“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” -Phil. 3:13-14
Wow! Here we are: New Year’s 2021 and most of us aren’t even sure what day it is!
This past year has been interesting, to say the least, but the truth is, every year is “interesting.” Someone said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” Life has always and will always have difficulties and trials, but how we let go and move forward through them makes all the difference.
The church in Paul’s time was much like the church today: a crazy mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds, races, creeds and nationalities. God delights in the unity of varieties of people who surrender their lives and confess their loyalty to Him.
The church at Philippi was the first Christian church in Europe, planted by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey around AD 50 or 51. The initial converts of the church at Philippi were Gentiles, and the congregation developed into a predominately Gentile fellowship. Women also played an essential role in the life of the church at Philippi.
Like every church, the Philippian church consisted of Jews and Gentiles, men and moment, people trying to move on and live in the freedom of Christ. Times were hard in the New Testament world. Multiple empires claimed control, wars ravaged the land and epidemics took many lives.
Paul knew that for these young churches to survive difficult times, they would have to embrace the moment, cling to Christ and stay focused on the call of God.
“…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…”. It would appear that Paul wasn’t good at math, as he said he did “one thing” but then listed two things. But he actually wrote it correctly. His point was that “forgetting” and “reaching” are meant to be “one thing.”
If we focus too much on “forgetting” without “reaching,” we can actually get sucked into focusing too much on the past. Like someone said, “Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.” Healthy “forgetting” isn’t stuffing or repressing past events and choices but processing through past issues and in a healthy way, filing them away and letting go. Not literally forgetting, but “putting them away” by giving them over, in trust, to a loving God.
If we focus too much on “reaching” without “forgetting” we drag our past into the future, and it can cloud up our new plans. “Reaching forward” is the act of replacing “what was” with “what will be.” It means we’re taking steps forward to let go of the past, forgive ourselves and others, and move in a positive direction.
The “goal for the prize” is for us to “let go and let God.” True, now that we’re in 2021, hindsight IS literally 2020. But our goal is to avoid living life in the rear-view mirror. The “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is being “present” with God today. It is being with God NOW.
And being in that presence with God always produces peace and contentment and purpose. God is the Rock that we can lean on. He becomes the strong tower that we can run to and be safe.
Of course, we need to “pray without ceasing” to stay present with God. Even as the current Pandemic fades into the past, there will always be other “challenges” on this side of heaven. May we all avoid living in hindsight…
…but live in foresight, in the presence of our loving, wonderful and strong God.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©