Our Motivation for a New Year
As a year passes into the history books and another new year begins, one of the news items that catches my attention is the list of those who are often referred to as “famous people” who died in the previous year. They have their names listed under the headline “Departures.” They include people who made some sort of impact on our world, and now they are no longer with us.
I would imagine that as you and I are planning for 2018, we are thinking about all that the Lord might give us to accomplish. Maybe it is a change in ministry or in your church. You might be moving to a new place to live, or there may be a career change in your future. It could include changes in your health and lifestyle that you need to plan for. That list can have many things on it that are unique, God-centered, and God-glorifying. And to plan how to accomplish those things can truly be a good and honorable way to approach the start of a New Year.
But what grabs my attention as I think about those people who have accomplished some great things, or as you and I think about the great things we desire to accomplish this coming year is that we, like all of them, are going to leave this world at some point (unless the Lord returns). And, in one sense, living like we are leaving can become a biblical motivation for how we live our lives and plan the things we hope to accomplish as we enter 2018.
A Model for Living like We Are Leaving
As I turn my thoughts to Scripture and think about an individual (other than Jesus Christ) who made a significant impact in the world, I think of Paul. He is a man who knew what it was like to live life to the fullest with a clear understanding of why God had placed him here in this world. He also knew what it was like to live to the fullest while clearly understanding that one day he would leave this world.
This perspective of Paul’s is clearly outlined for us in a very familiar passage found in Philippians 1:21-26:
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
In this passage, Paul is writing from jail and knows that his days are numbered. Yet he gives this profound statement about life and death that you will never find in any of the lists of modern deaths from the previous year.
From this passage I think we can discover what governed Paul’s life as he planned for what was ahead, including how to live his life like he was leaving.
What It Looks like to Live like We Are Leaving
We have a passion for life — As we say goodbye to the previous year and welcome a new one, our passion should be like Paul’s who said, “for me to live is Christ” (v. 21).
Paul was essentially saying, “I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I do know that if I live it is all to be about Christ.” For Paul, his life really began when he met Christ at conversion (Acts 9). Once he came to Christ, every day of his life was one of continual dependence on Christ. That is why he said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And as his life came to an end in this world, Paul knew he would go to be with Christ, which is why he said in our passage that to die and be with Christ is “gain” and is “far better” (vs. 21, 23).
That is to be the overall passion and motto of life for us as Christians. Anything short of that passion, regardless of what is on our list to accomplish in 2018, will not prepare us to live like we are leaving.
Could I ask you to think about this for a moment: If Christ was taken out of your life, what difference would it make? Would you notice any change? Would you sense that something was gone? Would life go on and you would only call on Him from time to time when you really needed Him?
We have a plan for life — From this passage we see that Paul, while having Christ as the passion of his life, had three things that he planned for:
- To multiply fruit — In verse 22 he refers to “fruitful labor,” which would have included changes in his and other’s lives (called the “fruit of righteousness” in Philippians 1:11), conversions to Christ (called a “spiritual harvest” in Romans 1:13), and the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). In short, Paul was living for the things that would last. If we are honest, most of the things that we live for and that matter most to us don’t last for long (cars, houses, clothes, vacations, money, jobs, etc.) – they have an expiration date! But spiritual fruit has no expiration date! Spiritual fruit goes into eternity, and that is why Paul wanted to keep on living!
- To motivate growth — He refers to this in vs. 24-25 as “your progress and joy in the faith.” The word “progress” refers to cutting forward. It has the idea of hacking your way, with a machete, through thick brush in the forest to make a path. It reminds us of making progress in the face of obstacles and resistance. Paul is saying, “I want you to move forward in the midst of resistance and obstacles you face.” This is truly an amazing plan in Paul’s life. Remember, he says in this passage that to go and be with Christ is gain and is far better. But he is willing to postpone going to heaven in order to be used by God to help other Christians grow in their faith and joy. I wonder if that is the kind of motivation you and I have as we enter 2018?
- To magnify Christ — He refers to this in v. 26 when he says, “so that you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus.” That purpose clause — “so that” — tells us the reason Paul wanted to multiply fruit and motivate growth in others. His motive was the glory of Christ. He desired more than anything for others to be drawn to Christ! Everything he did and every change he desired in others was so that Jesus would be put on display for others to see. So here is the question this verse forces us to think about: Does our life cause anyone (spouse, children, friends, employees, grandchildren, neighbors, or whoever our life touches) to grow in their desire to glorify Christ? Does our passion for Christ lead others to say to the Lord, “Oh Lord, I don’t worship you like I should; I don’t live sacrificially enough for you; I don’t seek after you like I should. But now that I’ve been around _______ (that’s the place where your name should be written), I am motivated to love you more — to live more for you — to be more giving and gracious in my life, etc.” That is the result of a life that is purposefully living to magnify Christ!
Questions for Reflection
How will Paul’s life cause you to live like you are leaving in 2018? How do the things in Paul’s life challenge and convict you about the things you have been living for? What practical things will change in your passion and plan for this coming year?
Kevin has served as the Senior Pastor of Grace Bible Church since 1989. He also serves as the Executive Vice President for IABC (the International Association of Biblical Counselors), which serves to train and certify biblical counselors in the U.S. and around the world.