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 on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
In looking back over 2016, we can all reflect on many times and circumstances when we were simply not at our best—times when we were not “firing on all cylinders”—times, perhaps, when the wheels came off the track for a bit. In our verse today, the apostle Paul gives us some insight into producing better results this year. Let’s take a look.
Forgetting what is behind – We are to learn from the past, but not live in the past. If anyone could have been paralyzed by his past, it was Paul. As Saul, he persecuted the early church, putting many Christians into prison and even some to death. Paul frankly acknowledged that he had guarded the clothes of those who stoned godly Stephen to death, giving his full approval to the killing (Acts 22:20). Saul had many failures in his past that, had he dwelt on them, could have frozen him into inactivity, preventing him from advancing into his future. God’s grace in Paul’s life allowed him to treat the past as a school—to learn from it but not live in it.
Straining toward what is ahead – After learning from his past, Paul leaned into his future. His focus was on where he was going—where God was calling him to serve—not where he had been. And as he was moving forward, Paul did so with a sense of urgency (“straining” ahead) because the day is short and the night is coming when no one will work (John 9:4). Paul’s forward focus was filled with a holy zeal to do the Lord’s work.
I press on –Paul did not take a casual approach to accomplishing his goals and the work God had set before him. The best way I can describe this phrase, “press on,” is to call to mind the picture a basketball team running a “full-court-press,” where every player on one team is closely covering (pressing) every player on the other team. This is intense, aggressive activity of the highest order.
So . . . is the press on in your life today? If not, why not? What are you waiting for? God has called you into an incredible future filled with unlimited possibilities. It is true that everything you do for His glory will be done because of His grace. And yet you have a role to play, and that role can be summed up in the three phrases we’ve looked at today: Forget what is behind . . . Strain toward what is ahead . . . and Press on!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!