January 03, 2024

A Resolution for the Christian Life

Sinclair Ferguson
A Resolution for the Christian Life

Although the Apostle Paul occupied himself with many labors, he could summarize his life by saying, “one thing I do” (Phil. 3:13). Today, Sinclair Ferguson explores Paul’s single resolution and the direction it gives to the Christian life.


We don’t have to write the date nearly as often as we used to, do we? Our emails carry it automatically, and most of us don’t write personal letters anymore. But I still have one problem: I’m no longer scoring out the wrong date and the wrong year, but I am always wondering, what do I say to people when I meet them for the first time of the year? Do I say a Happy New Year? I’m not really very sure what we should do as Christians, but what I’m fairly sure of is that we can still say “Happy New Year.”

This week, we’ve already heard a covenant for the New Year commitment and a hymn for the New Year praise, and I want today to talk about a text for the new year. Actually, it’s a very short passage in one of Paul’s letters. You’re probably familiar with it, and perhaps you even know it by heart. It may even be your life verse. But even if you don’t know it, I think you’ll be able to remember it quite easily. It’s Paul’s personal resolution in Philippians 3:10–14.

He says:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. And by any means possible, attaining the resurrection from the dead. Not that I’ve already obtained this, or I’m already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I’ve made it my own, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You’ll remember at the beginning of Philippians, Paul indicates that his young colleague Timothy was with him, and you know that Paul often dictated his letters. And I’ve sometimes wondered if he mentions Timothy because Timothy was his secretary in this letter. The letter begins, “Paul and Timothy,” and I wonder if he gave his son a slight smile when he told him to write his own name down.

But if that were the case, I’m pretty sure as Paul came on to this passage, “Brothers, there is one thing I do,” I think Timothy might well have looked up at Paul with a quizzical stare. And if Paul said, “Did I say something you didn’t understand?” maybe Timothy would’ve had the courage, plucked up to respond, “Paul, do you really want me to say that you do only one thing? As long as I’ve known you’ve always been doing a whole pile of things, and at the same time. You’re the ultimate multitasking Apostle. You’re always traveling; you’re always preaching; you’re always praying; you’re always visiting; you’re always counseling. I’ve never seen you do just one thing.”

I think Paul would’ve smiled back to his young friend Timothy and said, “I know what you mean, Timothy. No one knows better than you what I do and how busy I am. But you need to understand one thing. You need to understand I’m not busy doing many different things. I’m busy doing one thing in many different ways. And all of them are about getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ better, to share His life and to become like Him. That’s the heart. In some ways, it’s the secret of everything I do—every waking hour, every different activity. They’re all simply different ways of doing this one thing.”

When I was a small boy in Scotland, each New Year’s Eve Hogmanay, as we called it, my parents would tell me to go into my room and write out ten New Year’s resolutions for the year to come. I laugh now looking back when I remember how hard I thought it was to find ten ways in which I needed to improve. I could write them out much more easily today, I suspect.

But if you are a Christian, you really need only one New Year resolution, and Paul’s will be a great help to you. Especially if you’re a younger Christian or a younger person, a teenager, or perhaps a student, few things can be more helpful to you than to understand that this is the way to both simplify and integrate your life. This is what will give you direction. This is what will help you answer the great question, “What am I really for?” As one of the older translations puts it, “All I care for is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, to share the fellowship of his sufferings and be made like him, that one day I may attain to the resurrection.” What a great New Year resolution. This one thing I do: I want to know Christ.