The main thrust or mission as Christians bearing the light of Jesus is to grow deeper in our intimacy with Jesus and bring others to the same place. If you didn’t notice, that’s not where the rest of the world is! If you have Jesus, You know we are all in ministry and if you didn’t notice, Ministry is tough. We are anointed to admonish and edify each other, as we are faithfully walking in the spirit, humbly leading hand-in-hand as the body of Christ. This one’s hard I’m speaking to the choir; we can all do better, especially myself!
Some have said that you should never be offended in this ministry and there is some truth to it, there’s definitely the idea of putting on your thick skin as we are fairly warned that we will experience toil and tribulation if our course is on track with the Lords work.
-but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead Philippians 3:13 NASB
I really like Paul’s use of wording, “reaching forward” I like to point out things often that I see in the native language of the scripture that some people might not pick up on. (I don’t think too many of my friends know Greek!) in Greek you can add emphasis to something by adding the prefix EPI before. In this case it is the combination of epi with epekteino. It means to really reach out or strive hard toward something.
I’m torn on football these days. Half of me doesn’t want to support any of it, but the other half of me remembers days of watching football games week in and week out with my dad reloading ammunition, playing games of chess, organizing baseball cards, and countless other things all while ￼having an amazing time with him on a Sunday afternoon with the Packer game going on in the background￼. These are some of my greatest memories in life from the time I was a little child until the year he passed, it was a Sunday tradition. It was what brought us together. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately with the Packers having another chance at a Super Bowl and having to decide whether I’m going to sit down and watch these games or not!
When you consider this verse in the context of the chapter and even the whole book from Paul, You can get the idea of thinking of someone who is playing football. Now if you’re a Bears fan I hope this analogy doesn’t bring feelings of hurt and resentment! (but if it does let’s pray that God will turn those feelings to joy next season!)
Picture this in football … The valiant play to stretch over the goal line. I remember as a kid playing football in grade school this was the big thing; reaching for the goal line, leaping over people trying to tackle you to make a impressive bound for the touchdown! You just had to break the line with the ball before your knee hit the ground. It was what dreams are made of.
I want to encourage you to think similarly in your Christian life. To put this kind of thinking on the pedestal of your Christoformity. I love the charge of Philippians three. That we are called to rejoice in the Lord together and to not be put off by little things. It’s a thrust to see the bigger picture and put aside the ways of the world and think more spiritually.
In the beginning of this verse, Paul says that he deliberately makes a choice to leave those things of the past in the past. He decides to forget about them.
In our Western thinking we want to treat this “forgetting of the past” as if it’s old addictions or major ghosts in the closet from years ago, and it does mean that but it also means more.
Grammatically, the way it’s written in the Greek, is actually more immediate. What it’s talking about is putting aside immediate differences… to put aside something that you could take offense to that was just said or done.
It’s a commitment or refusal to be delayed or distracted by anything in the past, even just seconds after it was said or done. Paul’s concentration is all on the prize (Which is a kingdom transformation that I will get to shortly).
This verse gives us the correct understanding of our current circumstances. Paul is describing being stretched thin for something more significant. Notice whenever you’re stretched thin like you’re leaping through the air with your body completely outstretched in the football analogy, you’re more vulnerable. Nothing in a football game would hurt worse than opening yourself in a position like this not to have somebody from the other team hit you hard; but what if somebody from your own team tackled you at the goal line? Anyone ever feel like they’ve been tackled by a teammate before? It really hurts in ministry when you get hit by someone on your own team, but Paul says put it aside!
I love how Paul writes, “This one thing I do.” There’s no better picture of being all in.
It is “the prize of the high calling of God.” This is the thrust of the entire message of the Bible that we all might become deeply devoted to a more missional calling to be a true disciple of Christ putting aside things of the world.
Is that your goal – the high calling to God for your life? When you pray, do you say, “God, let me stretch toward the high calling you have for me”?
There’s also one more thought here, when people read this they want to read it as if the finish line is heaven. As I mentioned above, this whole section is written not so much eschatologically (as if it were talking about the great reward of heaven. I would agree that there is some implication there but grammatically that’s not what it’s referring to) but for the now. I use the football analogy because it fits here too. It’s not talking about one big push in life (seems like we always want to make everything about heaven- The great pie in the sky); it’s talking about several finish lines in life; bringing glory to the name of Jesus at every hurdle. In a football game you’re gonna hit the goal line more than once if your part of a unified team that’s moving in the right direction. That’s the calling of the unified church.
There’s an ancient Hebrew thought that begins in the first pages of Genesis and is regularly seen through the scripture that’s sets up Jesus‘ primary teachings. I share these regularly, they are called Contronyms. The idea is that we can take something that we think is our worst trait or perhaps situation and when given to God at the alter in humble prayerful supplication; God might take that and transform it from the worst thing about us to our greatest gift for the kingdom. And this is the context to understand how the toils of this world might become the greatest joy of God‘s kingdom. It’s sets the tone for Jesus’ backward kingdom; that the last might be first. It’s completely giving yourself to the work of God that he might take your complete living sacrifice and do immeasurably more then you ever considered.
I find regularly that I need to be bathed in prayer in the spirit to enable my heart and mindset to do this. That I may be in a heartset to put aside the differences and even pray that those differences that look like toil or troubles and might be turned by the grace and power of Jesus from ashes to beauty.
I want to think more missional for the kingdom. Big picture thinking. I pray that I may be able to roll up my sleeves for the kingdom and enable my thick skin for the glory of God, that what I offer might be met and transformed to be immeasurably more for His kingdom.