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 towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
Read: Philippians 3:1-14
Consider: In today’s reading we see Paul speaking of his heritage and background as a Jew (Philippians 3:4-6). However, he is at pains to point out that although he might have reason to have confidence in ‘the flesh’ he now can say: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ (3:7). This should make us question those things in which we might place our confidence. Things like our denomination (or independence from any denomination), church membership, baptism, roles of responsibility in the church; any of these things can cause us to think that they indicate our level of spirituality. It is clear that Paul saw these things differently, as he could say: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ (3:7). The things in which we might place our confidence are not bad in themselves, but if they distract us from being focussed on Christ then we need to reevaluate them.
There are many other things that can distract us from serving Christ. The world has many enticements that try to draw us away from God. I’m thinking here of things like wealth, status, success, education, sport, recognition, possessions, etc. Again there is nothing inherently bad in any of these things, but we must recognise that they have power to influence our thinking and shape our priorities.
It is good to read that despite all the positive things that were evident in Paul’s life, he was clear about what he really wanted his life to represent. In Philippians 3:10 we read that Paul’s goal in life is: I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death …’ Can you honestly say that your goal in life is that you ‘… want to know Jesus …’? Is this the most important thing in your life? Are you instead chasing after worldly things and neglecting eternal (spiritual) things?
We might be tempted to think that Paul was super-spiritual, and it is unrealistic for us to try to be like him. Paul does not give the impression that it is easy to have Christ as our goal in life. He speaks openly and honestly of the struggle he has had in centering his life on Christ. He says: 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 towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul uses the analogy of the athlete, straining with every ounce of energy to achieve their goal, to indicate the effort needed to bend the human will to live as God desires. If you have watched any sporting event you will understand the effort required by the athlete to achieve their goal.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Philippians 4:1)
Pray: Father, protect us from putting our trust in anything that might distract us from serving you wholeheartedly. May we come to understand that all earthly things are transient and fleeting, while the things you want us to focus on are of eternal importance. Amen