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.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
What are you “straining toward” in your life of faith? What goal do you “press on toward”? One way to read this passage is to see the goal of the Christian life as salvation and the “prize” as heaven. There is some truth in that idea, except that we believe, especially in light of Paul’s extensive writings on the grace of God, that our salvation does not depend in any way on our effort or hard work. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, not by our hard work. So, what then is our goal? What do we press on toward?
To help us answer that difficult question, let me ask another question: what will be the best part about being in heaven? Being reunited with loved ones will be great. No more tears or grief or pain will be wonderful. The beauty of God’s new creation will be amazing. But the best part will be knowing, seeing, worshiping and resting in God’s glorious presence. Being near to God, with no veil or filter between; seeing him clearly, not as in a smudgy mirror; feeling his powerful love, without fear: that will be the greatest blessing of heaven.
So, maybe the goal of this life, as best we can, despite our frailties and failings, is to love God more fully. Perhaps what we should be pressing toward is closer intimacy with God through Jesus Christ. Press on toward a more powerful prayer life. Take hold of a richer knowledge of God through his word. Strain toward more inspired, Spirit-led worship. Live into deeper love for Jesus. We get to start doing today what we will spend all eternity enjoying: knowing and loving God.
Father in heaven, thank You for inviting me to know You. Thank You for letting me love You. Draw me close, and help me to open my heart more fully to You as I pray, worship, read Your word and fellowship with Your beloved church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian