“Not that I have already obtained this or am 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 have 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.”
(Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)
Although Christians are called to be like Christ, we continue to make mistakes.
We have not “arrived” yet. We fail. In fact, we’ll never obtain complete sanctification until we stand before the Lord. But, God uses our imperfections to “grow us” in the faith.
We have a problem to deal with called “the flesh.” Our flesh pulls us toward sin and away from the prize of the upward call. Our flesh keeps us painfully aware of our need to diligently press on toward the goal.
The Apostle Paul was laser-focused on the race, the goal, the finish line. Like an Olympian runner, he would not look back at his failures. Now, remember, Paul was Saul who persecuted the church violently. He played a part in the stoning of Stephen, and he could have let guilt and shame cripple him for that. But Paul forgot the past. He didn’t dwell on his sufferings, beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. He looked forward resolutely toward the finish line where he would see the face of Jesus Christ.
The author of the Book of Hebrews made a similar statement in Hebrews 12:1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Paul knew that God alone was the source of his salvation as well as the source of his spiritual growth. The closer we get to completion, the more we realize how much further we have to go to become like Christ.
So, be encouraged by Paul’s emphasis here on forgetting the past and straining forward to what lies ahead. Don’t let yesterday’s failures derail you from the goal of your upward call. Press on for the prize until you meet the Lord Jesus at the finish line. (MARY FAIRCHILD)