“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 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 3:12-14
What are your major goals in life? What do you strive to achieve? Is it money, success, love, health, beauty? I believe there is an inward drive for humanity to become “somebody” in this competitive world. Yet, most of the time, this striving leaves us empty and hopeless.
The hope we must press toward, as the apostle Paul states here in his letter to the Philippians, is contentment in Christ. In the previous verses, he tells them how successful he was in the flesh, being a “pharisee of Pharisees.” He was very well-educated and devoted to Judaism, but his heart was far from God.
He calls all of his achievements “garbage” in comparison to knowing the glorious truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So he tells them. Look, I am forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I am super focused on the prize, which is heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul likes to use sports analogies to express his inner convictions. As an athlete myself, I can resonate with what the apostle is conveying in his writing. When you are running a race, you can’t be distracted. There is no time to look back and see where you have come from. Your only focus should be on what’s in front of you. The end goal. To cross the finish line.
Paul is informing his audience that our past life is not what we should cling to. Our righteousness doesn’t come from who we are, what we do, or where we came from. Instead, it is found in a person: Jesus Christ.
Swimming is my favorite sport. Before I get on the block to begin my race, I take several deep breaths to increase my oxygen. My mind zones in on the race. I even mentally envision how I am going to jump off the block, how many breaths I will take, and the number of strokes I will count before my flip turns. This is what helps me win my race.
How much more should we prepare our hearts and minds to glorify God? Following him is not a temporary race with a perishable medallion. We strive to finish a race that leads to everlasting life. A race that gives eternal hope to all who believe in Jesus. This race is much grander than we can imagine.
God told us that the two greatest commands in Scripture are: “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37).” This sums up the Law of God.
My dad used to tell me when I would practice baseball to give 110% effort. Essentially, give more than I think is even possible. If we can give all our effort in sports and education, how much more should we give in our spiritual relationship with God? Most of us don’t have this type of attitude when we worship God.
I understand it can be difficult to focus all our energy and effort in knowing God. We have so many goals in life, and they may even be good goals such as: being a good father or mother, being a good husband or wife, striving for a job promotion, eating healthy and exercising daily, etc. Whatever it is, let’s not forget the main goal: To know God.
This is what Paul is articulating here. He wants new believers to realize there is nothing greater than cultivating a healthy relationship with God. I have written a post here that gives 25 ideas for growing in your relationship and also a post here on 10 daily habits that will help you endeavor to know Christ.
Just remember, God has a plan for your life. He wants to see you succeed. Jesus desires for you to cross that finish line. Never give up. When the battle gets tough, keep striving! Keep repenting. Ask forgiveness. He will grant it to you. Believe me, God wants to see you succeed. Do you believe this marvelous truth? I hope so. Let’s pray!
Father, you are glorious. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. Remind us that our heavenly prize is not about how “religious” we are. Rather, the heavenly prize is to know you! To have a relationship with you God is the reason why we strive for holiness. Please give us the strength and courage to overcome our temptations and vices. Forgive us when we fail. Spur us on to repent and never look back. Help us on this journey. In Jesus name. Amen.