“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
These verses were written by the apostle Paul during a time when he had been locked up in jail for many months. He was unable to move around freely as he was chained on each side to a prison guard, and had to take two burly men with him wherever he went. Even scratching his nose or drinking some water was probably quite a process. If we had been in Paul’s situation, we may have been pretty upset, feeling sorry for ourselves and even rather grumpy with God. Paul was not having a very good time, but he was probably constantly preaching the Gospel to the prison guards and other inmates, praising God (as we see in Acts 16), and strengthening others. In this epistle, Paul writes to the Philippian church and encourages them to keep their focus on the “prize” and to persist in their walk with God.
Dear friend, you may be going through a difficult time right now. Perhaps you are facing some challenges with your health, or in your finances. Maybe your work environment has been painful lately, or your family relationships a little stormy. It is easy to lose sight of the love of Jesus and the infinite power available to us when we are being bombarded by challenges, one after the other. You may feel like your hands are tied (like Paul’s) and that you have lost the freedom to truly rejoice, but the Holy Spirit is calling you back to the vision that was once set before you. He is asking you to refocus on the goal, in the same way that Paul called the Philippian church to do. There is victory, transformation, and fruitfulness awaiting you, hallelujah!
1) Forget the past. Paul said “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward...” Paul knew that we cannot change the past but we can make all the difference for the future. The enemy would have us focus on past failures or challenges so he can discourage us and prevent us from believing for God’s best, but we serve the Lord who is from eternity to eternity. In Him it is always a new day, always today! He says to us from Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth. Shall you not know it?” Friend, Abba is asking you to put the past behind you. Forgive whoever you need to forgive (including yourself), stop regretting the decisions you made, let go of the past, and move on into the good things God has for you. Step into your destiny. Even the good things that happened can be a hindrance to us if we camp in them instead of reaching for better and higher. The Lord is doing a new thing, and when you stop looking behind you (like Lot’s wife did!) and when you begin to expect that new thing God has promised, you will see it begin to take shape on the horizon. It will begin to spring up before you!
2) “I do not count myself to have apprehended”. Paul could see he had made great progress in life and in his walk with God, but he never got complacent. He knew he was ‘work in progress’ and running the race, and that he had a distance still to go. Proverbs 24:33 says: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler and your need like an armed man”. This illustrates the fact that we need to be vigilant and purposeful about our walk with God, and never allow ourselves to become complacent. Paul confessed that he had not ‘attained’ or been “perfected”. It is a great danger to believe we have ‘arrived’! A heart in love with the Bridegroom is always hungry for more, and always excited about seeking the face of Jesus. Come deeper, dear friend, draw closer into the bosom of the Beautiful One! I want to keep looking ahead and walking towards that prize as we go from strength to strength, and from glory to glory. I want to keep growing into the image of the One I love, in whose infinity there is always more to know, hallelujah! “Help us precious Holy Spirit to fall more in love with Jesus, and to never become content with where we are; we want more!”
3) Press on and lay hold of all that Jesus won. We read in Hebrews 12:1 “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Paul wrote that he presses towards the goal “for the prize of the upward call in Christ”. There were countless distractions, hindrances and deceptions that could take him off the path, but Paul kept his eyes on Jesus, his source of faith and strength. Jesus beckons us to a higher level (an upward call) and always towards His heart. When God spoke to Abraham (Genesis 15:1) He said to him “I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward”. He is our prize and our reward. He is our higher calling, and the awesome revelation of Daddy’s love. He says to us today “Come up here and I will show you things…” (Revelations 4:1). The temporal distractions of this world are really not worth our time and effort when we see what Jesus has for us. Shake them off! Break them off! Keep your eyes on Jesus. He died that you and I could know the abundant life and walk in victory. Don’t give up dear friend. Keep running the race and finish up strong. Christ in you is the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27) and there is so much of heaven’s blessing awaiting you.
Precious son and daughter of the Most High, receive this word of encouragement from the heart of the Father today. You may be beset with challenges from every side; you may be in the middle of a raging storm as we are on the east coast of the USA; maybe you are seeking victory in a personal battle against the enemy of the Kingdom; but know today that God is with you and He is pleased with the fact that you have not given up. The Holy Spirit would tell you today “Do not grow weary while doing good, for in due season you will reap if you do not lose heart”. (Galatians 6:4). Keep looking ahead. Keep looking up. The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you and He is with you till the end! May you keep walking towards the goal. May you keep pressing on. May you step into your destiny and receive all the awesomeness of everything Jesus died to give you. You are His very precious Bride!
Minoli Haththotuwa, 29 October 2012