When I was I was in my late teens, I was given Philippians 3:7-14, to memorize by a friend. As soon as I read that passage I knew that I had been given powerful, life-altering truths that would change the way I approached Jesus Christ forever. It was like a sharp double-edged sword of truth had been thrust deeply into my youthful selfishness, pride, greed, and lust. For the past 25 years there has rarely been a day when I haven’t quoted at least a part of that passage to myself. I still don’t live these verses as much as I’d like to…but I am praying that the spirit will continue to work their truths into me as I meditate on them day and night:
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, 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.
The thought that every single thing on this earth that profits the flesh…everything – whether wealth, temporal power and success, athletic ability, good looks, perfect families, etc. – or even for a second allows me to put my hope and confidence in anything other than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…is a loss, resonated deep within me. Yet at the same time I knew that I did not -and cannot- think as Paul thinks, absent a massive work by the Holy Spirit. I don’t have Paul’s heart towards this life or towards God – but I long too because what Paul says so eloquently and powerfully is true. I can feel the strength, peace, and truth that rest in those words of surrender and yearning for a life completely hidden in God, every single time I read or recite them. Yet I know that my flesh doesn’t really want to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death. But I want to want to…desperately, and the more broken I become as a result of my failures in striving to grasp at the lies of this world instead of Jesus, the more I am able to understand how Paul can really mean what he says. Yet Paul knows that not even he “has already been made perfect” or has fully taken hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him. In that I can take comfort.
This passage ends beautifully and hopefully, reminding me that I am forgiven each day as I walk in the Spirit, and that I can continually put my failures behind me as I live…earnestly seeking the face of Jesus…. “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”