“New Year, New Me!” How many of you have already given up on your New Year’s resolution? If you raised your hand, you are not alone! Studies have shown that 50% of adults make New Years resolutions but only 10% actually keep them. We live in a world that constantly encourages us to strive to better ourselves but rarely will we ever measure up. We are also constantly told to evoke the power of God to reach our specific goals, but is this truly biblical? Let’s explore this further.
“ Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
Christ’s strength wasn’t just a vague force enabling Paul to accomplish whatever he desired. Instead, it strengthened Paul to be content in spite of the harsh difficulties he faced. He wasn’t talking about hypothetical goals, but about the very real adversity he faced on a daily basis.
Specifically, he was talking about his unfair imprisonment at the time of his writing to the Philippian believers. Here’s how he described it at the beginning of Philippians:
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14
Paul wrote that he could do all things through Christ strengthening him when he was in prison in Roman facing extreme oppression. And through his divine strengthening, He was able to look beyond his own suffering and rejoice in the ability to further share the gospel as a result of his imprisonment.
Paul never “became his best self”, nor did he strive to fulfill his own personal dreams. His delight was in extending the reach and influence of the gospel, and he labored to that end whether he was free or incarcerated. He was the benchmark of suffering for the sake of the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:23–33), and he rejoiced in the strength Christ gave him to endure all of it.
As we are approaching a full year living through an unprecedented pandemic, looking at setting goals for this next year, I want to challenge you to spend less time looking inward and becoming your best self and to spend more time finding ways despite our circumstances to further the gospel message.