On Monday, we looked at the “one thing lacking” in the life of the rich young ruler, which was the only thing he truly needed. On Wednesday, we saw the “one thing needed” in Martha’s life, which her sister Mary had widely chosen by sitting at the feet of her Savior. Today we’ll close out this series of “one things” with the “one thing I do,” as presented to us by the apostle Paul.
Brothers, 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 on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
If your name ever gets into someone’s book with the phrase “one thing” attached to it, make sure it is this one thing that Paul set before the Philippians! Nobody wants to have the “one thing needed” or the “one thing lacking” attached to their legacy, when we see before us just how simple it is to have this “one thing I do” forever linked to the life we have lived.
Like the rich young ruler, Saul (Paul’s name prior to his conversion) had it all going for him in the eyes of the world. He was young, very likely from a wealthy family, he had been taught by the widely respected Gamaliel, and he was a member of the Pharisees, the prominent religious sect of Jesus’ day. Yet when Saul was confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he was willing to forsake everything he had once valued for the surpassing riches of Jesus. What Saul once possessed—noble birth, excellent education, religious zeal, good reputation, applause of man—obviously did not possess him. When Jesus called him, he let it all go; he forgot what lay behind him, actually regarding it as “rubbish” (Philippians 3:8) and strained ahead toward his calling in Christ.
Paul’s life was not marked by the avarice that had enslaved the rich young ruler or the tunnel vision that kept Martha working out her service to her Lord (which was a good thing), while missing a chance to sit at His feet (a better thing). Paul’s letter to the Philippians stands as a testimonial to a life lived Coram Deo—before the face of God. How easy it would have been for the great apostle Paul to be distracted with “much serving”—missionary journeys, strengthening the church, writing nearly half the books of the New Testament. Martha got sidetracked simply by preparing a meal! But with this “one thing I do” statement, Paul eliminated every possible distraction that could derail his ministry.
Notice the key in focusing forward on that one thing our Lord called Paul to: he was able to rise above his persecuting past and rest in his redemption and the call that his Redeemer placed on his life.
The inability to get past the past is one of the greatest stumbling blocks in the church today. Far too many Christians simply cannot get on with life because they are living in some painful past. The key is to learn from our painful past and not live in it. Paul had much to hold him back if he had allowed himself to focus on it. He had been persecuting the church, putting people in prison, and even held the coats of those who executed Stephen (Acts 7:58). Yet, by God’s grace, the same grace given to each of us, he was able to leave the past in the past and press on into his calling. Can the same be said about you?
This week we have seen “one thing lacking” in the life of the rich young ruler, “one thing needed” for Martha, and the “one thing I do” that kept the apostle Paul pressing forward. When the Lord Jesus Christ is our first priority, we can be certain that it will never be said about us that one thing is still lacking. We will have the Only Thing that truly matters in a life marked by the “one thing I do,” regardless of the cost or circumstance.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!