“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 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. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:10-14 NIV
So many times I’ve read the apostle Paul and have stood in awe of his single-minded ambition to pursue the knowledge and glory of Jesus. I marvel at him because I truly struggle to drown out all of the distractions of this world every day that seek to distract me from God’s purpose, distort the calling to know Christ, or disturb the peace that Christ has put in my heart.
What is it that Paul is so adamant to learn of Christ?
The power of his resurrection and the participation in his sufferings (verse 10).
It seems impossible that I should be able to overcome my flesh of sin. It seems impossible that I should be able to live with single-minded purpose of knowing Christ alone, of seeing clearly through the distortions of my own self-deception and that of the world, or to truly rest undisturbed in the peace of God that now lives in my heart. But God is able. The power of Christ’s resurrection has proven that he is able. And I am in Christ and therefore am risen with Christ. Furthermore the sufferings of Christ have given victory over my sin because the debt is paid. I (the old me) has been crucified with him and I am risen. This is the reality of who I am in Jesus.
Now the single-minded goal of Paul was to put on this reality every day of his life. This must be the single-minded purpose for which I live. Put off the flesh and put on the reality of the new man created in Christ Jesus every day. There are two ways Paul attempted to do this…
1. Forget what is behind. That’s right, don’t let the past become an obstacle to the full realization of what God has for me today. Not the distant past of the old man and his failures. Not the recent past of the failures of yesterday. Forget it! Forget it all! Whatever besetting sins or weights I’m carrying need to be unloaded, dropped at the foot of the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). Cleanse the mind, the desires, and the emotions through repentance and the fresh realization that I am a new man in Christ.
2. Strain toward what is ahead. This is the only time this word translated strain is used in the New Testament. It’s a picture of a runner reaching strenuously for the finish line as he or she runs in stride. It depicts effort, sweat, discipline, work, and focus. No runner runs looking backwards, at least not one who wants to stay on their feet and win. The power behind my forward strain is the power of the Spirit of God who lives in me. The Spirit of God and his power are the wind at my back.
So, I must not allow myself to be distracted from this race of pursuing the knowledge of Christ by world happenings around me. I must not allow my past to distort my future because my future is secure and certain in Christ. I must allow the peace of God to referee over my heart because I am already at peace with God in my heart through faith in Christ.
All of this points to a new me, which is Christ in me. And the new me wants to know more of Christ. More of his power. More of his sufferings. More of him and less of me so that I may attain to the fullness of his resurrection. So, no turning back. Now I strive forward reaching for the finish line so that I might be found pleasing to him. That is a win.