As the year 2014 draws to a close, a number of us are going back to the resolutions we made at the beginning of the year and trying to see if at all we have met our goals and targets. I know there are people who gave up on their resolutions long time ago because they kept breaking them. I have come to realize that the end of the year can be quite frustrating for most people as it tends to be a reminder of their failures and hence leaves them powerless to make any resolutions or set any targets for the New Year. Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians is a timely reminder to us when he charges them to “press on”
This encouragement is found in the third chapter of the letter to the Philippian believers. Paul says to them:
“Not that I have already obtained it or already become perfect but I press on in order that I may hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore as many as are perfect have this attitude, and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. However, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”
In this passage Paul gives us three guidelines to help us to press on toward the goal that is set before us. In the preceding verses Paul says he does not boast in his achievements but actually counts them as loss because he has gained something incomparably better- Christ Jesus, and least people think he has arrived the apostle quickly moves to dispel that notion and that’s where we all need to start from if we are to press on.
We need to have an honest view of our spirituality, a certain level of discontentment of where you are spiritually. The goal of our race is to attain perfection, to become like Jesus, so until one reaches that standard we are not supposed to be content with our level of growth. It is this perspective that keeps us going. An athlete who thinks he has done it all and has arrived soon stops improving. Too many Christians are content with their spirituality that they stopped growing eons ago. Part of the reason we get into such thinking is because we often compare ourselves with others. Other Christians are not our standard, the Lord Jesus is!
Secondly Paul says he forgets what lies behind. A general rule of racing is that he you do not look behind as that slows you down and can actually cause you to trip and fall. Now if there is a person who could easily let the past affect him it’s Paul. Before salvation he was a persecutor of the Church, responsible for the killing of Stephen and after conversion he planted more churches than anyone else in the New Testament. Paul could have let his failures or successes get to him and render him useless in the present but he instead says, I forget all that is behind and I press on! John Piper puts it perfectly when he says:
“Memories of successes can make you smug and self-satisfied. Memories of failure can make you hopeless and paralyzed in your pursuit of God. Never look back like that. Give humble thanks for successes; make humble confessions for failure; then turn to the future and go hard after God.”
Paul says he is not content with his growth, he knows he has not reached the standard he has been called to and he also forgets what lies behind, he does not let his failures and successes affect his growth. Therefore he presses on toward his goal. He has a single passion and goal in life that is to be like Jesus. He will not let anything distract him and he will apply all his time, energy and resources to get to that finish line. He is as focused as an athlete who is willing to endure pain and sacrifice everything in order to finish the race. He is willing to discipline himself for that cause. Paul says press on!
Dear friends as the year draws to a close and you take stock of your failures and successes my encouragement to you is simple: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore as many as are perfect have this attitude, and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. However, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.