DO NOT REGARD MYSELF AS HAVING LAID HOLD OF IT YET: adelphoi, ego emauton ou logizomai (1SPMI) kateilephenai
Php 1:18, 19, 20, 21-note;
Php 4:11, 12, 13-notes) (Click John
for the Prize)
from a = denoting unity + delphus =
womb) means literally those derived from the same womb, in this case
all the children of God, those who have been born from above. This
seems to be added at this juncture to arrest the reader's attention
and draw them into the "moment".
Expositor's Greek NT -
This direct appeal to them shows that he is approaching a matter which
is of serious concern both to him and to them. (Ego emauton -
"I...myself") Why such strong personal emphasis? Is it not a clear
hint that there were people at Philippi who prided themselves on
having grasped the prized of the Christian calling already?...he must
assume the lowly position of one who is still a learner. (Ed: A good
principle for all saints at all stages of spiritual maturity!). (Philippians
3 Commentary - Online)
= reason, word, account) means to reckon, compute, calculate, to take
into account, to deliberate, and to weigh. Logizomai refers to
a process of careful study or reasoning which results in the arriving
at a conclusion.
conveys the idea of calculating or estimating.
Paul uses it often to look back on the process of a discussion and
calmly draw a conclusion. This is Paul's deliberately formed opinion.
was a term frequently used in the business community of Paul's day and
meant to impute (put to one's account) or credit to one's account.
is related to our English term logic (which deals with the
methods of valid thinking, reveals how to draw proper conclusions from
premises and is a prerequisite of all thought).
Logizomai has the force of looking back upon the process of a
discussion and calmly drawing a conclusion. Paul had after much
deliberation and consideration arrived at the conclusions which he
stated in verse twelve. Paul's conclusion does not represent a spur of
the moment decision but the result of serious thought, especially
"calculation" of eternal values, which parenthetically will always
serve to keep the Christian "runner's" perspective rightly oriented.
Laid hold of
from katá = intensifies the meaning or
preposition prefixed in its local force meaning “down.” +
lambáno = take) means to take eagerly; to seize, to possess or to
attain. It can picture seizing one with a hostile intent. Here Paul
uses it figuratively to describe taking a firm grasp to the point that
it is it has been made one's possession.
Paul's declaration seems to imply
that some of the Philippian saints felt that they "had arrived".
They may have held to the erroneous teaching of sinless perfection.
Paul is saying that he isn’t perfect yet and he knows it, an admission
which should put an end to all speculation that believers can ever
attain sinless perfection in this life. Paul doesn't hesitate to admit
"I’m not there yet.” So, beloved, if you think you've arrived
spiritually you haven't!
Paul's use of
speaks of a past completed process with present results,
and was his strong way of stating the fact that should settle the
question. He himself had not completely grasped that for which
the Lord Jesus had grasped him.
Muller - Just as a little child is a perfect
human being, but still is far from perfect in all his development as
man, so the true child of God is also perfect in all parts (Ed:
positionally "made complete in Him", in Christ - Col 2:10-note),
although not yet perfect in all the stages of his development in
en (heis = one)
I do - Added by translators. Literally without a verb the phrase
is even more emphatic! - But one thing! Compare Jesus' words to
Martha in Luke 10:42, context - Lk 10:38, 39, 40, 41 - the picture of
Mary "listening" is vivid for Luke uses the
imperfect tense. The
picture is "over and over" she was listening. Jesus would say a word
and like a "baby bird" she would "gobble" it up and be ready for His
next word. Also the phrase "seated at His feet" presents a precious
picture - the verb is parakathizo from para = beside + kathizo = sit
down, settle, meaning to sit beside [para] and the entire phrase [pros
tous podas ton Kurion] pictures Mary right in front of the feet of
Jesus. A good place for all of to abide [compare Paul's "one thing"].
Vine writes that "the words “but one thing” are
almost exclamatory, and what follows is a summing up of the one great
object in thought and act.
(de) is a
term of contrast.
What is Paul contrasting?
