Each of us have dreams that we are chasing; goals that we are straining to achieve. When we’re young, our dream may be to own our own home or to have a certain career. As we age, our goals can change to having financial security and better overall health. However, the pursuit of tomorrow’s goals can overwhelm us, causing us to lose our joy for today.
Jesus tells us, “don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) This does not mean that we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow, but, as Jesus revealed earlier, knowing God’s love for us enables us to face today with a sure hope for tomorrow.
In Philippians 3:12, Paul uses athletic language to express how he pursues his goal to know Christ, to be like Christ and to be all Christ has in mind for him: “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,” he said.
With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, Paul calls us to lay aside the things that distract us from walking in hope.
Paul testifies to how the Christian life is a process. While we have already been made righteous in Christ by faith, it is not until His return that we are made perfect in knowledge and experience. Therefore, as we live today, looking forward to tomorrow, we press on to take hold of the goal by remembering what Christ has done for us. “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)
“Pressing on” is a hunting term meaning to chase or hunt down. Christ took hold of Paul 30 years earlier when he encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Christ laid hold of Paul so that Paul could lay hold of the prize — the full knowledge of Christ. In our spiritual life, God takes the initiative (Christ takes hold of us), so that we can enter into it (pressing on) to pursue all that our relationship with Christ gives us, including eternal life.
This knowledge enables the follower of Christ to devote themselves to God regardless of their present circumstances; straining forward to whatever lies ahead, because of their confident hope. Lest we think that this striving is to be done in our strength, Paul reminds us that the prize we are claiming is one that the Lord has prepared for us in Christ. Our journey is described in Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
“Did we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side
The Man of God’s own choosing,” the hymn states.
Our hope will never be found in what we can do, but only in Christ our Savior who gave his life for our sins.
Paul lived in absolute confidence of his salvation. He did not strive hoping to someday receive salvation; he strove because he already possessed full knowledge of his hope of salvation. Our past doubts or failures are not a barrier to our future, an excuse for dropping out or for avoiding a relationship with God. As “A Mighty Fortress” goes on to say:
“And though this world, with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.”
When our hope is in Christ, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become. Our dreams give us hope for a future, and by fixing our eyes on Christ, resting in the new relationship we have with God through Him, we can live today with hope, too. Realizing that we are forgiven now allows us to move forward in our life of faith and obedience. We can look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life because of our hope in Christ.
Like the dedicated runner, we must live our lives of faith by running the race, “…throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Let us now press on and finish the race.
Let us now press on and finish the race.