“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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 3:12-13
In my time as a missionary, I have met many incredible people from so many wonderful places in the world. I have met people from dramatically different walks of life, whose relationships with Jesus varied just as dramatically. But no matter their theological views – from a pastor who knows an intimate and loving relationship with the Lord to an atheist who denies He even exists – one thing is common among every person I’ve ever encountered in this journey. They all have a deep desire to know and to be known by God.
To be completely honest, had I known and worked with Paul, I believe that many of the things he said would’ve made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I mean, the statements he is making here about his walk with the Lord are pretty extreme in my opinion. Probably, if I’d been there when this letter was read to the Philippians, I would have tried to tame down his words a bit, maybe tried to lighten the tone of the letter with a bit of ill-directed humor like, “Well, you know how Paul is. He can get pretty passionate when he starts writing!”
But one thing that sticks out to me in this passage – as it does in a lot of Paul’s writing, as well as the writings of Peter and John and the Prophets of the Old Testament for that matter: there is no doubt about what is the passion of the writer here. Further, there is no question that in the face of praise or mockery, in comfort or in pain, in joy or grief, Paul is unashamedly, un-apologetically going after that which he desires.
So let’s remind ourselves of what it is that Paul is chasing after here. Let’s go back a couple of verses to Paul’s description of the “prize” he is seeking. Verses 10 – 11 of this same chapter say: “I want to know Christ and the power of the his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Now these verses say a lot. But the point I want to drive home now is that last phrase that Paul uses – that he desires to “attain the resurrection from the dead.” I think that is what it all comes down to for us. We no longer want to be dead! We want life! We want to be free from the things that bring death to ourselves, to those around us, and to this world. We want to know the resurrection as Jesus was resurrected!
And yet, we don’t know it. Still, I don’t know it. I could know it, but I don’t. How is it that despite this deep, burning desire as the creation of God to know Him and the resurrection through Him, I continue to let the daily battles of this world occupy and consume my life? Do I actually believe that the Lord is going to reveal Himself to me through the television set, or driving my car to work, or at the gym, or working in my garden, or folding the laundry? Of course, it is absolutely possible for Him to do so, but why am I hanging my hopes of having life through resurrection on the chance that He will show up amidst my normal daily routine? Am I willing ever to take a break from those routines – acknowledging that I may have to sacrifice a day of vacation, or that my garden may have to be left less-than-tidy for a week, or that I may have to get the clothes cleaned throughout the week instead of all on Saturday?
Why, why, why aren’t we going after it? Why aren’t we? Why do the fleeting things of this world constantly receive priority over our desire to attain resurrection from the death in our lives through knowing Christ? Why aren’t we pressing in, straining to the point of suffering in order to have this knowledge of God that we desire?
I encourage you today to start praying that God will show you an opportunity to lay aside – even sacrifice – the things of your daily life for the sole purpose of spending time with Him and knowing Him more. You don’t necessarily need to be alone. Find someone who may want to start meeting with you regularly for prayer so that you can hold each other accountable. Consider going on a weekend retreat with some women or men from your church. Whatever you do, go after it passionately, un-apologetically, and simply seeking only to experience and to know He who is Life.
In Christ Jesus, much love.