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TO CHEW ON: "Not that I have already attained or am already perfect, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Philippians 3:12
For those of us who believe God has a plan and purpose for each individual life, this is an interesting verse to puzzle over and explore. It sounds like Paul here is striving ("press on") to understand ("lay hold of") that destiny, purpose, or life work for which God "laid hold of" him (love the wordplay!).
Don't we all want to discover the same thing? Why did God draw me to Himself yet leave me on this earth? How am I meant to spend my time here?
Pressing toward the goal of the resurrected life
A question we ask as we begin to slice and dice this verse is, what is Paul referring to when he says, "Not that I have already attained" - Philippians 3:12? To what has he not attained?
A hint of what he is striving to attain is found in Philippians 3:11 (the verse just before our reading): "… if by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead."
He seems to be telling us he hasn't attained to the resurrection of the dead (obviously, because he's not dead) but also, if we read further on, that to a point this resurrected life can be realized in this life ("Nevertheless to the degree that we have already attained…" - Philippians 3:16) though the real essence of it is to come ("For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior … who will transform our lowly body…" etc. Philippians 3:20,21). So he appears to be striving, as much as possible, to live the resurrected life during his mortal life.
How to make progress toward that goal
Paul goes on to list some things he does to make progress toward the goal of living the resurrected life here on earth:
- He leaves the past behind - Philippians 3:13.
- He keeps the goal in mind, that final goal of getting "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." In other words, receiving God's commendation for fulfilling the destiny for which he was saved - Philippians 3:14.
- He works for unity with fellow Christians - Philippians 3:15,16.
- He seeks to live what he preaches, i.e. set an example that others can follow - Philippians 3:17.
- He reminds himself of his real citizenship - Philippians 3:20.
In the light of today's passage I ask myself, what is my goal? What is yours? Some earthly glory or perk, comfort or pleasure? Or does it involve some of the things Paul dreams of: God's "Well done"? The resurrection life future, and present? And what does how we live say about the goals we really have (not just claim to have)?
PRAYER: Dear God, please tattoo permanently into my spirit the truth of my identity and destiny in You. Help me begin living out the resurrected life here on earth. Amen
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.