Scripture: Philippians 3:1-16
Key verse: (13) 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”
Reflection: I was at the start gate. “On your mark!” While other kids began to kneel down to place their running spikes in their starting blocks, I timidly only crouched in a not-so-agile starting position. “Get set!” My feet began to shake. My heart was thumping out of my chest. “GO!” All eight runners sprang off the start line – seven racing out to an early lead.
I replay this moment of my life each time I read a passage that refers to the life of faith as a race. And the question that rang in my head at the starting line all those years ago comes to mind again: Am I good enough?
There are two words that stand out to me in this passage: forgetting and forward. These two words are heard by runners quite often. Long-distance runners, sprinters, and runners of all distances are told to never look back. When you look back, you lose momentum and lose sight of the finish line. Forget your last stride and face forward for the next. This runner analogy is quite fitting. Paul had a difficult past, but Paul does not look back at his past to dwell in his failures nor does he look back to boast about his successes. Paul explains that he cannot control everything that happens to him, but what he can control is the decision to dwell on the past or not.
The second word is forward. Paul says he strains forward (present tense) to what lies ahead. For Paul “what lies ahead” is the perfect knowledge of Christ, an upward call of God in Jesus Christ. Strain can be defined as “exerting oneself to the uttermost” toward a goal. Paul is exerting himself fully in the direction of Christ. This is the race of faith. I do not think we will ever fully and perfectly know Christ on our own, but that is not the point. The point is that we strain forward in doing so knowing we rely on Christ.
Paul is urging the church in Philippi to forget the past and strain forward in the race of faith. Do not get distracted with what has happened, but fix your eyes on the prize: a more perfect relationship with Christ. If you are at the start gate—or in the middle of the race—and find yourself asking the same question I did, “Am I good enough?” Remember we do not make it on our own. Christ laid hold of Paul, and Christ lays hold of you. Run! For you are good enough!
Prayer: Holy One, who sets the path of our feet, we praise you for the race we run. Guide our hearts and fix our eyes on you, so that we may forget our past, the good and the bad, and strain forward toward you. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who lays hold of us. Amen.
Author: Ben Brannan
 BDAG, s.v. “ἐπεκτείνομαι”
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].
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