2020 to 2021 : A Philippians 3:13 Transition
By Doug Gehman
Perhaps now more than at any other time in my lifetime, the transition from 2020 into a new year provides a brutally relevant reminder of Paul’s words to the believers in the Macedonian city of Philippi.
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Phil. 3:13 ESV)
I’m not sure to what detail in his life Paul is referring to. He is in a Roman prison when he writes to the Philippians. Perhaps he is getting over some bitterness at the injustices of his experience. Perhaps he is remembering his earlier, pre-Christian behavior when he sought to persecute the church and even destroy it. One thing is certain: By this statement, Paul is putting some memories in the rear-view mirror. He was also aware that it was by God’s kindness and grace he was still standing up and holding fast to his faith. “I have not made it on my own,” he writes.
I recently sent a thank you letter and report to a Globe donor who has been very generous to one of our ministries. The ministry is located in an unusually unstable part of the world. Here’s what I wrote:
What a challenging year 2020 has been. And yet, somehow God’s light still shines in the darkness. I see this all over the world, through the experiences of our missionaries. God’s people are amazing at finding the silver lining in gray clouds. A shining light into dark places. It really is more than a rhetorical accolade. God’s people suffer like everyone. We feel pain like everyone. We struggle like everyone. We get discouraged like everyone. But then, somehow, God helps us press through all those things and find courage to meet the challenges that confront us with faith and a resolve to push forward toward solutions. God’s people are some of the most stubbornly hopeful people on the planet!
God’s people are some of the most stubbornly hopeful people on the planet! I see this in the Globe family all over the world. Despite setback after setback, especially this year – from COVID-19, to unreasonably hostile governments, to two devastating hurricanes and other disasters, both natural and manmade – these courageous heroes serve people in their care. They demonstrate an amazing determination to defy, not people or authorities, but debilitating circumstances in order to assure that the gospel is preached and people are given a genuine taste of the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. It takes a lot of creativity. It takes a lot of courage. But they’re doing it.
Frankly, if we are looking only to mankind’s control and plans, the new year isn’t going to be any better than the one we are leaving. But, if we “look to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2 ESV), we have great expectations. The cross was brutal… but it was followed by the resurrection. More than every other person on the planet, Christians know this to be true: Inside every challenge is an opportunity… to be a vehicle through which God’s glory can shine and His purposes can be fulfilled. For this reason, I look forward to what God has planned in 2021!