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: 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; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 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 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, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; 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.
Food For Thought:
This has always been one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It is a familiar passage for many. In this passage, the apostle Paul talks about pressing on toward the goal that is set before him , which is Christ Jesus. When we read this passage, one can’t help but think of a runner who runs the race that is set before him or her. Now, I’m not a runner. My running joke is that I run only if someone is chasing me. My husband is a huge runner. After supporting his running for over a decade now, I understand more the image that Paul is after. The Christian life, like the runner’s life, involves training to build up stamina. When I first became a Christian, I would read a few lines of Scripture and I would have to put it down for a bit. Then I began to read a chapter or two. Then in seminary, I was taught to read an entire book of the Bible in one sitting. This was often difficult because some of those books are very long but it built up my stamina and my love for Scripture. This is true of many of our Christian practices. When you learn to first pray, you may offer a short, standardized form of prayer. But as you build up your muscles in the faith, you can begin to pray extemporaneously. Moreover, your prayers will move from being shallow to having more depth. This passage of Scripture is full of wonderful meaning because of the metaphors contained within. Think about how the Christian life has been like a race for you. Sometimes, we need to stop along the way to refresh ourselves with water. Sometimes, we need to run alongside a friend for support and encouragement.
God of compassion, you know our faults and yet you promised to forgive. Keep us in your presence and give us your wisdom. Open our hearts to gladness, call dry bones to dance, and restore to us the joy of your salvation. In your holy and sacred name we pray, Amen.