Paul had not arrived, but that did not deter him, for here we see his
contrasting attitude. Note first that "I do"
is not in the original Greek text but has been added by the translators. The literal Greek
reads “but one thing,”
which dramatically sums up Paul's Christian conduct and purpose (cf
Lk 9:62, Ps 27:4).
Paul was a man of single purpose.
Paul had one aim and
This single minded focus of Paul is
like the Olympic runner who has but one goal in mind after the gun
goes off. To excel in any area of life, a person must say, “This one
thing...,” not “These 20 things.” Single-minded focus will win a great
reward ( 1Cor 9:26-note)
A fierce fighting for focus and concentration is implicit
in Paul's declaration "One thing".
So many believers tend to feel they
can try to walk the way of discipline while making daily excursions
into "Egypt" to pick up a few "leeks" (cp Nu 11:5, remembering Jer
17:9 and 1Co 10:6, 11!). But the narrow way leading to fullness of life heads in
one direction; i.e., the path Jesus trod. It is the course that we
must take - one thing.
Before the tragedy of the Chicago
fire in 1871, D. L. Moody was involved in Sunday School promotion,
YMCA work, evangelistic meetings, and many other activities; but after
the fire, he determined to devote himself exclusively to evangelism.
"One thing I do" became a reality to him. As a result, millions of
people subsequently heard the Gospel (A reasonable illustration of the
truth of Ro 8:28-note).
Illustration - A child stood
gazing at a freshly opened box of chocolate candies—lips pressed
together, concentrating fully upon the decision at hand. The role was
“Only one, no more than one, but any one you want.” Should it be the
biggest one, or would the small round one be the favorite peppermint
cream? Then again, the long one might last longer. Which to choose?
And how to decide? Perhaps a child’s decisions seen trivial to us as
adults. Oh, we recognize that they are important to the child, but we
have a broader perspective. That is the question in making choices,
isn’t it? To have an eternal perspective on life and its decisions is
to know how to choose. (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching. 1982,
1985, 1989 by Michael P. Green Grand Rapids: Baker Book House)
Alexander Maclaren writing
of the one thing I do says "What a noble thing any life becomes
that has driven through it the strength of a uniting single purpose,
like a strong shaft of iron bolting together the two tottering walls,
of some old building!" (
Spurgeon gives an
illustration of a man intent on "this one thing"...
That was a grand action of old
Jerome when he laid all his pressing engagements aside to achieve a
purpose to which he felt a call from heaven. He had a large
congregation — as large a one as any of us need want; but he said to
his people, “Now, it is of necessity that the New Testament should be
translated; you must find another preacher. The translation must be
made; I am bound for the wilderness, and shall not return till my task
is finished.” Away he went with his manuscripts, and prayed and
labored, and produced a work — the Latin Vulgate — which will last as
long as the world stands; on the whole, a most wonderful translation
of Holy Scripture.
John Eadie writes regarding "this
one thing" that "The picture is that of a racer in
his agony of struggle and hope. You see him! — every muscle strained
and every vein starting — the quick and short heaving of his chest —
the big drops gathered on his brow — his body bending forward, as if
with frantic gesture he already clutched the goal — his eye, now
glancing aside with a momentary sparkle at objects so rapidly
disappearing behind him, and then fixing itself on the garland in
eager anticipation. The apostle is not leaving, he is forgetting the
things behind; he is not merely looking, he is reaching forth unto the
things before; not only does he run, he presses toward the mark; nor
was he occupied, weakened, or delayed by a variety of pursuits — “This
one thing I do.” (Philippians 3 Commentary
Ray Pritchard gives the
following illustration of a man with this one thing mindset
writing "One hundred years ago a young man
from a wealthy family entered Yale University. His family intended
that after completing his degree he would enter a suitable career in
America. But God gripped his heart with the needs of China and he
volunteered to go to that country with the gospel, much to the dismay
of his family and friends. He left America but never made it to China,
succumbing to a disease before reaching that distant shore. After his
death, a note was found in his effects that summarized his life:
Pastor Pritchard then adds "I
wonder how many of us could say the same thing?'" (Go
for the Gold)
Dr. Torrey M. Johnson, one of the founders of Youth for Christ
Son, find that one thing you do that God blesses,
stick with it!
