On the verge of a new year
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.
- Philippians 3:13-14
Today’s passage challenges us to turn the page on a new chapter. As Jaime said in a message in November: “Every day’s an opportunity.” In Christ, we believe this is true. How much more does this principle apply to us as we stand on the verge of a new year?
Watch what the apostle Paul does in today’s text.
First, he acknowledges that he’s not yet finished. He has what Dr. Dweck calls “a growth mindset.” He hasn’t already reached his destination, achieved his goal, or taken ahold of his prize. With that in mind, he can’t settle for business as usual.
Secondly, Paul focuses down on one thing. A narrow focus can be so helpful when entering a new season. Paul won’t get distracted.
But notice Paul’s “one thing” … it involves two components. He forgets what’s behind and strains toward what is ahead. An eager editor might have cut that phrase from Paul’s text, since it seems confusing (one thing or two things?) and he repeats / clarifies it in the phrase that follows. But we think this phrase is worth lingering on, even in a brisk exposition.
Paul forgets what’s behind. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember (stay with us). In verse 4ff, he described his past attempts to achieve perform for God’s approval and to maintain his place in the covenant community via law-keeping. Paul remembers his past so he can forget it. He sets old strategies aside as he pursues a new life in Christ.
And putting the past in the past takes work. The past comes roaring back. Imagine the past as glitter spilled all over your living room carpet. You’ll be finding glitter forever. Burn your house down and you’ll find glitter in the ashes.
Paul doesn’t teach techniques for leaving the past in the past. Instead he keeps his eyes on the prize: the life with God he has in Christ Jesus. He pursues Jesus with all his energy: “straining” and “pressing on.” As he does so, his past has less and less influence on him. Christ comes to rule and reign in his heart.
Maybe you’ve been walking with Christ for a long time. Maybe you’re new to your faith. Maybe you have a routine for connecting with God. Maybe you’re just getting started.
What would it look like for you to pour a massive amount of joy-filled energy into deepening your relationship with Christ in 2019?