Philippians: I Press On

October 25, 2017

“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. 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul imparts the secret of life in Philippians 3:14. “I press on toward the goal for the prize.” He is going to call you and me to an impossible task that can only be pulled off by God. This great task is pursuing intimacy with Jesus Christ, which leads to significance, purpose, and joy in this life and in the life to come. Christ Himself is the greatest prize!

So what does it look and feel like to “press on?”

First, pressing on is characterized by an ever-present, ever-increasing hunger for more of God.

This hunger is accompanied by a holy discontentment with the status quo. There is deep, soul-filled angst in this pursuit, “like a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants after you, O God” (Psalm 42:1). While we are at peace with God, resting contentedly in Him, we are also running hard after him each day with a desire for more of Him in and through us.

CS Lewis addresses this holy discontentment with where we are spiritually in his book The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Second, pressing on is characterized by a desire and intentional pursuit to become more like Christ.

Isn’t it encouraging to realize that even Paul did not reach perfection in this life? He did not feel like he had arrived. Rather, he possessed a humble dissatisfaction. He didn’t compare himself to other believers; he compared himself to Jesus Christ and recognized that he had a long way to go! But this did not discourage him! Why not? Because the context of his running was a secure, loving, and grace-filled relationship where the prize of salvation was already 100% settled. He was not running out of guilt or obligation to gain God’s approval, but because he already had God’s approval and wanted to behold more of God. Furthermore, he was running with complete faith that God who began the good work in him would carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). He would run hard, and God would do the sanctifying work.

Third, pressing on is characterized by identifying, accepting, and exploiting our weaknesses to glorify God and experience more of Him.

Simply the awareness of weakness in ourselves encourages us to lean into the Spirit for strength. For when we do, “we do not know what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26). It’s a rather counter cultural idea to “play to your weaknesses” rather than strengths. But when we dwell in our weaknesses, we can experience God’s endless, abounding, and gracious love.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul writes: “A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

In an article by John Piper called “Don’t Waste Your Weaknesses,” he comments on this passage:

“Even though this weakness of the thorn is called “a messenger of Satan,” the purposes are clearly not Satan’s. Satan does not want Christ’s power to be made perfect! God does. So God is overruling Satan’s design with his own. In other words, wherever the Christian’s weaknesses come from, they have a God-given purpose…We can sum up the purpose of Paul’s weakness like this: securing Paul’s humility and showing Christ’s power. That’s why God made sure Paul had weaknesses: to keep him from becoming conceited and to give him a more obvious experience of the power of Christ resting on him.”

Finally, in order to “press on” we must know ourselves really well.

To this point, Matt Chandler, in his book To Live is Christ, says, “It will not help you a bit if you lie when it comes to yourself. Know where you’re weak. Know your thoughts. Know the places in your heart that you don’t want to give to the Lord. You must build time into your life to become aware of what’s really going on in your heart, in your mind, and deep inside of you. Constantly ask yourself good diagnostic questions about areas of doubt and disbelief.”

Be honest with God and bring your weaknesses to Him so that you can experience his grace and power in more profound ways than you ever thought possible. He has not given weaknesses to you in vain. May you magnify the power of Christ with them!