12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
When we are converted and agree to become players in God’s story, we assume a new standard of perfection. We envision a new set of priorities and goals. We become captivated by the mystery of being “a new creation.” And as Paul relays in his letter to the believers in Philippi, we are to live in single-minded pursuit of the prize, which is our eternal communion with Jesus.
Not that we have grasped anything fully, as Paul so humbly admits. And when he writes elsewhere that “old things have passed away” [2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB], I don’t believe he means that our memories are erased or that the burden of our sin nature is removed.
Sanctification is an arduous journey, and for the sales and marketing folks, “Die to yourself daily” is a tough sell in a world of cheap distractions and embarrassingly low standards. We’re not all that great at running in a straight line as it is.
So we are reminded to be in a constant state of reorientation toward the One in and through whom we have been gifted with a right standing with God. In other words, we don’t run to earn the prize—the prize awaits us. In this sense, the race is actually more like a victory lap.
Like most families with small children, we have a strip of wood with small marks that record the standing growth of our little guy. For some it is tucked away in a closet. Ours is on the side of a beat-up, second-hand cabinet in the kitchen. The spaces between the lines have differing intervals. Some are wider, some narrower. Growth comes in different seasons.
But they do inch upward, from the bottom line when he couldn’t stand on his own to that slightly jagged line when he wouldn’t stand still. And while they may look like simple, tiny lines, separately and collectively they actually tell a story.
My journals, along with being a place to collect ideas and reflections, have likewise been a record of the course I have run thus far, albeit not by any conscious effort on my part. They are, for better or worse, historical documents, full of my own revolutions and reformations. They contain spiritual insight I couldn’t possibly have arrived at on my own, and two pages later there are musings that may be in the “Top Five Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Heard.”
My notebooks have accompanied me to the Ukraine and Haiti. They record deaths and births—times when I found it difficult to stand on my own. It sounds like a cliché, but some pages actually contain smudges where tears have blurred the ink. And they contain way more questions than answers. In this way, and ONLY in this way, are they anything like my Bible.
And on those difficult days when I’m a jerk to my wife and I question whether I’ve matured at all, I need only look at the tiny lines in my notebooks to see proof that there IS a trajectory to my life. Where there are failures, there is no shame—just an opportunity to shine a light where I’m vulnerable. REMEMBER, we run in freedom, not in fear. We are running toward, not running from.
I believe the spiritual discipline of journaling is many things, but primarily I see it as an exercise in REMEMBERING—not what we have done, but what Christ did.
Do you write down your goals or record ways you can grow deeper in pursuit of a more Christ-like life? It is a road that seems so far off or so big that considering it only paralyzes us. Reverse engineering can be a great way of making it seem not so big or unattainable. We have the end goal in mind. All we need to do is figure out one thing we can do today that will put us one step closer to that glorious end. What is one thing you can do today to:
- Remind yourself that the prize is already yours to receive?
- Take one small step in the direction of your desired destination?