Sunday’s Message dealt with denying Self, and following Jesus. This Section of Scripture reminds me of an athletic race – track – or swimming for example. Here’s the journey God took me on as I pondered today’s verses.
12Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
”Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect… “ “become perfect” - to complete; mature; make perfect by reaching the intended goal; to finish a race or course. Winning first place is not always the goal. Ask marathon runners – many of them say that first or last place doesn’t matter – Victory for them is simply finishing.
“I press on in order that I may lay hold of that…” “lay hold of” - to obtain the prize with the idea of eager and strenuous exertion.
Oh, that nagging little word “eager.” So, I am to be “eager” as I follow Jesus? This reminds me of parenting. I want my children to love me so much that they eagerly “obey” me and “follow” me. I can “force” them by sheer authority as a parent to obey me. I can force them to adhere to my rules – or else the wrath of mom will descend. But then, they will respond out of being forced to obey. Their heart and love for me is not what motivates them. And that is not at all what I want, is it? I want them to “obey” me because they LOVE me – not because they “have” to. I want them to be “eager” to love me and “please” me.
I think that is what Jesus wants from me. He wants me to follow Him with eagerness – and because I love Him – not because I am afraid of Him – not because I am just following a “rule”.
That same definition also says “with the idea of eager and strenuous exertion.” “Strenuous exertion”? This sounds like training – exercise – an athlete working toward winning a race. Sounds hard. So, I am to eagerly follow Jesus, but I need to understand that it will not always be easy. It will require strenuous exertion. It will stretch my spiritual muscles. It will hurt. I will run out of breath. I will ache.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…” If an athlete keeps looking backward at those running behind – or if a swimmer keeps looking behind to see who is catching up – they will lose precious nano-seconds and possibly lose the race. They must keep focused on the finish line. If I keep looking behind and hang on to the past – it makes it very difficult to follow Jesus. I must keep my eye on Him.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” “Upward” – heavenly. “Call” –an invitation to the Kingdom of God and its privileges.
15Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you…” “Attitude”- mind set. “Reveal“ - things revealed from God, made known by His Spirit and influences.
As I run this race – of following Jesus and denying self – it talks about my attitude – and that God will reveal to me a different attitude. A good coach will point out ways to improve physically as well as encourage an athlete with their attitude. He will spend hours training and giving tips such as better shoes meant for that type of race; how to come off the starting block differently; in swimming – how to turn under the water faster; wearing suits and those adorable swim caps that help to move through the water faster; etc. etc. etc., in order to reach the goal.
And that’s what God does for us. Through His Holy Spirit, He will reveal and influence us as we grow and mature. He will change our attitude and mind-set as we follow Him. He will mold and shape, prune and ripen us as we stumble, fall, get back up, and try again.
So, let us press on in order to obtain the prize with eagerness and strenuous exertion, that we may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
After all, Jesus eagerly pressed on in order to win His prize – you and me!