Read This Week: Philippians 3
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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 3:12-14 NIV
If you’ve ever climbed to the top of a mountain, you know how challenging it can be physically and mentally. The process of getting to the top requires guidance to stay on course, patience with the path, and perseverance when you feel like giving up. It also takes an awareness of yourself and the mountain.
Many climbers and trekkers have failed to reach the summit because they arrogantly overestimated their ability and naively underestimated the mountain. They became complacent when they should’ve stayed alert and focused; they let their guard down because they assume finishing is inevitable. They don’t experience the prize of standing on top because they take for granted what it takes to get there.
In the church at Philippi, complacency and spiritual arrogance were present among the members. Some were claiming that they had arrived at their goal and were beyond responsibility and the need for progress. Some assumed that they had already made it to the top. They were overrating their condition, deceived about their sin problem and undervaluing the difficult nature of life.
In Philippians 3, Paul wants the early Christians and us to understand that just because we have faith in Christ and his grace, we’ve not yet reached the prize that we’re trying to attain. He uses himself as an example and says that despite how far he has come since the Damascus road, he still has a long way to go toward his goal of spiritual and moral maturity. He points toward God’s active power in his life through the resurrection of Christ but makes it clear that his conversion was a starting place for growth and not the end. He and every believer must keep going because we haven’t obtained the goal.
This is a great reminder for every follower of Jesus and those who desire to walk with God and climb the various mountains of life. We live in the creative tension of being imperfect, weak, and sinful while also having the power of the Holy Spirit to help us be impeccable in our behavior, strong, and successful. We experience great spiritual breakthroughs but also get caught up in things that are shameful and messy. We know both the joy of spiritual highs and the despair of sinful lows.
Pressing on toward the prize is having the maturity to recognize the tension we live in as Christians while also having the desire and determination to keep going with God’s help. To be aware that we aren’t at the top but maintaining the daily effort to stay connected to the One who works in us to get there. To keep going is to be motivated by Christ’s love, presence and sustaining grace; to live worthy of his calling no matter how challenging the path. To press on with passion and discipline no matter how tempting it is to be complacent.
We keep going because God has so much more He wants to accomplish in our lives and the world. This is not the time or opportunity to stop. We are to be like Paul and forget about the failure, brokenness, and setbacks of the past and look toward the future prize with clarity and understanding that we aren’t there yet, but we will be.
Philippians 3:12-16 says, “I do not say that I have already become perfect. But I move on with determination to grasp that purpose for which Jesus Christ has grasped me. My brothers and sisters, I do not think that I have already grasped it completely. But this one thing I do – I forget the past. And I reach out to what is in front. I am running straight for the end of the race in order to gain the prize. The reward is God’s call in Jesus to the life above. All of us who are mature in spirit should think in this way. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. Meanwhile, we must continue to keep the standard of behavior that we have already reached.”
What I love about Paul is his love for Jesus, to want to be just like Him. He knows he had not yet become perfect, that is, mature as a Christian. We will be always learning, growing, and succeeding if we keep our eyes on Jesus. God had great plans for Paul’s life, an awesome purpose, and Paul knew what it was. He was doing his best to carry out that purpose.
Paul is repeating himself so we could get more of what he is teaching us. So we could be reminded of what we’re here for. Our work here is to live life with God, learn from Jesus’ life, reach out to those who are responding to God and to have the same mind and thoughts as Jesus.
Paul uses the picture of a runner in a race. He must not look back behind him to his old life. Paul must forget all his past failures and look forward and do life with God every day. Every day is a new day with Jesus. A runner makes every effort to become better every day. Daily practice is how you become more like Jesus.
God is saying to me, “The most important thing to remember is ‘I love you!’ I have great plans for you as my child. I do expect you to seek Me for my will and plans I have for you, it’s really good for you and for those around you. Your main goal is to be like Jesus and to desire a relationship with Me and Jesus. Then, you are to reach out to those who receive my messages and desire a relationship with Me. You will know by the way they talk and desire to be part of the Family of God.”
Father God loves those who put Him first, love to talk about Him and spend time with Him. He loves when his followers consider His feelings, stand up for Him and the Bible. The goal in life should be to keep focused on everything God has for us. If you have made a commitment to Him, given your whole heart to Jesus. He will help you in this race. He will keep you on track and running for the right thing in life. He will keep you focused on the goal to be like Jesus and do life with God.
Thank you for all of this in-depth commentary on Philippians 3, Heidi. It is a blessing to hear God speak through you about His word. I love how you highlighted Paul’s purpose in life and his focus on that purpose within the context of it being a race:
“God had great plans for Paul’s life, an awesome purpose, and Paul knew what it was. He was doing his best to carry out that purpose… Paul uses the picture of a runner in a race. He must not look back behind him to his old life. Paul must forget all his past failures and look forward and do life with God every day.”
Paul definitely stands as an example of someone who was focused on God’s awesome purpose for his life and running the race with the intent of finishing well. He forgot the things which were behind him and broke the power of the past. Some things in his past could have held him back, but he used them as inspiration to carry him forward toward God’s purpose. He would not allow his past experiences to hinder what the Lord was doing in his present and ultimately his future.
To me, that’s a healthy and proper way to view the past. To not see it as something that can be changed but as something that we should change our understanding of in order to learn and move forward. We can’t change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past in our present and beyond.
I also love how Paul talked about straining forward in the race which means to run hard toward the finish line with eyes fully focused on the goal or end game. It gives the picture of one’s spirit and determination overriding one’s fatigue and desire to slow down or stop altogether. This is the beauty of doing life with God and striving to be like Jesus all the time. When we’re tired and don’t want to do it anymore and when life is trying to beat us down, God’s Spirit, His promises and the power of His word propel us forward toward the ultimate finish line and the prize of an eternity with Him.
