Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Philippians 3:12-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Pressing toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[a] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[b] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[c] 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[d] call of God in Christ Jesus.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Are you paralyzed by dwelling in the Past? Nothing is more pitiful than the person who is continually living in the past. The past is gone. Why allow it to ruin the present and the future? Our faith calls us ever toward the future with the promise that God is with us.
In our reading today the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, wrote, “but this 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 heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Memory makes us who we are as a community, as people of faith gathered to worship, and as individuals. The old saying “You are what you eat” could be modified to say, “You are what you remember.” And remembering—looking back—is a wonderful gift.
Time and again, the Bible calls us to remember—to look back. But, we can’t live life always looking back. We also have the gift of looking forward. The Apostle Paul learned this in his life.
Paul must have loved sports. There are a number of places where he uses illustrations and images from sports, especially the foot race. This passage is one of those. Picture it in your mind: the runner is coming down the home stretch, STRAINING FORWARD, leaning forward, stretching out toward the finish line, the GOAL. It’s that goal that’s on his mind—not ANYTHING else. His eyes are fixed on the goal–he’s straining forward–thinking of nothing else—forgetting the first part of the race. Do you see the image? Do you feel the feeling of the runner running for the prize? That’s the feeling that Paul wants us to have about the Christian walk, except that he wants us to see it more as our Christian RUN! How can a runner get anywhere if he’s so preoccupied about where he’s been? How can a runner press forward and concentrate on the goal if he’s concentrating and worrying about how he stumbled in the first turn? How can we press on in our Christian run and serve Christ and live life to its fullest if we can’t forget what lies behind?
To look forward, we have to forget what lies behind. That means leaving behind the hurts we’ve suffered, the wrongs we’ve done to others, the disappointments and defeats and pressing forward—like a runner running a race.
Henri Bergson, the French philosopher said, “It is the function of the brain to enable us not to remember, but to forget.”
Haven’t you wronged someone in some way and then received forgiveness only to think about it every time you saw him or her? It puts a damper on the relationship, doesn’t it? Paul knew this all too well: forgiveness and forgetting go hand in hand. There’s no place where he sensed this more than in his relationship to God: to dwell and concentrate on the past is to be unable to fully receive the forgiveness that God so freely offers us in Christ. To dwell on the past takes our attention away from the present where life is lived and the future where we are going and we can’t, as Paul said, “Run the race which is set before us.” The remembrance of past wrongs is like so much heavy baggage–it weighs us down and keeps us from being able to run. Imagine trying to run the 880 with a packed suitcase! The Good News is that we don’t have to carry that baggage–through Jesus Christ forgiveness and new life are freely offered to us.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster