Scripture: Philippians 3:13-14
13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. NKJV
Setting: Paul’s Goal
Paul writes about the goal of his life in Philippians chapter 3. In verses 1-7, he warns us to put “no confidence in the flesh.” He explains in verses 5-6 that he was “a persecutor of the church” and then lists his “qualifications” for being “found blameless.” He’s referring to his Jewish heritage, circumcision, and identity as a Pharisee. He then proceeds to “count as loss for the sake of Christ.”
When Jesus reveals Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, blinding him with a heavenly light, Saul becomes Paul. Encountering Christ changes Paul. Everything that once was important to him: his knowledge of God’s Law, his extensive theological and religious training as a Pharisee, and even his Hebrew heritage becomes secondary for the sake of Christ.
The Most Precious Things!
The things most precious to him, he counts as a loss! Verses 8-11 indicate what’s most important to Paul.
v 8—the “surpassing knowledge of knowing Christ–all is considered “rubbish so that I might gain Christ”–knowing and gaining Christ is more valuable than anything else!
v9–Faith in Christ Jesus produces righteousness–this idea appears in Romans chapters 3 and 4–righteousness from God not from the Law
v10–knowing Jesus, the power of His resurrection, fellowship of His sufferings, conformed to His death
v11–attain the resurrection from the dead
In simple terms, Paul wants to fully know Jesus and ultimately attain resurrection! The real goal of walking with Christ is to become like Christ, to know Him better, and ultimately be resurrected!
Paul isn’t seeking a successful ministry, prosperous career, happy marriage, or any aspect of the “American dream.” He is seeking to know Christ! This thirst for Christ made all the suffering and hardships that he faced worthwhile.
Pressing Ahead to Christ!
Paul admits in verse 12 that he’s not gotten to it, yet nor become perfect, but he presses ahead. Are you pushing ahead in your relationship with Christ? How are you working through set backs, defeats, and discouragement? Life in a fallen world tends to lead us to question ourselves, God, and others. Disappointments in relationships, career, and life events draw us inward and toward cynicism and despair.
Verse 13 is Paul’s answer. He says that he does one thing: “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Got questions explores this concept in detail:
We all have a past. We all have hurts and scars–some that we received and others that we inflicted on others. Hurting people tend to either withdrawal from others or put on a facade. Instead of being honest and vulnerable, we sulk. If not careful, we then become bitter and angry toward those who hurt us. Eventually we even close ourselves off from those who haven’t hurt us yet, but exhibit similar traits. I have a collection of quotes and post about forgiveness below:
This is a vicious cycle of malice, judgment, criticism. A once sensitive, caring person becomes a resentful and distant hermit. Saul was a vicious persecutor who did real harm to the early followers of the Way. He was proud of “his truth” and sought to honor God by relentlessly persecuting. All of this changes when Jesus comes to Him!
We must leave the past hurts and bitter disappointments to rest in the past! God’s grace and mercy will fill our broken hearts and His Redeeming Love flows through us onto the lives of others. In various ways we are all like Saul! We have our notions, opinions, and thoughts about life and God. We are wise to examine our ways to make sure they are aligned with God’s ways.
Warning from history
Even a theological education doesn’t guarantee that a person will be like Christ or seek to love others. Joseph Stalin attended training to be a priest. Joseph Stalin attended 5 years of seminary training! source of information:
This picture of him is when he was 17 years old. How might history have been different had he served in the Orthodox Church as a priest instead of joining the revolutionary movement? How is that he learned church history, had access to learning about God’s Word, and quoted large passages of scriptures; yet would later become atheistic and violently cruel? What went wrong?
Stalin had knowledge about God and religion, but didn’t encounter God in a transformative manner. Encountering God fundamentally changes a person! No one in scripture ever encounters God and stays the same! So I ask you to consider if you have truly encountered the True, Living God.
What we’re pressing towards
Throughout Paul’s writings in the New Testament, he uses the imagery of competing athletes to present spiritual truths. For example, he talks about “running a race,” “competing,” and in this case “the prize.” His audience would have familiarity with the athletic events of their historical era. They could visualize the Roman triumph events and games.
The “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is the prize! Knowing and becoming more like Christ until God calls us home or returns is the highest honor. The New Testament saints weren’t trying to build a better world through political or religious means. They wanted to be like and have Christ! So should we–that’s the goal we press toward: knowing and becoming more like our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! Got questions explains numerous related passages:
Why I write these posts. . .
To encourage you in your journey of faith as others’ writing and posts have enriched me! Press ahead to Christ! Let the past hurts rest with Christ knowing that He’s still working on you–shaping and forming you into His masterpiece. May God’s grace and truth flow into your life as you seek Him daily! For His glory and honor, I write,