December 2005 Calendar Article
Our Theme for 2005:
Living for Jesus
Progressive Living for Jesus
—By Travis Allen
No one of us is supernaturally inspired to live the Christian life. We’re human beings, subject to mistakes and occasional stumbling in our Christian walk. Paul knew this and knew he would have to continue his efforts if he wished to win the prize of eternal life. But he expected to get better as time went by, just as the Lord expects us to grow in our ability to live for him.
Progress in any endeavor requires a definite goal or purpose. Without a goal, one is likely to fritter away energy in frivolous and futile activities, but having a goal can change everything for the better. Paul’s goal and ours is expressed in such passages as 2 Corinthians 5:9 and 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. It is helpful also to read Matthew 6:33 and 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
One great duty and pleasure of Christian living is to grow in knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:18). This is an area ripe for goal setting, especially since it is not the Lord’s will for us to be life-long “babes in Christ,” unable to understand the Word (see Hebrews 5:11-14). So goals for Bible reading and study are important. Some can read the Bible through in a year or less and some may take longer; but any goal that reminds us to spend regular, even daily, time with the Book is good.
In beginning a new undertaking it is often good to shake off some things of the past, as Paul did in “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” And Paul had much to forget: As a devout Pharisee, he had considered the followers of Christ to be enemies of God and had gone about persecuting them, even to the death. (See Acts 7:58-8:3; 22:4-5; 26:9-11; and Philippians 3:4-7 for some of the things Paul had put behind him. We too must forget our past failures or things that might induce nostalgia for activities of the past that were not pleasing to the Lord. True forgetting is displacing one memory with a stronger one and concentrating on the second so that the first is weakened and gradually fades away. To accomplish this forgetfulness, we need to retrain our minds so as to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, as Paul admonished the Philippians to do (4:8). When the old, damaging memories are fading, that is an indication of spiritual progress in living for Jesus.
Finally, in order to make progress, one must continue an unceasing effort to “press on toward the goal” as Paul did. The word “press” carries the idea of strain and effort in order to achieve something; and so it must be with our growth as Christians. Just as physical growth requires proper diet and exercise, so does spiritual growth. If we feed on the word and exercise ourselves in doing good, we will grow in the characteristics that the Lord loves. Concentration and effort will ensure steady progress in our living for Jesus.