Philippians 3: 12 – 14 (NLT)
“12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
I love the phrase “forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”. We are not perfect people by any means, and we can get tangled up in regrets that impact our future. God wants us to leave those regrets behind and make plans to improve. Just as God removes our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), we need to let the past go. That doesn’t mean we don’t learn from our mistakes, but we don’t let those mistakes weigh us down. If you have things in your past that are still making you feel unworthy of God’s wonderful plans for you, claim these verses as your own. Post them on the mirror of your bedroom or bathroom – somewhere to remind you frequently that your focus is on the future, not the past.
Paul continues by using a comparison to a race. This is where our part comes in. As an athlete, you practice like crazy to make improvements. You are very aware that you are not perfect, but you keep on trying. If an athlete kept looking back at all the times they didn’t win a competition and focused on what a loser they were, they would never move forward and get better. It’s really important to learn from mistakes, but not to focus on that past. Your job as an athlete is to focus on improving and winning. Our job as Christians is to combine our will and determination to be the person God created us to be, and to use God’s power and resources to make that happen.
My daughters were involved in various sports, and now my grandchildren are as well. So I’m very aware of the practice and time spent in preparing for competition. I think the craziest example of consistent practice was my middle daughter, Janet, who swam for Kennedy’s swim team when it was the best team in Ontario high schools. Her swim practices started at 6:30 am and included strength and weight training. Then after school they practiced another two hours perfecting their strokes, as well as starts and finishes in the pool since can mean a fraction of a second on the clock. This went on for months, and even continued during Christmas holidays. But she did experience the euphoria of receiving those gold medals at the OFSSA swim meets for several years. Interestingly, now that she’s a mom of three active kids, she sometimes swims lengths in a community pool to keep in shape, and when she does, inevitably someone will comment to her about her amazing swimming style. It appears all that training has become an integral part of her.
But during those years in high school, while she was in training, there were days when she was exhausted and wondered if it was worth it. She competed in many swim meets and didn’t come close to winning at all. What if she’d quit, or what if she’d decided to just hang around so she could say she belonged to this “famous” team? She would never have experienced the joy of that gold medal, the reward for all her hard work. She would never have experienced the knowledge that hard work pays off, and that all that tough training would never leave her.
That’s kind of like our faith. Once we are God’s child, He wants us live out our faith in practical ways. Others should be able to see a difference between us and those who have no faith. That doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does mean we want to show the people around us what God is like; we want to be like him. This is something we think about, and we do our best (like practising like an athlete) to behave that way. When we fail, we don’t keep looking back, but once again press on to the future and to the time when God tells us personally that we’ve done a great job – that we’ve been faithful.
Yesterday, we took a look at the help available to us as we live out our Christian faith. God does make a difference in our everyday, practical lives. What I would like you to do today is to ask God to show you what changes you may need to make in order to move forward in your life with Him. God has exciting, special plans for you in this life – like a coach has for his team members, like a father has for his children. What should be your goal for today or for this week? Ask Him. Ask Him to show you how to honour Him the most with your life and your circumstances – especially the crazy circumstances here with Covid-19. You are not where you are without a purpose. God wants to use you to bring Him honour in just the place you are living right now. So what should be your next “training” move as you compete in this life race?
And then … trust God to supply All You Need for that journey forward.
Our song for today is I Will Follow You by Chris Tomlin