Our Family has been here just over two years serving with 61 Isaiah Ministry. It has been a wonderful two years full of struggles, blessings, failures, and successes. I could spend my time sharing about the difficulties of moving to a third world country during a pandemic between two hurricanes, leaving all my family has known as a church family and home to join in what God is doing to reach a beautiful and wonderful people in Honduras with the gospel. I could talk about the blessing it has been to have a team that took care of us and prepared for us to be here and so many supporters who made it possible for us to be here. I could tell of many failures including all the trial-and-error mistakes with my poor Spanish, making cultural mistakes, and probably offending more than my share of people who have been so gracious to forgive. At the same time God has blessed us with so many successes: churches and individuals growing in faith, sharing the gospel, discipling believers, and so many more amazing things.
As I was thinking of the new year and what I wanted to share one scripture kept coming to mind, Philippians 3:14, “Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This is a life verse for me. One that I have been returning to over and over since my pastor, Herb Thompson, shared it with our football team my freshman year just before we stepped on the field the for the first game of the playoffs.
His message was inspiring, and I clung to it for all these many years returning to it repeatedly to remind myself to press on. Just like many scriptures, it has grown in depth and width and inspiration as I have grown. That night I took it as a rally cry that God wanted me to do my best and that even though we were in the playoffs, we couldn’t rely on what we had done in our past, good or bad, to get us to the future and win these games that were before us. Yes, I was fully convinced that I would do my best and bring God glory through performing well.
As I grew in my faith and understanding God has used this verse time and time again to remind me to press on. Also, as I grew, I learned to look at his Word in greater context. I need to see why this was being said, what was Paul writing about to understand it with greater depth, width, and application. This is not a complete interpretation; I have much more to learn, but I would like to humbly share what God has shown me so far. With that in mind, I would like to take just a few more verses before and share a little more.
Philippians 3:10-14, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
In verses 10 and 11 we see a deep expression of love, worship, and hope in Jesus, a deep and abiding desire to live like Him, to die like Him, and to join Him in heaven. In verse 12 Paul confesses he has not arrived at this but that he will press on no matter the struggle, no matter the suffering to join Christ because Christ has taken hold of him. In verse 13 he repeats that he has not yet arrived, but he explains one thing he does.
Wow, when Paul says the one thing he does, we might need to listen closely to what he is about to say.
“Forgetting what is behind”– This has come to mean so much more than it did in high school. Not different but more. We can forget all the sins, problems, and mistakes that could entrap us and keep us imprisoned in the past, keep us from living the life of fullness, freedom, and kingdom impact that Christ desires for us to have. I can press on because I have been forgiven and set free to join in His wonderful ministry of redemption and restoration. Looking back and focusing on the life I have been set free from can lead me into a life that is empty and never full, entrapped in a world of condemnation and pain and one of impact but not for the kingdom of Christ but my own kingdom.
We also must forget all those amazing accomplishments and achievements included in “forgetting what is behind.” We tend to look back and see what God has accomplished in our lives and drift into a place of pride thinking we have accomplished these things. We tend to look back and say, “look what I have done!” And then we get caught in resting on our laurels. Like the farmer who puts his hand to the plow and looks back at what he has done instead of focusing on what is ahead. Our life gets off track and we find ourselves trapped in the past. When we look back at our past “accomplishments” and claim these accomplishments as our own, we get caught in our own kingdom instead of pressing on for His kingdom.
I am not saying that we don’t learn and grow from the good and the bad in our past, but when it is our focus, we become stagnant and trapped.
Then Paul says, “straining for what is ahead”– I look forward to Christ and what He has in store. Not just looking forward but using all my energy straining through whatever comes my way to see Him glorified, to see His kingdom increased, to join with Him.
As I look forward to the coming year, I need my focus on Him. I need my heart, my mind, and my soul stiving forward to His upward call. No matter what has happened, good or bad, I will continue to see his kingdom increased.
I am reminded of the story of Desmond Doss who won the Congressional Medal of Honor but never carried a gun. He kept going back and retrieving wounded from both sides while praying for God to give him strength to go get just one more. His focus was clear he wanted to save as many lives as possible.
The game is not over, the time has not come to rest and relax, but to press on to the upward calling.