Walking Our Faith: On the right track (column)
October 20, 2017
"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … 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." (Phillipians 3:12, 14, NIV)
The first time I heard these verses was in a small storefront church in Kiev, Ukraine. I remember because it was the same Sunday morning that Princess Diana's tragic death was reported. I had recently left my job on Wall Street and was living in Kiev with my mother after my father had passed away and I was there because I was not having much luck in finding my way forward.
I recall the wood-paneled walls of the room where I sat in the back, slightly embarrassed by the evangelical enthusiasm of my fellow expats. But when I heard these verses my wandering mind was drawn back. I can't remember what the sermon was about, but I remember these words of Saint Paul. Because what I heard that morning was an invitation to put the shame of my failure and anger behind me. That a saint had done the same, and so could I.
I didn't listen to the rest of the message, what I heard was a personal, motivational message much like I'd heard for years from my swimming coach. Because in that moment, where I was spiritually in my walk with God, that is all I could hear.
God’s plan is always greater than anything we can imagine for ourselves. Our vision of what we are capable of is limited by what we have seen ourselves accomplish in the past. We lack God’s creative and infinite perspective.
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That I can so clearly recall it all these years later reveals its impact on me. In the years to come, I would recall these verses or look them up in the Bible more than once to remind myself that the past was the past and I was moving forward.
But as I re-read these verses this morning, I saw them in a new light, especially after I read them in a more contemporary translation:
"I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." (Phillipians 3:12-13, MSG)
I recently wrote about how comparing ourselves to others can keep us from focusing on God's purpose for our lives. In the same way, if we are looking over our shoulder at where we've been we slow our progress forward. True. But, that's a message any motivational speaker with no spiritual inclination could provide.
Saint Paul is calling us toward a higher goal. What I didn't see then, (and which is beautifully clarified in the translation found in the message) is this: "So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us." That is the point I missed 20 years ago. My perspective then was to forget the past so that I could focus on my goals for my future. Laudable, yes.
But Saint Paul stresses that our future success is exponentially greater when we focus, without wavering, on God's plan for our future. God's plan is always greater than anything we can imagine for ourselves. Our vision of what we are capable of is limited by what we have seen ourselves accomplish in the past. We lack God's creative and infinite perspective. Our horizons are broader when we give our work to God. This is accomplished by daily seeking God's will through prayer and reading our Bible.
When I was a competitive swimmer, I had to practice daily, then race in a swim meet, and after evaluating my performance, my coach and I made changes to my training. Any business owner will tell you that they are focused daily on not only perfecting their goods or services, but calibrating the market's reaction, and adjusting their business plan.
This is the same commitment God requires when we seek his best purpose for our lives. We ask God to reveal his plan and then we go to work to make it happen. With each accomplishment or setback along the way, we continue to seek him, so that we are in a daily dialogue with God. As Saint Paul says, "If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it." (Phillipians 3:16)
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of "A Map of Heaven." She lives in Breckenridge. Join her at http://www.Facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths.
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