Don’t give up.
For around 4,000 years, people have made promises or resolutions at the turn of the year. Though that date has not always fallen in January, different cultures have seen the change of the year as an opportunity to make a change or to experience renewal. However, these resolutions tend to have an abysmal success rate: a study in 2018 found that about 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions keep them. Another group determined that January 18th is the day that most people toss in the towel on health-related resolutions.
Why do we give up on our goals? Sometimes it is because we just aren’t as interested in the goal as we thought that we were. Other times, the goal is, in our minds, too hard and the effort is too much. The trouble is that oftentimes, we expect instant results and the first time we miss a step, we admit defeat and give up.
In Philippians 3:12-16, Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to carry on. He begins by explaining to them that he had not attained perfection, but was still in the process of working toward that goal. As we set goals, be they to become healthier in body, mind, or spirit, we need to, like Paul, understand that we are still in the process. He went on to say that as he continued the process, he would let go of the things of the past and reach forward toward the goal. I have to admit that, altogether too many times, I have gotten distracted from the process by the things of the past, whether they be habits that were contrary to the goal or merely the lack of progress. It is so easy to give up when it feels like you have had a setback or it doesn’t feel like you are gaining ground! But, we are encouraged, through Paul’s letter, to continue, moving forward, letting go of our missteps and keeping our eyes on the goal.
A couple of years ago, I signed up for an obstacle course race. I knew that I was not in the state of health that I wanted to be and that I needed to change how I was doing things. I thought that having the race ahead of me would help goad me on to reaching my goal of being healthier. As I huffed and puffed my way through training for that race, I did not do as well as I should have. When it came time to run, I knew that I still was not in the shape that I wanted to be, but I went anyway. Since that first race, I have run fifteen more of varying distances and difficulties. I still am not where I want to be in terms of my physical fitness, having been inconsistent in my training and discipline. However, I am better off than I was before I started. I have a sign in my office at work that reads, “If I quit now, I will soon be back to where I started. And when I started, I was desperately wishing to be where I am now.” I have not yet reached my goal, but I cannot stop because I faltered. I cannot give up because I have not seen the progress that I want. I have to keep striving toward the goal.
As Christians, we are to be constantly working toward sanctification, striving to be better today than we were yesterday. As we strive toward the goal of being like Christ, we will misstep, we will stumble, and we will fall, but we have to continue to get up and keep moving toward the goal. We cannot get discouraged through the process and admit defeat; the Holy Spirit is our encourager and lifts us when we think that we cannot go on. If we hold fast to the promise that Jesus gave, one day, we will be able to say, as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Do not give up.
Contributed by: Jeremy Laughead, Director of Internal Processes