be a public health threat, but we will hopefully be able to return to some type of “new normal” – whatever that new normal will be in terms of all areas of life. But we hope to be through the worst of the pandemic by mid-2021. That will be a huge blessing of course.

But there will be other challenges as well. Many of the problems I mentioned before will continue to be challenges in 2021 and will continue to require our attention and work as a country and as a people – including attention from the perspective of our Christian faith. Plus there will be the new issues arising in 2021 that capture our attention and consume our time and resources. There may even be moments in time that it will seem that 2021, at least for some people, has equaled, or surpassed, the challenges of 2020. That is the course of life and goes with the passing of time.

Just as I preached last Sunday, there will be good and bad in 2021. But we can look to the scriptures for wisdom and guidance in 2021 as in all times and for that wisdom and guidance to get us through the challenges of this world. A text that comes to mind, as we are settling into 2021, offers hope and perspective for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. Think about these words of Paul in Philippians 3:13-14:

“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, I press onward toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

As we move forward through 2021, dealing with COVID-19 and other challenges along the way, let’s hold onto those words of Paul – “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…” In Jesus Christ, we are winning the prize for which God is calling us “heavenward in Christ Jesus.” And remember this- GOD IS GOOD…ALL THE TIME! Amen!