Background Scripture: Philippians 3:12-4:1.
Devotional Reading: Matthew 25:14-29.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta was one of the best-known Christians in the world. She said of herself: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
The founder of Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa was named 18 times in the annual Gallup’s most-admired women’s poll.
Yet, there were some who said that she was hard to work with. Apparently, this saintly woman was not perfect.
Paul. in fact, said it of himself: “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” (3:12).
Is This the Top?
Paul knows he must “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ” (3:14).
After his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road, he decided that he would open himself to change.
That is not as simple as it may seem.
Lots of people think that deciding for Christ is the end of the road, when, in fact, it is just the beginning. If we are satisfied with our lives when we make that decision, we may be satisfied to remain where we are.
Paul was never satisfied, Mother Teresa probably was not, and neither should we accept our present status as “A-OK.”
Professor Ernest F. Scott says, “It belongs to the very nature of a spiritual religion that there is always a height which has not yet been attained.”
If you think you’ve reached the top, that is evidence that you have not. Not only do we have to be willing to open our lives to change, once we start upward we need to persevere even when we have faltered or slipped back. Life should be a continuous process of, as the old spiritual puts it — “Every round goes higher, higher.”
Suzanne de Dietrich says: “Does not Christian experience tell us that the closer we come to Christ, the more we discover ourselves to be sinners, the more we have to rely on his grace?”
So perseverance is vital. We do not know for certain, but it seems that Paul does not look back because he may fall to the temptation of glorying in the victories along the way.
Paul says of himself, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal” (3:13,14).
Living in the past, fastened to experiences that are now history, prevents spiritual growth. Probably the most frequent reason that we keep looking back is that there have been experiences in the past we have not let go of.
Perhaps we have asked God to forgive us, but fear or believe that he hasn’t really forgiven us. Maybe we think we are bigger sinners than God is a forgiver. Another possibility is that we have accepted God’s forgiveness but realize we haven’t made the restitution that we could have made. If that is so, make amends as best you can and move on.
Eyes on the Prize
In Paul’s days, the prize that awaited the winner was placed at the very place where the race would end so that the runners could focus on it and forget everything but the prize.
Living a life for Christ requires that we keep our eyes on the prize that is so glorious that everything else pales by comparison. If we do not keep our eyes focused on the goal, we may settle for something else along the way.
False summits may include prosperity, popularity, respectability or a life of leisure.
I used to preach a sermon entitled, “When You Get Where You’re Going, Where Will You Be?” Think about it. Where are you headed?
Paul writes something in this passage that I cannot write or say: “Brethren, join in imitating me” (3:17).
That statement can only be made by someone who has been monitoring his own progress. It is not humility that cautions me, but reality.
If I could divide my life into minuscule segments, perhaps I could pick some of the best and say, “Imitate that.” But I have not been watching myself as Paul must have been watching himself.
Allen Knight Chalmers tells of a rock near the summit of Mount Washington that marks the spot where a woman climber despaired, laid down and died.
She had been caught by a sudden storm and could not see where she was. In actuality, she was but 100 steps from the shelter that would have saved her life.
The next time you are caught in a mortal storm, will you stop or keep on?