"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)
In this passage of Philippians, Paul is addressing a group that seems to have weaseled their way into the thinking at Philippi. They are the strict rule followers of the Jewish tradition, claiming that new believers in Jesus have to follow every law of Moses to be saved. Paul was once a zealous leader of this group. His pedigree and position and passion led him to persecute the early believers, approving of their deaths and imprisonments.
But an intervention with Jesus on the road to Damascus changed all that. He quickly understood that salvation through Jesus has nothing to do with accomplishments and pride and everything to do with laying it all down to serve Jesus. That is what he means when he says "forgetting what is behind". It's all his trophies, the looks of praise from the people he passed, his respected position in the city of Jerusalem. He calls these garbage in comparison to knowing Jesus. Wow. That is convicting.
What is he pressing on toward? What does he strain for now? The goal to win the prize. I think it's knowing Jesus and getting a well-done from God rather than a well done from people. Ouch. Conviction here. How often do I (we) enjoy the praise of people and forget all together to seek the most important praise from our Heavenly Father. Our small "insignificant" acts of love may go unnoticed or unappreciated, but they add up to a life well lived, filled with His Spirit, rather than a straining for the dust of people's praise.
Lord Jesus, open our hearts to know you the way Paul did. So that knowing you more becomes the prize rather gaining praise from people. May we strive to live a life surrendered to you, loving you and people around us in small ways, seeking you in it all. Thank you for the grace that we do not have to accomplish our relationship with you, but can enjoy knowing you despite our failings.
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Just before the famous 4:13, Paul speaks about how he's learned to be content no matter the circumstances--rich or poor, well fed or hungry. The secret: God gives him strength in ALL circumstances. Paul trusts God to come through no matter what is happening to him
Now that is something I need way more than the strength to cliff dive or stick a landing, the strength to BE CONTENT no matter what.