It’s so encouraging to know that He is there for us and with us in the race of life and that He has given us a purpose to focus on even when the race feels long and difficult. We can fulfill our purpose and finish the race of life very strong if we stay in step with God as we do life with Him.
This week, through Bible Study and ladies lunch, I wrote a song:
We delight ourselves in you
We delight ourselves in you
We delight ourselves in you, our Lord
Being glorified as we trust in You
Having grace, mercy, and love
Love as we delight ourselves in You
Seeking and growing, seeking and growing
We delight seeking and growing with you, our Lord.
When we seek our Lord, we grow and become his messengers. He says to trust in me when you get turned down. Keep going because someone will see my heart and joy in you.
I love that truth, Alma, that we can glorify God by delighting in Him and growing in grace. Your lyrics made me think of this song I’ve been listening to lately called, “Live in the Wonderful”:
Lord, You are true
Oh even when
I’m feeling overwhelmed
Cause there is hope
Beyond the things I see
Even in the dirt
I know I must believe
Give me faith to see the incredible
To live in the wonderful
To wait on the miracle
Give me strength
To reach for the furthest star
To lift every broken heart
To love from these mended scars
Philippians 3:17 – “Brethren, together, follow my example and observe those who live after the pattern we have for you.”
While studying Philippians 3 this week, God has blessed me with this message: God wants us to “follow His pattern.” He desires us to be teachable and take notice of spiritual beings that love and live for Jesus and stay the course. We should seek to be humble in the spirit as to become teachable and grow in the Lord.
We should seek to obtain the ultimate goal which is solidarity and everlasting life with Christ. We are to be the beacon of light for others so that Christ shines brightly through us. In doing so daily, moment by moment, joy and peace will overflow in Him.
1. Set the ultimate goal to know Him(Christ).
2. Run the race.
3. Find joy and peace in the ultimate prize of knowing, being and living like Christ.
I really appreciate this word, Trina. I especially love #3 and the example that Christ gives us to live by and that of Paul: “Find joy and peace in the ultimate prize of knowing, being and living like Christ.”
Paul knew the power of example for teaching and encouragement. He wanted the Philippians and us to reject our self-sufficiency and look to Christ for our strength and power. The pattern is Christ but as we run the race and are faithful to Him, we can be an example of Christlikeness for others to see and follow. I pray that is the case for all of us as we journey through life and follow Jesus.
In reading Philippians 3 this week, this is what God said to me: I love it when you rejoice in Me. I work all things together for good. If you really trust in Me and believe I am in control, you will have abiding joy.
Worship Me in the Spirit. Rejoice in My son Christ Jesus. Do not live and trust in your own righteousness, but live and trust in My righteousness, given through faith in Christ. Knowing Jesus means knowing the power of His resurrection, that brings new life to you now, not when you die. The same power will help you overcome sin in your life. This power is the receipt and proof that the sacrifice of the cross was accepted as payment in full. It is a consoling and comforting power.
Suffering is part of your heritage as My child. The suffering is worth it. I want you to have a lived-out connection with Me. Press on! Your effort needs to be to do My will, not your own. The prize is being able to run the race at all, working with me as a partner to do the work of My kingdom. Jesus can subdue all things. There may be sins within your heart, that have long-resisted control. Do with them as you will, they still defy you. If you will hand over the conflict to Jesus, He will subdue them. What you cannot do, He can!
What this says to me is it is so worth the prize if we press on and walk daily with Jesus. We will never be content in our lives and have true joy if we continue to live in sin. What a wonderful blessing to have Jesus to run with daily!
Very thorough and deep comment, Kathy. There are so many good things in there. It is obvious you saturated yourself in the word and that passage.
I find the progression of your post so interesting and true to the life of following Christ. You start with rejoicing in the Lord and believe He works all things together for our good. Then you talk about worship and the reality of suffering for the gospel then end it with rejoicing again in the prize of being with Jesus and walking with Him.
This is a microcosm of the Christian life and what it means to follow Jesus. We rejoice in Him, worship, go about our lives and sometimes deal with hard things but always end with the joyful reality of knowing and loving Jesus.
I got a word out of Philippians 3:14 this week. God was saying to me, “I want you to be confident in me. Let go and let me be in control. Grow more in faith and trust in me more and more.”
What that means to me is that we should go deeper in his word and teachings and surrender everything.
This is a great takeaway from chapter 3 verse 14, Jeri. The goal is definitely to go deeper with God and his word and to give up control over our lives to Him. It’s so difficult to do sometimes but it is the call of God to be like Christ. The goal of the Christian’s life is nothing less than Christ himself. I want to surrender everything to Him.
As we have gone through Philippians 3 in A Week in the Life, God drew my attention to many verses. But today he brought me to verse 11:
“That if possible I may attain to the (spiritual and moral) resurrection (that lifts me) out from among the dead (even while in the body). And he was saying to me and you. As you grow with and in me, I bless you with the ultimate prize. Of separating you from all others. To enjoy a true and happy life filled with joy and peace. So you don’t have to struggle with the ways of this world.”
And what that means to me is as I do life with Him. I will always be set apart and be glad in it. I want to always share Him with everyone I come in contact with. I try to always show them his love and peace that he has always shown me. Hopefully, when they see me, they truly see Jesus.
I appreciate your viewpoint, Sam. I like how you put this: “I will always be set apart and be glad in it. I want to always share Him with everyone I come in contact with.” It is not often you hear someone rejoicing in the fact that God has set them apart to Christlikeness. It is a refreshing thing to see you taking delight in God saving you and calling you to live for Him.
Most importantly, it is the biggest blessing to know you take delight in being set apart to share the hope and love you’ve experienced in Christ.