…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).
With the observance of yet another Christmas passing into memory, I find myself looking forward to the year that has just begun. Appropriately, I’ve been rereading the story of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and their “wilderness wanderings” on the way to the Promised Land. The Scriptures tell us that everything recorded in the Old Testament is there for our learning, and the amazing story of the Exodus is no exception.
Most of us know that this epic story is a picture of our being delivered from a life of sin into new life with Christ, and if we’ve had that very personal experience, we “get it”—the Exodus part, at least. But do we get the rest of it? Do we understand that we were “brought out” so we could be “brought in”? God didn’t simply send His only Son so we could escape death and hell (which is mercy, because we all deserve death and hell!) but so that we could experience the joy of a new life in Him (which none of us deserves—and that, my friends, is grace!).
I wonder how many of us miss out on so much because we, like the Israelites of old, find ourselves mercifully delivered from a life of sin, but then we cease to be “amazed by grace” because we get stuck wandering in the wilderness, never entering into the joy of the Lord. Sure, the ultimate joy will come when we leave this earth and go to be with Him, and that should be the utmost desire of our hearts. But there is a joy here on earth for us as well, and it is in that joy that we find our strength to persevere and triumph as believers in a world that is less than receptive, and sometimes even hostile, to our faith.
That level of “fullness of joy” on earth is found only in God’s presence. If you’ve experienced your own Exodus and been delivered from your old life of sin, and yet you spend much of your time wandering in the wilderness, feeling weak and defeated and anything but joyful, maybe this crossing over into the new year of 2012 is a good time to commit to spending more time in God’s presence—reading and meditating on His Word, singing songs of praise and worshiping Him, praying and interceding for those around you.
Maybe 2012 is a time to put into practice the title of one of my books: BEYOND ME: LIVING A YOU-FIRST LIFE IN A ME-FIRST WORLD. We can’t live that kind of life in our own strength, for we have none. But if we learn to draw on God’s strength by putting Him first and by regularly spending time with Him, we will be able to move beyond ourselves, beyond our weak, me-centered wilderness wanderings, and into the joys of the Promised Land of living every day in His presence.
That is my prayer for you, dear readers, as 2011 fades to black—and the light of 2012 dawns brighter on the horizon. May we all commit to “press forward” together to that great prize of “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”!