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.
The Apostle Paul was a very “righteous” man. Before finding Jesus, he really had his act together. Paul was successful, famous, and important. He was the standard setter in the Jewish community; the benchmark of religious performance. Then he met Jesus and realized that he had it all wrong. Once he understood who Jesus was, he wanted a relationship with Him more than any worldly success or personal achievement.
Paul wrote: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
At first, Paul measured his personal worth and value in how “good” he could be. Jesus showed him that he had actually been worshiping his own moral superiority instead of God. Truth be told, I think Paul liked being better than everyone else and when he final got a glimpse of his arrogance in light of Jesus’ perfection, his personal “goodness” looked like garbage to him.
Today’s passage builds on that idea where Paul then says, instead of focusing on his own moral perfection, now he is straining towards the relationship he has with Jesus. He’s forsaking the past, no matter what it looks like and leaning into his Savior. His new goal is to recklessly follow Jesus and rest in His righteousness, no matter the costs. And it would cost Paul a lot to follow Jesus, even his own life.
Thought of the day: As we head into the New Year, here is a tough question to consider: What are you holding onto that is preventing you from straining towards Jesus? What is getting in the way of you pursuing Him as the source of ultimate fulfillment in your life? Is it a relationship, money, your career? Maybe it’s a hurt, habit, or hang up. Like Paul, what do you need to prune from your life so that you might gain Christ more fully? Take action today; You can’t change everything overnight, but pick one BIG thing that gets in the way, offer it to God and give it up. Ask God to fill your heart and be your satisfaction in life. Starting in 2019, let’s strain toward our relationship with Jesus with fervency and commitment.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me to see clearly the idols that I set up and worship in place of You. Help me to see what needs to be pruned and give me the courage to choose You every day. Lead my life and, like Paul, may I see your glory as I strain after You. Amen.