If you missed Bible study this week, or if you are following along from a distance, here’s a quick recap of what we talked about as we looked at Philippians 3:12-14.
Paul was quick to point out that although he had an impressive list of accomplishments in his past, and although he was presently striving to know Christ more, he had not “arrived”. He admitted he wasn’t perfect (something hard for a perfectionist to admit) yet knowing he wouldn’t reach perfection did not deter Paul from moving in that direction. He didn’t just throw up his hands and say, “I’ll never make it so I might as well give up.” Paul knew that God had taken hold of him for some purpose and it was his job to take hold of that purpose.
Paul used the words “strain” and “press on” — words that are rich with meaning.
Strain: to stretch to the full, to exert to the utmost. Paul may have been picturing a runner, going hard for the tape across the finish line, straining with every muscle in his body. To Paul, a Christian was like an athlete who trained hard to run well.
Press on: to pursue, to chase, to hunt down. Just as Paul had once been hunting down Christians for harm, now Paul was chasing after God for good.
What was Paul forgetting from his past? He may have been full of regret for what he did to believers. He had been driven by legalistic judgmentalism. He had to let the sins of his past go to keep him from being bound up. We can relate to that. But sometimes we also need to stop looking back at “glory days” and past successes in order to move on. We don’t have the capacity to go back and erase our pasts from our memories. The word “forget” here means that we are no longer influenced by or affected by that memory — we don’t give it power over us anymore.
What was Paul straining toward in his future? Heaven and eternal life with Christ, which would bring it’s own reward. Even after 30 years of dedicated labor for the Kingdom, Paul didn’t decide to sit out in his last few years. He knew that there was no auto-pilot in a walk of faith, no coasting — no one stumbles into godliness. It takes strenuous effort, but he kept his eye on the prize. What was that prize? Not salvation — that was a gift given by grace, accepted in faith. The prize would be standing before Christ unashamed, offering Him a life poured out for the sake of the gospel.
Most of us are trying to do way too many things. Paul reminds us that we need to keep “the main thing, the main thing.” “One thing I do,” said Paul. One thing. Press on. Pursue, chase, hunt down Jesus. Jesus said it like this, “So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly.” Matthew 6:33
Press on, brothers and sisters!