12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Let it Go!
To take hold of God’s future for them, the Philippians had to let go of things from the past. It is not that everything is let go. We will see the kinds of memories and thoughts we should take forward in chapter 4. However, issues of conflict, issues of regret, and the paralyzing shame many people carry are to be let go. In context, Paul is probably talking about a previous lifestyle. Previously Paul found his status in performance, presently he finds his identity in the pursuit of Jesus. He has to let go of the previous life with its patterns in order to take a hold of the life that God has for him.
Is there a life-pattern that you need to forget? I have problems mixing the ideas of a single life I lived until I was thirty-eight or so. Even when I was married I didn’t have children and the selfless commitment they demand. In fact, I am not alone in this struggle. Many scientific studies show that people who parent are unhappier (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/why-does-anyone-have-children/?_r=0). The false conclusion is that children make you unhappy, my inclination is to believe that we can’t satisfy our selfishness and run our lives how we want. However, I did hear that those who have children would do it all again. They feel more significant. They know that life is designed for child rearing, but they are unable to embrace the lifestyle with joy. I think there is a parallel with many people’s example of being a Christian. We were designed, like Paul, to pursue a life for God. Many Christians have ‘accepted’ Christ as something to complete them. When God demands more from them, they reluctantly see that they have to comply, but their desire is for themselves. They are unhappy in their faith. Paul’s joy is rooted in his desire to throw off everything that detracts from life with Jesus. Jesus is all about that. His life is harmonized. He is as happy as a parent who sees children as a privilege and an honour to raise and educate.
So, the principle? Think about why God called you. Let go of anything that you used to pursue. Single-minded pursuit of Christ leads to joy. It combats the misery of serving self and Jesus at the same time.
I want to have personal free-time, I want to rest in ways that I used to before children. I do not quickly see their erratic sleep patterns and their constant demands as a way to be free from my self. I have no rights to those things. I am disappointed with the Christian life quite often because it does not help me achieve my goals. However, in those cases it was my goals that needed realigning. I needed to be disappointed.
- What is Paul trying to attain?
- How does he press on toward the goal?
- Why do the Philippians need to hear this?
- What are you trying to attain?
- Is there anything that works against your perceived goals? Why does it frustrate you?