Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NET)
Yesterday Paul explained that after 30 years of following Jesus he was still learning about Him and getting to know Him. Today he explains how he keeps moving forward toward that goal.
To achieve any goal we must be “single-minded”. We can’t be half-hearted about our goal or pursue it only occasionally. We can’t expect to achieve it if we have other, competing goals. For Paul, and the Christian today, our one and only goal should be to know Jesus [Philippians 3:10]. To do this we must “forget the things that are behind”.
Past failures can hold us back. Paul wasn’t focused on his past mistakes of persecuting those who believed in Jesus. Before coming to Christ many of us lived lives that we are not proud of. Even after being saved we’ve all made mistakes. It would be easy to conclude that we can’t do better because we’ve failed so many times before. Such thinking is the work of Satan who tries to stall our spiritual growth.
Not only can past failures hold us back but so can past successes. Paul wasn’t resting on his laurels of all the work he had done for Christ over the preceding 25 years. He had planted churches throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and Greece. He had studied Scripture and taught it to many people. He could have considered his spiritual growth complete.
Instead of being concerned with his past failures and successes, Paul was focused on “the things that are ahead” – the things he still had to learn. He had a “goal in mind” and was “striving toward” it. The word picture here is of an athlete giving his all – stretching every muscle to perform. Paul was willing to put forth maximum effort to attain his goal.
Someday all who run the race to which God has called them will be rewarded. The prize for which we strive is eternal perfection. Our goal is God’s goal. And God’s goal for His children is to be like Christ [Romans 8:29].
Spiritual growth is a never-ending process. Growing in spiritual maturity is like riding a bicycle. If you don’t keep pedaling, you stop moving forward. In fact, if you stop pedaling you fall down. The same is true with pursuing spiritual growth, only with more serious repercussions.
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