As Christians we are called into a forward motion. No matter what we achieve in our spiritual walk, there is always more. As we progress in our journey however, there is a temptation for us to stall, backtrack or focus on things that blur the purpose for which God has called us.
Paul was someone whose focus was on accomplishing excellence in all his undertakings. He took pride in his Jewish birth as well achievement of excellence in his training as a scribe and Pharisee. Paul was raised according to Hebrew customs.
He was a Pharisee. Pharisees were the most religiously conservative group of Jews in his time and they were known for strict adherence to Jewish law and customs. They were particularly noted in the Gospels for their devotion to traditions of the law and felt that this kept them pure before the Lord.
What is also interesting, is the fact that Paul referred to himself as a Jew as well as a Benjamite. Historically, only those who came from Judah were referred to as Jews, so how come Paul was able to claim these two identities? The answer lies in his birth and religion.
Paul's ancestry was Benjamin but when he took up Judasim as a religion, he became a Jew. Furthermore, The kingdom of Judah politically comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and part of Levi. This leads us to one fact of why Paul emphasised his Jewishness, and that all Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews.
Added to the training he had, was the passion and zeal to ensure that anything standing contrary to Jewish law and practice was dealt with and eradicated. This was why he volounteered to lead the persecution of the Church of Christ.
It looked like Paul was doing all the right things and headed towards accomplishing all his life goals; until he came in contact with the resurrected Christ then all those goals disintegrated and a new single goal emerged which Paul referred to as 'this one thing'
Paul highlighted all his accomplishments but ended up with the realisation that all these accomplishments pale into insignificance compared to His desire to know Him. What! Paul, you mean with all the training and religious upbringing, you still do not know Jesus? But you read about Him! Many the prophets wrote about Him! The Torah (referring to the five books of Moses) foretold the coming of the Messiah.
In Genesis 49:10, Jacob while on his deathbed began to tell his sons things that will happen. One of his prophecies was the coming of Jesus. "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs[d] shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his".
Isaiah is known for several prophecies regarding the birth of the Saviour the most popular one being Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Hosea prophesied about the Messiah ending up in Egypt. When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hosea 11:1)
Paul knew the letters but until He met the Saviour, he did not experience the Spirit and power of God. The moment he experienced both, everything that He had accomplished became a dim past and a new light dawned upon him. The encounter with Christ caused a radical shift and change in Paul from one who believed in a righteousness that comes from being schooled in the study and practice of the law to a righteousness that comes from faith in Christ. (Phil 3:9)
By the time Paul wrote this letter to the Phillipians, he was already an Apostle, yet he looked back at all he had accomplished and remarked, "I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (Phil 3:12 -14 NLT)
So what is this one thing that Paul was talking about? The first part of that 'one thing' is forgetting the past. Paul talks about Forgetting the past and focusing on what lies ahead. Why should we forget the past?
Because holding on to past failures can hinder us from moving forward.
Because holding on to past successes can hinder us from moving forward to greater things that God has in store for us.
Forgetting the past does not mean that we erase the past from our memories - that is not really possible except if we are suffering from a memory-loss condition. It means rather, that we do not focus or dwell on the past.
The second part of 'this one thing' according to Paul, is 'looking forward to what lies ahead'. No matter what God has done through us as individuals or as a Church, there is more. In verse 12, Paul said, "I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me."
As I thought about the pressing on, two similar sports came to my mind. American football and Rugby. I don't know much about both sports but one thing I deduced is that to score a try or touchdown in rugby league, the player has to push the ball directly onto the ground once in the try zone, whereas in American football the player has to simply cross the line. In order to accomplish this, both teams have to press forward with their focus on the goal. This was what Paul meant by pressing forward to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
A match is not won by simply taking a point or scoring a goal. It is determined by what happens at the end of the match. In Matthew 24, Jesus was telling his disciples what would happen in the future. After listing all the events that would happen and how people would respond to them, Jesus said in verse 13, "But the one who endures to the end will be saved."
When we press forward, we grow stronger. Physical strength is attained when we put our muscles to work. There is no short-cut to spiritual growth. We need to keep working out those spiritual muscles though consistent prayer, studying the scripture and living out our faith.
The Christian journey is not meant to be walked alone. Encounters and experience may differ but the one thing that unites us is Christ. This is why the Church is called the body of Christ. As we build up our spiritual muscles individually, we put that strength to work as we take our place in the body of Christ. We are not called to be spectators in the body of Christ, we are called to be participants - to be part of what God is doing to reconcile other to Himself. "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:25)
We win! "Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne." (Rev 3:21) When we press forward as one, only one outcome is expected. We win! Winning teams move together as one with everyone's eye on the goal. Roles will differ but every one's actions will be geared towards gaining ground and advancing forward.
This is why God gave everyone of us spiritual gifts so that we can become effective in ministry. Team Jesus is not made up of the Pastor, Elders and a few leaders. It is made up of every one of us! We all need to chip in and use whatever gifts that God has given us for the benefit of the body.
If you are unsure of your gifts, you only need to ask. Paul talks in detail about various spiritual gifts God gave the church in 1 Corinthians 12:1 -7. Some of these gifts are given to us as God wills, we just need to discover them. Others can be acquired if we desire and ask God to give us those gifts (1 Corinth 12:31)
Steve Popoola is the editor of Biblepraise Newsletter and the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online at http://www.biblepraise.org. He lives in Kent, United Kingdom, where he works as an IT Professional. He currently serves as a Worship Leader as well as Home Group Leader in his local church and on occasion, speaks at invited events. He is the founder of the BiblepraiseFellowship Online Ministry and Moderator/Editor of the Biblepraise Newsletter. He can be reached through His email address, firstname.lastname@example.org