Wednesdays Word // Philippians 3:12-14 // Pressing On Towards the Goal
“12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
What is a goal? Other than a set of posts with a net at two opposite ends of a field? The definition of a goal is: the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. For example: "He achieved his goal of becoming King of England". With that in mind, the first question I want to ask you is, do you have a goal or goals for your life?
I wonder how often we see our faith as a goal we have already achieved and then “leave it on the back-burner”, only acting on it when we are in trouble or in a desperate situation? I know I’ve definitely seen my faith as a goal that I’ve achieved. I know that I’ve gone through times when I’ve only talked to God when I was going through hardships and left him in the background when everything seems to be going great. And then in the times where everything seemed to be great, I’d slip back into thinking that other things that I should “consider garbage" (as Paul says earlier in the chapter), I was considering more valuable than God.
Paul is encouraging us in this passage to do the opposite of putting our faith on the “back-burner”. He starts by encouraging the Church in Philippi by being vulnerable, saying that he hasn’t obtained the goal yet (verse 12).
What is the goal that Paul is talking about? He is talking about being perfect, being holy, and being righteous. This won’t happen until we are fully united with God heaven (the ultimate goal). In this he is essentially saying to the people in Philippi, “Look I’m not perfect and I know that I’m not going to be until I reach the goal (heaven). But I’m going to press on towards it anyway, and I’m not going to turn back!”.
God is not expecting us to be perfect. He knows that we all sin and fall short. But Jesus has taken the punishment for all sin on the cross.
So what's the point in pressing on towards the goal then? Why try and be perfect now? Surely it's futile if we know we cannot do it? Well the point is that God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. And if we love him back, we should try our hardest to live the life he calls us to live (verse 14).
In verse 13 Paul writes, “Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead.”, does this mean to forget the journey you’ve been on? I think Paul is saying that, God has graciously forgiven, his past sin. By Paul putting his trust in God to forgive his sins, he is released from the burdens of his past actions. Imagine running a marathon and every time you stumble you add 5kg to your carry weight. Then another runner comes alongside you and takes all that weight off your shoulders. Freeing you to run without hindrance. What Paul is saying is not to forget the journey you have been on, but to not let the mistakes of your past stop you from pressing towards the goal. If God has forgiven your sins, then why be held captive to them when God has already set you free?
My challenge for you comes from two final scriptures:
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
- Hebrews 12:1b
“press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 3:14