Phil. 3:12 ¶ Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Phil. 3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
Phil. 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul, the one who has been living faithfully in Christ for many years now recognizes that there is still always more ahead in the Christian walk. There is never time to simply sit down and think that we have arrived, instead there is the constant realization that there is more. The goal is to be united with Christ through the resurrection, therefore, as long as we live in the flesh, we must continue to press on. Jesus was the ultimate example, he pressed on through death becoming victorious through his resurrection. Jesus has broken through all the barriers and has created a pathway for us to follow so that we too can attain resurrection. So, as long as we are living, we ought to continue to press on toward what lies ahead, not living in the past. I should be closer to the goal this year than I was a year ago. That means that I ought to be growing and pressing on in my Christian walk to the extent that I know Christ better now than last year, or even than last week. We are running a spiritual race and no one sits down in the middle of the race and takes a break. Instead the runners press on, pushing themselves harder and harder just so that they can continue.
Paul was coming around that last lap and he could see the finish line ahead. The finish line was seared firmly in his mind and instead of slowing down he pressed on even harder to reach toward that goal. He knew that it would be worth it for crossing the finish line meant he would get to experience resurrection power through "the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."
We are called to a Christian life in which we will be continually pressing on. There should never be a moment of time in which we think that we have "arrived" spiritually. The entire Christian life is one of growth in grace and of pressing on in the power of the Holy Spirit. Along this journey of life there is ever-increasing participation in Christ with Christlikeness as the ultimate goal. This is the life of holiness -- the entire journey. Paul loved to use the sports metaphors and so he saw it as a race where we would continue to work toward the goal.
I'm afraid that too many Christians come to a point where they think that they have "made it" spiritually. They are ready to sit down, or slow down and be satisfied with what they have. Paul never considered the idea that he was ever done. For some people this may seem quite radical and we might make the excuse, "well, I'm not Paul." But then in v. 17 Paul says that we are to imitate him. In other words, this isn't optional for the Christian life, this is the example of the Christian life. This is a life in which Christ is our goal and everything we do leads us toward that goal. We do not slow down, instead we continue to press on, getting to know him on deeper levels on a daily basis. Everything in life becomes about Christ and knowing him. The things that we do are simply a consequence of knowing him and responding in obedience to our relationship to him.
My parents are the most incredible example to me when it comes to this kind of life. I know I shared recently about them but I continue to be in awe. Even in their 80's they are constantly learning and pressing on to be all that Christ would want them to be. They spend time in the word every day. Not only do they read the Bible together (Dad has macular degeneration so mom reads to him or they listen to CDs), but they pray together every day, and then they read additional books together. They also minister constantly to those who live their retirement community with them. They meet with people, pray with people and invite people to church. They believe they have a special calling to minister to all of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They make the effort to spend time with friends whom they believe might need a little bit of encouragement. What an incredible example they are of those who are pressing on to the very end!
I want to press on, getting to know Christ in a more intimate way every single day of my life. It is so easy for life to become a distraction from the real goal of life. May God help us all to simply press on!
Lord, may I be closer to you today than ever in my life. Please, help me to press on. Amen.