Strain Forward to What Lies Ahead
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Phil. 3:12–16 ESV)
Today is the last Sunday of this year.
I want us to be grateful to God for His care and help throughout the year.
In retrospect, no one will say to have been here by oneself.
God has led us to this moment of life.
We need to express our thanks to God.
But we do not want to linger on bygones too long because we have a new year ahead of us.
It is time to focus on God’s grace in store for us in the new year.
We have more things to do in the new year than in the bygone years.
Therefore, let us strain forward to what lies ahead of us.
1. Leave the Past Behind
“forgetting what lies behind” (v. 13b)
We need to forget what lies behind to move forward.
Do not linger on the past.
* The past denotes two things.
What happened is what we needed.
God apportions his grace fitting for each situation.
His grace in the past was appropriate for the past occasions.
In retrospect, you may feel something wanting.
In retrospect, you may feel something should not happen to your life or someone should not come to your life.
But you need to remember God works for us.
The things or people you feel should not be in your past life are part of God’s grace.
God put them in your life for a good reason although you may not realize it.
We are under God’s care, and God knows what we need far better than we do.
God might have drawn you to Him closer because of your problems in life.
He might have made you stronger or more mature because of your difficulties in life.
I am confident that you have experienced God’s power and wisdom because of hardships.
I am confident that you have understood God’s grace more and better because of difficulties.
Past is for Present. It did its job well for your benefit.
Winter helps you enjoy Spring more.
Poverty helps you enjoy wealth more.
Failure and mistakes help you enjoy success more.
Therefore, do not linger on the past too much.
Besides, God’s grace in store for you is so great you will forget all hardships soon.
Referring to the Red Sea crossing, God told the Israelites, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isa 43:18–19a)
God meant by it he would do greater things for the Israelites.
God’s work for His people is better and better every day.
*Therefore, leave the past behind.
Make sure nothing holds you back, not even good things.
Good things may cause you to fall into arrogance.
Good things are not your merits because God helped you do so.
Give thanks to God and forget them.
Also forget bad things you have done.
They only discourage and weaken you.
Remember God has forgiven you of all your wrongs.
That you are here is the evidence.
God declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17).
You are not a past person, you are a new person in Jesus Christ.
As long as you have Jesus in your life, you are renewed every day.
Do not linger on your past wrongs.
Stop thinking about them.
Focus on how you will live.
Both good and bad things this year are done in God’s grace.
Forget what lies behind, either good or bad, and move forward for what lies ahead.
God lets you be here living today because He has something in store for you.
You have things to do for God this year.
Prepare for the new life in the year 2019.
We look ahead with both eyes at the front of our heads.
You cannot walk straight with your heads turning backward.
Looking back, you will walk in zigzags.
Let your minds to look ahead as you enter the new year.
2. Look Forward and Live for Today
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (verse 12)
Apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote to Philippians.
He did not expect to live many days.
He was standing at the crossroads of life and death.
Then he said he pressed on to make the resurrection of Christ his own.
See, our life goal is to complete what God has commissioned each of us to do.
There are many things for us to do for God.
God commissioned us to do things for our church, homes, children, and so on.
We need to be good servants of God in every part of our society we belong to.
God’s commissioned works never expire until you enter heaven.
Do not stop working for God and helping others. Keep on running for the goal God has set up for you to accomplish.
Do not say you are retired, too old, or too weak to do things for God.
Do your best to please God as God lets you walk on earth.
Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (verse 14).
*Do not think little of your commissioned work.
God has given each of us things to do for the gospel and his churches.
They are not something you may choose.
They are things you should do.
God ordered and not asked you to do them.
Do not even think of an excuse.
Wherever, whenever, and in whatever situation you are, do them.
As God’s love and grace are absolute, so his commissioned works are absolute.
Do them until you leave this world.
Make God’s commissioned works as your top priority in life.
Nothing can be more important than doing God’s works.
Your wealth, fame, feeling, family, and even your life cannot come before God’s works.
Do not let your hardships, persecutions, and blames stop you working for God.
Every part of your life should hinge on God’s commissioned works.
Work for God even at the risk of your life.
3. Run for the Goal
“I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (verse 12)
Paul said he pressed on for his life goal.
He did his best until he died.
About his life, Paul concluded, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
We do not want to stop running for the life’s goal.
We should run to our death.
Do not run for the commissioned works at ease.
Work for God with all your hearts and strength.
Be a passionate worker of God.
Efforts and attitudes matter.
Different efforts and attitudes produce different results.
Without passion, without success.
Passion is a common denominator of the victors in life.
Be passionate believers.
Be earnest in your faith, prayers, and services.
Be eager to love one another.
Passion results from your realizing the commissioned works.
Once the prophet Jeremiah confessed, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9).
Jeremiah was in a situation he did not know what to do between God and the people.
God told Jeremiah to declare judgment to the Israelites, and the people shut their ears to Jeremiah and put him in prison because he had always brought them bad oracles.
Jeremiah even tried to hold God’s messages to himself and be silent, but he could not do so long.
He had a passion for God’s works. He did not care about the imprisonment.
Apostle Paul also showed the same passion as he confessed, “Christ’s love compels him” (2 Cor 5:14).
The love of Christ for the world compelled him to preach the gospel to the world.
4. Do Your Best for the Prize
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (verse 14).
God rewards you what you will have done for Him.
There are a few things for a prize-seeker to remember.
First, you need to press on toward the goal.
Runners race for a medal toward the finish line.
You need to focus on the finish line God has set up for you.
Second, you need to obey God.
Runners keep rules as they race for a medal.
If they break any rule, they become disqualified from the race.
In the same way, we have rules to keep as we run for the heavenly prize.
Our rules are God’s words in the Bible.
Give all your ears to the Scripture. Be ready to obey God’s words.
Third, do your best to receive the heavenly prize.
Runners use all energies as they race for a medal.
They are worn out when a race ended.
In the same way, you need to spare no efforts for the prize from God.
Sweat more and work harder for the prize.
I wat us to think back on our lives this year to see how much we put our energies for God’s works.
Nothing is more worthwhile than the heavenly reward.
It will please not only you but also God.
Teachers feel happy as they see their teachings benefitting their students.
Likewise, God is greatly pleased as we receive heavenly prizes.
The most beautiful scene in heavenly worship is that saints lay their crowns before God and the Lamb.
I pray us all here to receive crowns from God to our delight and God’s delight.
We are writing something for God every day.
Every moment of our life is a page of God’s grace.
Our life this year is already written.
We are about to write new pages for the upcoming year.
We need to strain forward to the good things that lie ahead.
Let us race for the heavenly prize in the new year.
For that, know for what you need to strive.
Do your best as you press on toward the goal.
Let us march and run together for the heavenly prize.