Last week I shared the Apostle Paul’s three-fold passion of knowing Christ, fellowshipping with his suffering and becoming like Christ in his own death, and I explained how I hope to grow into those same desires. I even wondered what I would have to go through and how long I’d have to go through it in order to have such a passionate desire to be like my Savior and to know him on such a deep and personal level.
I am encouraged this week to read the following verses in Philippians 3:12-14 as Paul confesses that he has not yet attained his goal. He continues to pursue this passion and works on developing consistency in its pursuit. This passage also motivates me to continue to grow and develop my relationship with Christ.
“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.” - Philippians 3:12-14
Paul’s motive is clear; he desires to grasp the same thing that motivated Jesus to grasp him – love and grace. God’s love and grace flow through Jesus and ought to flow through us as well. Paul admits that he has not yet grasped this, but he is not taking it lightly and not giving up.
For a long time, I was confused by the phrase “but one thing I do” because several verbs followed the statement. As you know, verbs indicate action, and it seemed as if Paul did several things and not just one. Then I realized that the “one thing” he is doing is pressing on to win the prize. In order to press on, he has to not only forget what is behind but also strain forward to what lies ahead.
Forgetting what is behind is not about forgetting one’s past, but rather putting behind us what we thought was either a benefit or a hazard to our progress. Remember, just a few verses earlier, Paul identifies all the ways in which he thought he was successful religiously but counts them as worthless compared to the grace of God. We can let go of our past failures under God’s grace and let go of the pride we have in our so-called accomplishments. This is necessary so that we can successfully strain forward to reach the goal. That same goal that God has called us heavenward, the goal of a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ and knowing him on a deep personal and selfless level.
The task and expectations are great, but we can follow Paul’s example to press on. We should not think we have arrived, relying on past accomplishments, but rather continue to strain forward so that we are always growing and developing this personal and intimate relationship with Christ. Spend some time in prayer today asking God how you can strain forward and grow into a deeper relationship with Christ.