Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
I love a good long walk enjoying some sun, fresh air and the company of my dear pooch. I am not a runner in any sense and always marvel at the distance some can cover in a single run. And I have even seen people have a casual conversation as they run past me, I seriously cannot fathom how they can talk while running.
Some years back I got ambitious and gave running a shot, but soon realised that it not for me. So, I never enrol myself in any races, but there is one race I am a 100% in and that is my spiritual journey.
More than once in the bible we see the Christian life described as a race (1 Cor 9:24-27, 2 Tim 4:7, Heb 12:1).
In Phil 3:12-14 we read Paul using this same analogy when he talks about his own spiritual journey.
A Christian’s race is not for a few minutes or a few hours but lasts a lifetime. Like an athletic race it requires determination, perseverance, focus and discipline.
Paul says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Press on – is to continue moving forward in a steady and forceful way.
Our journeys are not necessarily easy. We will face our fair share of trials. There will be resistance from the enemy who will want us to give up, slow our progress or get us totally off track, but we have to be purposeful, steady and focused in our spiritual journey.
Take hold of – Paul talks about taking hold of, to seize, to hold on to the fullness of this life in Christ and he is not satisfied with anything less. And so, it should be for us too.
For that which Christ took hold of me – Paul understood that the Lord took hold of his life with a goal in mind. He is not just running for the sake of running, but with the finish line in mind. And this is true for all of us.
God’s goal is not just to “get us in the door”. He is not only looking to save us, but He wants to transform us. We should be ever moving toward Christ-likeness.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (v13).”
Paul did not obtain his spiritual goal yet, he knows he is not where and what he should be. He is aware of his faults and the areas where he still needs to grow. Growth takes time. Our measure is Christ. And we have to strive everyday to be more and more like Him.
Forgetting what lies Behind – a runner in the race is focused on where he is heading, he does not keep looking back lest he loses focus, loses momentum or ends up falling.
Similarly, for us, are we able to move forward if we keep looking at our past, our mistakes, failures or bad decisions? What is behind us is done and settled with because of the Lord’s forgiveness. Forgetting here does not mean it is erased from our memory but that we choose to no longer dwell on the past or let the past define who we are today. We choose instead to look ahead to the path God is leading us on with the goal in mind.
We are to not be fixated on the past and allow a bad experience to weigh us down nor are we to rest on the past and allow ourselves to be content with only having a profound moment in the past with God to define our relationship with Him today. We are to keep walking closely with Him in the now with our eyes on what is to come.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (v14).”
Paul again emphasise that he presses on, clearly reminding us to be intentional and resolute about our spiritual walk and growth. Paul is straining towards reaching his prize, which is to know Him fully and be in perfect fellowship with Him.
In Christ Jesus – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
He is our crown, our prize and our Goal.
I leave you with this beautiful analogy of growth I heard recently.
The Chinese bamboo tree, is one of the fastest growing trees. It has a growth spurt of about 90 feet in 5 weeks, but the catch is that for that 5 weeks of incredible growth to happen it takes 5 years of watering, nurturing and looking after. In that 5 years, if the gardener had given up, that 5 weeks of growth would not happen.
How many of us tend to give up in that 5 years before the 5 weeks come to pass? God is at work under the surface, do not give up but keep pressing on. He wants us to have that 90 feet of growth, so don’t give up in the time when we feel that nothing seems to be happening. God is always at work in us.
Keep pressing on.