How often have we approached the new year with the intent and hope that we might change some area of our lives. I know I have certainly approached many a fresh year with the intent of more regular study and exercise, an improved diet, and better use of my time. So why is it that once the year begins we find it so difficult to keep our goals and commitments? I read a story recently that may offer some insight into our situation. A man bought a new hunting dog. Eager to see how he would perform, he took him out to track a bear. No sooner had they gotten into the woods than the dog picked up the trail. Suddenly he stopped, sniffed the ground, and headed in a new direction. He had caught the scent of a deer that had crossed the bear's path. A few moments later he halted again, this time smelling a rabbit that had crossed the path of the deer. And so, on and on it went, until finally the breathless hunter caught up with his dog, only to find him barking triumphantly down the hole of a field mouse. Sometimes our lives are like that. We start out with high resolve, but soon our attention is diverted to things of lesser importance. One pursuit leads to another until we've strayed far from our original purpose. I’m not sure that Paul knew much about hunting dogs, but he did understand the necessity of our keeping focused on our goal. In his letters to the Philippians and Corinthians, Paul compared our need to stay focused on Christ with the needed discipline of an athlete in training (Phil. 3:12-14; 1 Cor. 9:24-27). I’m not sure I know much about hunting dogs either; but from my experience of years working with congregations, I know how much help we can be to each other when we work together and encourage one another to be focused on the pursuit of faithfully serving Christ. As we set our goals for 2019 let us keep in mind the words of Paul, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Have a happy new year!