Happy new years! Now is the time of year for fireworks, toasting, and reflection. Around this time each year, every good hearted person in their own way attempts to evaluate their past in an attempt to better themselves, or reach new goals. We often call these attempts, “new year’s resolutions.” A resolution in short, simply means to make a decision. Sometimes our year was everything we could have dreamt it to be, and we simply want to add to our success. That being said, if most are honest, we usually make decisions based off our failures and shortcomings. Praise God for failures, or we wouldn’t have much to resolve in the first place! So what is it going to be? What will you decide for your 2018 decisions? I write mainly to provoke thought, in an effort to help us to have the right heart behind whatever we decide. I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi in which he writes “I want to know Christ…”(Philippians 3:10a-11)
The year is 62 A.D. and the apostle Paul is undergoing the second year, of his Roman imprisonment. Most believe that Paul arrived in 60-61 A.D. and was liberated in early 63 A.D. In the meantime, he was kept chained to a soldier of the Roman corps (Acts 28:16) Most scholars also note that he had already written the Epistles to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and to Philemon. With his letter to the Philippians being his last during his imprisonment, he reflects on his situation, along with expressing his gratitude towards the church. We know through chapter 16 of Acts, that Paul plants the church back in 51 AD. It can be seen through Paul’s writing that his relations to the Philippians and Thessalonians were those of the deepest personal affection. Of note these two books have no formal introduction! With 11 years lapsing, the question then is asked, How does Paul want the Philippians to think of him in Rome?
If you take into account the previous verse, it would seem as if the Apostle wanted the church to know he still had a goal to achieve. In other words, he had some resolutions, or decisions that he had made. What was on Paul’s resolutions list? Well, first he states that he wants to know Christ. To me this sounds like a cranking new year’s resolution! The question is then sparked, in what way did Paul want to know Christ? “—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10b-11) As Paul continues his letter to the church, he furthers that he wants to know the power of his resurrection, becoming like him in his death. All this eludes to him attaining the resurrection from the dead, just like Christ. The verb “attain” in the greek means to arrive at the end of a journey. In reading this statement, I get the sense that the apostle Paul wasn’t quite sure that he would be released from his imprisonment. He starts to prioritize what is most important to him; his goal of getting to Heaven was priority.
The first thing that stands out to me when pondering my own personal resolutions, is that they should all be a means to an end. That end for the believer of course is heaven! In other words, our goals are nothing more than mere steps in our pilgrimage, helping us to get closer to our ultimate goal. Again I am reminded of Paul as he continues his dialogue to the Philippians. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14) As we know, Paul was later released from his Roman house arrest, and later on beheaded in 67 A.D. Words cannot describe the pain our brother suffered, but his example gives me great joy, in the sense that he completed his goal.
This excites me because there are several things I hope to accomplish this year. 1. Weekly D-Times and planning times with my wife. 2. At least one personal visitor to church every Sunday 3. 10 personal bible studies a week 4. To Begin my Master’s Program 5. Write Bi-Weekly Articles) In biblical context, these are all things that will help me to “Know Christ,” as I must suffer and die to myself to obtain them. To be completely honest, these are all very challenging aspects of my walk that I have failed to be consistent in over the past several years. It could be easy to make excuses but, I would much rather line myself up with the very words of Paul. In short he tells the church in Philippi that in order to accomplish his goal, he must press on, forget what’s behind, and strain toward what is ahead. This concept highlights the beauty of Christianity, as it is designed for us to be successful in the midst of extreme difficulty.
Let us start with his concept of pressing on. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12) In context, Paul here establishes his motivation behind the goal he has set before himself. The genius of Christianity, is that Jesus never calls us to do something he has never done himself. In this case Paul highlights that we must press on because Jesus himself always did. The inspiring part is that Jesus pressed on to grab hold of us personally. Now the stakes are raised, because we have two examples, in Christ and in Paul. What if I viewed my goals in this manner, going into the new year? This grace truly motivates me to want to fight for those that fought for me first. I confess, even as I write this, that I very much dislike writing! ! Possibly because english was not my strong suite, or perhaps because I rarely went to class. That being said when I think of pressing on, I literally am compelled to press away at the keyboard. Please pray for my bi-weekly articles, and feel free to message me any tips, pointers, or suggestions.
Secondly, Paul notates that he presses on, as he is forgetting what is behind. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind” (Philippians 3:13) I have often heard Kip lovingly admonish disciples for living in the past, because in Christ, truly our best days are ahead of us. He and Paul alike, share a conviction that took me some time to grasp. The context sure does help, as just earlier in the chapter Paul highlights his lack of confidence in the flesh, or his past. Very easily Paul’s Jewish privileges and distinctions could have been something he used to gain confidence in his Christian race. As I thought about this concept, we can very easily look to the past as a confidence booster, or it can do the opposite and destroy our confidence altogether. Take for example, my goal to have weekly “d-times” with Joy. It can almost become something that seems impossible if you judge based off the past. The simplicity of this concept is that you can imagine the past as if it has never happened. Then one quickly remembers. “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) Now I can focus on the reality which is Christ, and his words. Praise the Lord everything is possible with God!
Lastly, Paul concludes his thoughts in this section of his letter stating, “and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14) I love the term “Straining ahead” in the KJV, as it refers to “Reaching forth.” The Greek word refers to an athlete throwing himself forward in a race with all his energies strained to their max. This very easily convicts me, as I know that if I went after each goal with this level of intensity, things would be much different. If you take into account having a guest to church every Sunday, it would require my best effort. The same goes for beginning my Master’s program, and having ten personal bible studies each week. The question then is raised, what stops us from doing our best? To me it is a lack of perspective, found in the previous verse; It’s all about the prize! It is so easy to forget that there is a prize attached to our pressing, and straining in Christianity. In a lot of ways it makes going after every goal worth it, when you think about what is in store of completion.
This year the Las Vegas Church has its own goals as well: 1. Every member to be used by God to bear fruit 2. To double the amount of bible talks 3. For each member to read through the entire Bible 4. Every ministry established: Campus, Marrieds, Singles, Teens) When I take into account “pressing, forgetting what is behind, and straining ahead,” these goals seem very achievable. Prayerfully the church can see the example of their leadership when it comes to putting these things into practice. Paul states “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.” (Philippians 4:15) To Paul, maturity is setting goals with the right heart, and accomplishing them. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) James calls us to persevere to maturity, so we are not lacking in anything. What I gather is that we must persevere through our resolutions, decisions, and goals, knowing they are all a means to an end. So what’s it going to be? What will you decide for your 2018 decisions? I hope we can each have the right heart behind whatever we decide!