Back to the Future - Day 5
God, help me keep my eyes on the task you’ve given us. Help my love be evident to others that they may know you. Amen.
Read: Philippians 3:12-14, NIV
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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.”
There is a distinct humility reflected in this passage. Paul, after admonishing the Philippian church to seek Christ above all and to let earthly hindrances fall away, admits he hasn’t mastered these practices himself. This is a relief to hear as anyone who is attempting to follow Christ knows there are days we feel like we’ve severely missed the mark. Something got under our skin, something unworthy of our attention held it for too long, or we grew weary of the constant vigilance it takes to maintain kingdom focus. This passage encourages us to give grace to ourselves and to our journey. Releasing perfection and committing to lifelong learning and growth in Christ is freeing. Hebrews 12:1 speaks to this when it says “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Sometimes that sin that so easily entangles is the pursuit of perfection. Striking the balance between focusing on the goal and also receiving God’s grace in our weakness will help us continue to run the race with focus. As a runner, this imagery of “running the race” and “pressing on towards a goal” that is often found in scripture really resonates with me. If I set out to run and am focusing on my time per mile or the monotony of making the same motion over and over, I can essentially talk myself out of enjoying the process. I can forget that I actually like to run. But if I focus on the fact that I enjoy moving my body in this way, am free to choose my own course, and take in the sights around me, I can easily log many enjoyable miles. Pursuing life in Christ is like this; throw off the mental weight of perfection, accept God’s grace, and find joy in just showing up.
Paul’s words encourage the church to pursue unity while moving towards the goal Jesus set in place upon ascending to heaven – establish the church, draw others to the kingdom. He spends a lot of time in the epistles refereeing disagreements in early churches. He continually reminds the early church to focus on the task at hand rather than the inevitable arguments about the process. “Doing church” can be a tricky task when a variety of ages and experiences are present together. We all have different preferences and ideas about best practices. There is a fine line between being relevant and just missing the point entirely. How can we, as believers and as a church body, graciously show up and focus on advancing the gospel in unity? If we forget about doing it all perfectly, we’ll find authenticity and connection in the process.
Dear Lord, I pray for unity within the church so that we can honor you with our worship. Let us never stop loving those far from you in order to draw them to new life in you. Amen.