This single minded focus is
necessary if one is to be a great athlete. Totally focused people
succeed in life. Click for more in depth discussion
metaphor of the
David prayed to Jehovah
my heart to
fear Thy Name (Ps 86:11)
AN UNDIVIDED HEART)
commenting on David's prayer for God to unite his heart writes...
"Having taught me one way, give me
one heart to walk therein, for too often I feel a heart and a heart,
two natures contending, two principles struggling for sovereignty. Our
minds are apt to be divided between a variety of objects, like
trickling streamlets which waste their force in a hundred runnels
(rivulets or small streams); our great desire should be to have all
our life floods poured into one channel and to have that channel
directed towards the Lord Alone. A man of divided heart is weak, the
man of one object is the man. God who created the bands of our nature
can draw them together, tighten, strengthen, and fasten them, and so
braced and inwardly knit by his uniting grace, we shall be powerful
for good, but not otherwise. To fear God is both the beginning, the
growth, and the maturity of wisdom, therefore should we be undividedly
given up to it, heart, and soul."
James warned against double-mindedness
the one who doubts is like the surf
of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect
that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded
man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-note;
Jas 1:7, 8-note).
Paul's one focus was pursuing
the prize in the next
verse. John Macarthur's grandfather used to tell him
Just do one thing right in your
life and you'll be way ahead of most people.
When your life has one driving
compulsion and that is to be like Christ, you're moving in the right
David Guzik writes
Paul was focused on one thing, and
would not let those things which are behind distract him from it. The
one thing was the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We often let those things which are behind distract us, whether they
be "good" things or "bad" things, we may let them keep us from what
God has in front of us. Satan wants us to live either in the past or
in the future; God wants us to press on in the present, because the
present is where eternity touches us now. Paul knows that a race is
won only in the present, not in the past or in the future. (Notes)
Spurgeon observes that "This
one thing I do," speaks...
as if he had given up all else, and
addicted himself to one sole object - to aim to be like Jesus Christ.
There were many other things Paul might have attempted, but he says,
"this one thing I do." Probably Paul was a poor speaker: why did not
he try to make himself a rhetorician? No; he came not with excellency
of speech. But you tell me Paul was busy with his tentmaking I know he
was; what with tent-making, preaching, and visiting, and watching
night and day, he had more than enough to do, but all these were a
part of his pursuit of the one thing, he was laboring perfectly
to serve his Master, and to render himself up as a whole
burnt-offering unto God.
Cultivate a passion for
an intense longing after holiness
I invite every soul that has been
saved by the precious blood of Christ, to gather up all its strength
for this one thing, to cultivate a passion for grace, and an
intense longing after holiness. Ah, if we could but serve God as God
should be served, and be such manner of people as we ought to be in
all holy conversation and godliness, we should see a new era in the
church. The greatest want of the church at this day is holiness.
Why did Paul pursue holiness with such concentrated purpose?
Because he felt God had called him to it. He aimed at the prize of his
high calling. God had elected Paul to be a champion against sin.
Selected to be Jehovah's champion, he felt that he must play the man.
Moreover, it was "God in Christ Jesus" who the choice, and as the
apostle looked up and saw the mild face of the Redeemer, and marked
the thorn-crown of the King of Sorrows, he felt he must overcome sin,
he could not let a single evil live within him; and, though he had not
yet apprehended, yet he felt he must press forward till he had
apprehended that to which God in Christ had called him.
Moreover, the apostle saw his crown, the crown of life that fadeth not
away, hanging bright before his eyes. What, said he, shall tempt me
from that path of which yon crown is the end? Let the golden apples be
thrown in my way; I cannot even look at them, nor stay to spurn them
with my feet. Let the sirens sing on either side, and seek to charm me
with their evil beauty, to leave the holy road; but I must not, and I
will not. Heaven! Heaven! Heaven! is not this enough to make a man
dash forward in the road thither? The end is glorious, what if the
running be laborious? When there is such a prize to be had, who will
grudge a struggle? Paul pressed forward towards the mark for the prize
of his high calling in Christ Jesus. He felt he was a saved man, and
he meant through the same grace to be a holy man. He longed to grasp
the crown, and hear the "Well done, good and faithful servant," which
his Master would award him at the end of his course.
