Philippians 3: 10-14
“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
- Paul says his desire is to “know Christ.” We often say this is what we want too. Yet Paul follows it up with acknowledging that knowing Christ means we “suffer with him, sharing in his death.” “He is not thinking only of the divine power that raised Christ from the dead, but of the power of the resurrected Christ now operating in the believer’s life.” (Expositors Bible Commentary)
- In one sense Paul regards suffering as “an inevitable consequence of believing in Christ.” (Expositors) Jesus Himself taught this clearly: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.'” Matthew 16:24
- Writing from prison, Paul was well acquainted with suffering. Both externally through many circumstances including the hardship of physical pain, but also emotionally with persecution from those inside and outside the church. His hope is in the resurrection power of Christ to raise him from the deadness we experience in life. (ten exanastasin ten ek nekron)
- How does Paul rise above the suffering that threatens to drag him down? He states his pursuit clearly:
- He presses on in pursuing godliness.
- He realizes he hasn’t fully attained perfection and has more learning to do.
- He remembers that Jesus has ownership in his life (possession).
- He chooses to forget the past not obsessing over it’s failures and successes.
- He presses on while keeping his eyes on the end of the race thinking about what will matter in eternity.
I have to admit I needed these verses like never before this morning. Its so easy to get tripped up by the past and waste way too much mental energy trying to make sense of past decisions and circumstances. Sometimes I just have to accept that life often doesn’t fall into neat logical boxes of understanding.
This passage clearly lays out that our focus should be knowing Christ. That means learning to suffer well and focusing not on the past but instead pursuing a relationship with Christ with a whole heart. These questions might just be for me, but if this passage resonates with you, would you take a moment to write a brief comment about your desire to focus on Christ and forget the past and any insight you have in what helps you do that?
1. Do your thoughts, actions, and concerns reveal that your greatest desire in life is to know Christ?
2. What current sufferings can help you identify more with Christ?
3. How can you practically forget the past and focus on the end of the race today?
Adoration: Praise God that He calls us to a heavenly prize in Christ.
Confession: Admit like Paul that you haven’t got it all figured out and have more to learn in your pursuit of Christ.
Thanksgiving: Thank Him for the race He has given you to run, even with its suffering along the way.
Supplication: Ask God to give you the helmet of salvation to protect your mind from the past today.