New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4 even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ[b] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Pressing toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[c] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[d] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[e] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[f] call of God in Christ Jesus.
Resilience is not a quality a lot of Americans seem to have today. As a school principal, I see that in our students, their families and our staff; as a parent I see it in my teenager; in myself, I see it loud and clear when I’m faced with something uncomfortably challenging. Our instant gratification society doesn’t lend itself well to the concept of pressing on during times of trial. I think I struggle with persisting in the face of uncertainty because I lose confidence. I become unsure of my decisions, my skills, the conditions aren’t what I predicted they would be and/or I just don’t enjoy the resistance that comes with pressure to succeed. Correcting my course is often more about self-preservation than discerning God’s call for me to walk in the intended path.
But our path in walking with Jesus Christ is nothing if not unpredictable. We as humans, make and execute plans and then the road curves in a way we had not foreseen and so we chart new courses or correct our direction to accommodate the challenge. But when we do this alone, relying solely on our intuition and innate skills and talents, we will miss the mark and either give up or persist in a direction not laid out for us through faith. Paul’s words to his friends in the church in Phillipi reveal more to me about Paul’s unwavering commitment to living the life God intends for us…such a dramatic TRANSFORMATION for a man who mocked and persecuted the followers of Jesus. He turned his life so completely to Christ that when he says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus,” he has a credibility that perhaps a less zealous follower of Jesus wouldn’t be so fortunate to have.
Paul shares that all that he valued has lost meaning to him in the face of his relationship with Christ. I look around my home and see all the “stuff” I have acquired; things I valued as important and even necessary when purchased or received as gifts. These things have, unfortunately at times, taken a place of worship instead of my unfailing focus on God. Paul states, “More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” What a pure way of viewing those things which stand between us and a deeper walk with God, that it is our LOSS when we focus on those instead of keeping our eye on the prize of everlasting life. Life is certainly not simple, but it is made much more complicated when we clutter our worlds with things to entertain us, make us feel prideful and distract us from our mission to be Christ’s work in the world. But getting rid of stuff isn’t the goal set by Paul in his statement to the Philippians; rather that they lose their luster when we step back and measure those things that have value compared to our Lord.
So, let’s all agree that we must persist in keeping our focus on our true north of deepening our relationship with Christ. Identify the things standing in the way of that and move them out of the way. Choose to lower their value and raise the importance of our faith in God. Press on, even when it’s hard. Gaining righteousness from God based on faith, as Paul describes in his journey, sounds like a better way of living while we work to share Christ’s love with the world.
Father, help us to see the value in our relationship with you more than we see the value of the stuff surrounding us. Give us the strength and courage to press on in our walk, knowing that life everlasting is far more rewarding than our cluttered lives. We adore you Jesus, and praise your name every day. Amen.