I Press Toward the Mark

Philippians chapter 3 is one of the most outstanding chapters in Holy Writ on the great theme of Christian endeavor.

Paul first enumerates those things that had placed him in the front rank of Jewish culture and learning, things that had made him to excel in religious attainment and knowledge, and then, at a stroke, he puts them all aside as he fixes his earnest gaze on the goal, which goal finds its embodiment in the person of his Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Paul was possessed by a passion and purpose that was threefold. “That I might know Him.” This knowledge surpassed by far the combined knowledge that humankind has acquired all down the ages. “And the power of His resurrection.” This power shall never be superseded by any other power in God’s universe. “And the fellowship of His sufferings.” This fellowship, so full and fragrant, enabled this man of God to walk side by side with his divine Master through storm and sunshine, over valley and upland, during the long years of his pilgrimage.

“If by any means,” says Paul, “I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” He deemed that the dynamic power of the resurrection should be the propelling force in his life.

In this great passage on the godly endeavor of the Christian, four imperatives emerge. They are as follows:

Recognize your imperfections. We will be of little use for God or man if we go through life on the tiptoes of a fancied perfection and superiority. Paul did not do that. He was intensely practical. “Not as though I had already attained or were already perfect.” Better by far to stand foursquare on the firm ground of experience, recognizing that while much ground has been gained, much remains to be captured.

Forget the things that are behind. Joshua would never have become Israel’s great commander if he had not forgotten that shameful defeat at Ai. Peter would never have carried the Gospel banner high if he had not put behind his back the words he spoke by the fire in the high priest’s hall. And there is a sense in which it is better to put the consciousness of our greatest triumphs on a shelf of forgetfulness.

Press forward to the goal. Paul, with hands outstretched, went straight for the goal. We know from his final letter that nothing was allowed to hinder, for he says, “I have finished my course” (2 Tim. 4:7). His record was outstanding; his example a shining one. Well might he say, as he does here, “Brethren, be followers together of me.”

Make sure of the prize. The winning of the prize is an incentive that God Himself has placed before us. Moses had respect unto the recompense of the reward. He looked steadily at the ultimate reward, and he received it. Who among us would not covet the “well done” of our Master in that great day of recompense?