Press on Toward the Goal

“… But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14, ESV)

If it’s true that we can’t change the past, why do so many of us let it wreck our futures? Wouldn’t it make more sense to learn from the past… but while letting go of its hurts and prejudices? That’s easier said than done, of course… although, it gets easier with practice. But it gets even easier when we realize just how freeing that process is… and how much benefit we receive for such small a cost. Letting go costs nothing while holding on can cost everything.

We are staring down the barrel at a new year. So, let’s choose our targets well and let’s pull the trigger often. But let’s not view yesterday’s performance as anything more than a lesson; that kind of looking back is the legitimate province of history. And since we can’t undo our history, let’s be stingy about which of its pieces we’ll carry into the new year.

In fact, let’s make a resolution. Let’s resolve never to use the phrases, “You always…. ” or “You never…. ” People who use these phrases are trying to cast our futures in terms of their feelings about our pasts… and I hope it raises your hackles when you hear it said like that. So let us also resolve not to accept those phrases if they come our way. Let’s deflect the hurt — and let’s explore what’s behind those attacks… but in love.

The Apostle Paul said that he forgets the past… and that’s extraordinary from a man who had so much of it. But notice that he doesn’t relax… no… not old Paul. He strains forward. And notice how diametrically opposed forgetting and striving are. Frankly, way too many people have these reversed: forgetting the future while straining to hold on to the past… but for what?

Dwelling on the past hobbles us — and it’s the choice of volitional people to live like that. But we Christians are God’s stewards — so there’s a lot at stake. But I’m not responsible for your gifts and you’re not responsible for mine. We each have to reach for the goals that God has given us… although we all have the same overarching goal, the upward call of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom responding to God’s pull to get closer to of one of your unbelieving friends; that’s you pressing on towards the prize. Or perhaps you are a man who suddenly feels overwhelmed with the burden of family care — yet who presses on through that pain, goes to work and then comes home; that’s you pressing on toward the prize. Perhaps you are young and still in school — and you feel like you are just going through the motions — yet you continue in obedience, respect and love to your parents; that’s you pressing on towards the prize.

Not all will be preachers, teachers or evangelists… and not all have to be. But everyone should press forward — although the details of your future will be between you and God.

Last year will have been full of failures — and this year will be, too… that’s part of the process! But those failures are the building blocks of success. So let’s not hold ourselves back by making last year’s failures this year’s anchors.

Instead, let’s learn from 2017… and let’s shake-off its hurts! But most importantly, let us press on in the upward call of Jesus Christ. If we do, we will be triply blessed: pressing on is our behavioral objective, it is our goal… and it is itself the prize.

Happy New Year.