A very successful man told me in a personal conversation, “If you don’t plan your life, someone else will do it for you.”
If you set a short-sighted goal, Steven Covey’s opinion will ring true for you: “You may climb the ladder to success, only to realize you have leaned it against the wrong building.”
Paul both set a goal and aimed for the right goal in life.
Philippians 3.12-14 – Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have laid hold of it, but one thing I have laid hold of: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s goal was to become the person that Jesus died and rose again to make him.
Forgetting the Past
Paul wrote about his experience with Jesus to encourage others to imitate his lifestyle. He knew there are some things we need to put out of our minds.
— Past Failures – We can surmise that Paul was responsible for the torture and death of Christians before he experienced Jesus on the Damascus road.
Only because of the complete forgiveness of his sins by Jesus could Paul forget his past behavior. The same is true for us.
— Past Success – “What have you done for me lately?” is a question that unappreciative sports fans inflict on players and coaches.
Our loving Lord asks the same question, only because he wants us to finish well our life with him.
The children of Israel obeyed the Lord when they followed his directions and were freed from generations of slavery in Egypt. When Moses spent 40 days with God at the top of Mount Moriah, the same people turned from God to idols.
They couldn’t rely on past success when their present experience with God was so lacking.
It is tempting to excuse present-day rebellion with memories of past victories.
John the Baptist made this point when he confronted the religious leaders of his day.
— Matthew 3.7-9 – But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Therefore, bear fruit worthy of repentance,
And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
We do well to follow Paul’s advice and “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead” (verse 13).
What is the Goal?
The goal for Paul and other followers of Jesus is to “press on toward the goal, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (verse 14).
The greatest call a human has is to live a Jesus-kind-of-life. Jesus came to earth to restore the image of God in humans that were lost in humanity’s rebellion.
If we will ask the Lord to show us how to live a Jesus-kind-of-life, he will be happy to show us the way.
I have many suggestions as to how this can be done, but the Spirit is the best teacher.
John wrote about “the anointing,” which is another way of speaking about the Holy Spirit.
— 1 John 2.27 – As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, so you do not need anyone to teach you.
But as his anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.
We can rely on the Spirit’s guidance and power to help us reach this heavenly goal.
Effort and Discipline Required
Paul used the words “press on” (verses 12 and 14) and “straining” (verse 13) to describe the effort needed to reach the goal.
Successful athletes and business persons know what kind of effort it takes to be proficient in their fields.
If followers of Jesus are to live a Jesus-kind-of-life, they too will need to make an effort.
Let’s remember Paul’s words, “Work on your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2.12-13).
We don’t work to merit salvation, but that doesn’t eliminate effort and discipline. God is working in us and he will enable us to work and reach the goal of living like Jesus.
Final Encouraging Words
As we consider the goal of our lives, let’s let Paul’s words encourage us to pursue the highest goal in life, living a Jesus-kind-of-life.
Philippians 3.15-16 – Let those of us, then, who are mature think this way, and if you think differently about anything, this, too, God will reveal to you.
Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
Rudy Ross and I discuss what it means to forget the past and press toward God’s goal for our lives. We produce a daily YouTube video that can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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