Philippians 3:12-16 Forgetting and reaching forward
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 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; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
A believer in his journey will encounter multiple challenges and failures. He could either let his failures and hurts hinder his progress or he could forgive his enemies, learn and become wiser in the process. Paul is motivated by his personal encounter with Christ and his vision of heaven. The vision of the cross and Christ’s resurrection body is vividly and powerfully lodged into Paul’s mind. This causes him to press on towards the vision no matter how difficult things may be. Paul encourages believers to have this same mindset and attitude to forget our failures and hurts and to press on forward towards the goal.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
The apostle Paul describes the attitude of one who is made righteousness through faith in Christ. Paul clarifies that even though he is adopted as son of God through faith, he is yet perfected in His virtues. Hence, he makes it his goal to lay hold of that, which is to attain perfection, the virtues of Christ. At the same time, Christ is also laying hold of Paul and pulling him towards His perfection: I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. The words “press on” and “lay hold” are verbs that denote an attitude of relentless pursuit of Christ’s vision and attributes.
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.
Paul as an apostle in no uncertain terms describes himself as one who is yet perfected. Hence, he is constantly forsaking and releasing the things that hinder him from moving forward: forgetting what lies behind. Paul may have had in mind the hurts, disappointments and the lust of the flesh that fuels the thoughts of self-pity and defeat. Paul makes the continual effort of negating these fleshly influences and putting them behind: forgetting what lies behind. Paul blames no one or even himself, for he sees suffering and repentance as an inevitable and a necessary process of sanctification.
While failures causes one to increase in wisdom, it could also hinders one from moving forward and taking on new challenges. Paul motivates himself by gazing at the prize, which is the glory of God: I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Paul is motivated by the exemplary lifestyle of Christ whose Spirit indwells him. He is motivated by the glory of Christ’s resurrection life when Christ appeared to him en route towards Damascus (see Acts 9). He is motivated by the things he saw when God brought him into heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
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.
Paul addresses believers who have their eye on Christ’s perfection, who possess His vision: Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, to also have the attitude to keep persevering in living by the highest standards of Christ: let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. The attitude of perseverance is what that keeps us trained towards the vision of Christ’s glory.
The goal of the Christian life is not to become successful in our career, to meet our financial needs, or to live a life of comfort, but to become more like Christ and to do His will.
Paul perseveres in his calling so that he could attain the likeness of Christ and His resurrection. Many before they become Christians put their focus on career and in desiring the good life. Regrettably, after hearing the gospel and being baptized in water, their focus remains largely unchanged. Except they now depend on God for their worldly pursuits where God becomes a supernatural means to satisfy their worldly appetite. They did not repent from their self-centered lifestyle, nor did they set their eyes on things that are eternal. As a result, many could not experience the abundant life that God has intended for them. The endeavor of being filled with the Spirit and to be like Christ requires much sacrifice and self-discipline, which they are unwilling to commit themselves to. Jesus says if believers would set their sights on the Spirit, and live like Christ, all things will be added to them (see Matthew 6:33).
Failures and hurts serve as foundations and routes to success.
Without failures and hurts, one can never realize his weaknesses and learn from them. Success without the foundation of setbacks is short lived. We could fall and get hurt many times, but make sure we do not keeping falling at the same spot. Paul makes it a habit to continually harvest his failures by learning from his mistakes. Having done so, he deliberately forgets his failures and reaches forward to the goal. By forgetting his setbacks, he does not allow them to resurface and hinder him from moving forward. Having understood why we have failed and being made wiser, the memories of failure are no longer relevant and have to be relegated to the sea of forgetfulness and never to be brought to mind.
By reaching forward to meet new challenges, we give ourselves a chance to overwrite old memories with new ones.
Paul did not let his failures slow him down in his pursuit of God’s call for his life; he forgets and puts them behind. Through the Spirit’s guidance, he continues to take on greater challenges and never looking back. New challenges bring with it new grace and mettle. Most people, having encountered a failure cause them to doubt their own abilities and cause them to shrink from taking on new challenges. They could not put off the memories of the devastations that constantly play in their minds spinning off debris of pain and shame. To them new challenges would only uncover old wounds and resurface those memories of failure. Paul believes that the future is much brighter than what he can see. With Christ laying hold of his future, he reaches forward with confidence knowing that Christ will be there at every turn.
Do you let past failures hinder you from moving forward? List down the fears and the disappointments that have been plaguing you. Speak to your mentor about these fears and have him/her pray over you.
Do failures make you into a better person? Or do you become a more skeptical and angrier person? If you are still seeking justice for your unfair treatment, you need to understand the divine reason for the bad things that happened to you. God allow things to happen for a reason so that we may rise up and become a better person. Christ suffered unjustly but necessarily, in that He also resurrected as the Lord of all creation.
Dear Lord, help me release the injustice and the hurts that were done to me. I recognize that you can and will restore all that I have lost. Fill me with the vision of the cross and the things of heaven so that I can press on like Paul did. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.