Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
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. I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Imagine, if you will standing at the base of a mountain. You have all the latest gear. You’ve been planning this excursion for months. Energy bars? Check. North Face apparel? Check. Sunglasses? Check. (Gotta look good for those photos.) Your guide meets you and directs you to peer up and ahead toward the adventure before you. You canNOT even see the Summit. The gravity of the situation starts to hit heavy in your gut. That hopeful spirit you had been feeding is now fading and being replaced by timidity and doubt. Yes, you look smoking in that puffy jacket, but is that going to cut it? You start thinking of all the days you skipped going to the gym in exchange for ore sleep; the ice cream you had instead of fueling with extra protein. The guide catches the look in your eye and smiles because he’s seen that face before. He approaches you, puts a hand on your shoulder and says, “You’ve done the work to prepare. You are ready. Follow my instructions and you will revel in the view from on high. Stay close and down’t look down until you’ve reached the goal.”
I think that’s what Paul was articulating when he wrote this letter. In Philippians Chapter 3, he had just taken the time to warn them about what and who to stay away from. How even their own flesh could not be trusted! It would be a constant battle to steer clear from temptations leading them away from God’s plan for their righteousness. I love how vulnerable he is in verse 13 when he confesses, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” He knows it is a lifelong endeavor. It will take immense intentionality to live a life that truly reflects the Savior. Paul then gives them the one thing he solidly understands in verse 14 and that is, “Forgetting what is behind and striving toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
When we face the mountains in our own life, whether they be moral dilemmas, sins we can’t seem to shake, broken relationships or even career goals, we must first: acknowledge the mountain, second: remind ourselves not to look back, third: keep pressing forward toward the prize.
Acknowledging the Mountain:
One of the hardest truths that our culture seems to be wrestling with right now is identity. Or the fact that we don’t need to change who we are because we are good “as is.” For those not seeking Kingdom causes, they’re probably right! But as Christians, we are absolutely called to keep growing. It is only when we utilize introspection and are willing to admit where we need to work, that we can make effective progress. As you would gear up for a mountain climbing excursion, so too, should you gear up with the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6. Find a guide in the form of a pastor or mentor because you’re going to need expert advice.
Don’t Look Back:
We have a propensity to want to return to that from which we came. Familiarity is comfortable and sometimes we confuse that with peacefulness. In Genesis, Lot’s wife was warned by an angel, “Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere.” She didn’t heed the warning and we all know how that turned out. (Genesis 19:17, 26) The Israelites lamented just a short time after their exodus from slavery in Egypt that they would have done better to have died in Egypt rather than face the uncertainty before them. (Exodus 6:3) Jesus instructed the disciples to knock the dust off their sandals to the towns that would not receive or listen to them. (Matthew 10:14) You are not the first or last to want to look back, but it is not where you want to go. Make no mistake acknowledging your past is not the same as thinking that’s where you belong.
Press on toward the prize:
Much like those athletes accomplishing amazing things like summiting the highest mountains, we too have to exercise, practice and persevere. You will fall. You will make mistakes. But this is the most worthy of endeavors. Not only will your own flesh deceive you, but the enemy is reminding you of all the reasons why you are not good enough. You are not well enough equipped. You are worthless. Why, oh why, do we listen to those voices when they are not from the King of Kings? His is the only voice to which we should succumb. Eternity in His presence is the ultimate and glorious prize!
Take time today to give your mountain a name. Is it addiction, distraction, unbelief, gossiping, or gluttony? Maybe it’s taking the next step in your career or answering a call to let God use you in a new ministry. Put in writing what it is that you are up against. Block out the voices that keep telling you that mountain is too big for the Creator of all things. Seek out someone who has overcome the insurmountable obstacle you face. Keep pressing for that Prize my friends. And don’t look back!