Brethren and sisters, I wish I
could stir myself and stir you to a passionate longing after a
gracious, consistent, godly life, yea, for an eminently, solidly,
thoroughly devoted and consecrated life. You will grieve the Spirit if
you walk inconsistently; you will dishonor the Lord that bought you;
you will weaken the church; you will bring shame upon yourself. Even
though you be "saved so as by fire," it will be an evil and a bitter
thing to have in any measure departed from God.
But to be always going onward,
to be never self-satisfied, to be always laboring to be better
Christians, to be aiming at the rarest sanctity, this shall be your
honored the church's comfort, and the glory of God. May the Lord help
you to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Amen. (Philippians 3:13,14 Onward!)
SINGLE-MINDEDNESS - Vladimir Lenin was the
fanatical architect of the former USSR. A colleague once said of
"Lenin thinks about nothing
but revolution. He talks about nothing but revolution. He eats
and drinks revolution. And if he dreams at night, he must dream
No matter how much we deplore
Lenin's fanaticism and all the evil that came from it, we must
recognize that his single-minded passion not only helped him
accomplish his goals but affected the entire course of history.
What is our ruling passion? Is there some cause, some sport,
some hobby, some project that fills us with enthusiasm, focuses
our energies, and commands the untiring investment of our time
and thought and money? In light of what God says has eternal
significance, what value does our passion really possess? The
apostle Paul expressed a worthy goal when he wrote,
"None of these things move me; nor do I count my life
dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the
ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the
gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24, cp Acts 20:32).
To know Jesus
Christ, to trust Him, to love Him, and to serve Him--that is a
passion with eternal value. --V C Grounds (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Living for Jesus who
died in my place,
Bearing on Calv'ry my sin and disgrace;
Such love constrains me to answer His call,
Follow His leading, and give Him my all. --Chisholm
Without a heart aflame for God,
we cannot shine for Jesus.
WHAT LIES BEHIND: ta men opiso epilanthanomenos (PMPMSN): (Ps
45:10; Lk 9:62; 2 Cor 5:16; Heb 6:1 - note)
Focused concentration is clearly implied by the phrase "one thing",
in context the
result of first a negative action (forgetting) and then a positive one
(epilanthanomai from epí = in
or upon - intensifies meaning of following verb + lantháno = lie
hidden or concealed) conveys 2 basic nuances in the NT, to
forget (not recall information concerning something) or to
neglect (give little attention to, to omit by carelessness or
The epi- preposition
intensifies the meaning as noted and thus the idea is not just
forgetting but "completely
indicates that this is to be the Spirit filled believer's continual
exercise - forget and forget completely!
Paul makes a conscious (Spirit
empowered) choice to not recall information concerning things in his
past that would only encumber his running with endurance.
Paul uses an illustration of a
Greek runner completely forgetting his opponents he is leading in
a race (see
Related Resource -
Athletic Metaphor). Paul knew
runner began to think of the men behind him, the
pounding of their pace, his speed might slacken. So Paul presses home the
lesson that when a child of God remembers his past failures, the
things he should have done and failed to do, the things he did which
he should not have done -- all of these have the potential to impede
or hinder our forward progress in the Christian life. When a Christian has confessed
and sought the gift of
repentance and made things "right" with God and his fellow-man,
the next step is to completely forget them.
As Wuest explains if we
focus backward as those who are marching onward to Zion our "onward progress is hindered should
he dwell on the past full of failures and sins, full of heartaches and
discouragements, full of disappointments and thwarted hopes and plans.
As long as a Christian has made things right with God and man, he
should completely forget the past.
Commentary Online- Recommended)
Epilanthanomai is used 8
times in the NT and about 98 in the
Septuagint (LXX) (Sept
- note especially the uses in the Psalms which makes an interesting
and sad study to see who and what was forgotten. Gen. 27:45; 40:23; 41:30,
51; Deut. 4:9, 23, 31; 6:12; 8:11, 14, 19; 9:7; 24:19; 25:19; 26:13;
31:21; 32:18; Jdg. 3:7; 1 Sam. 12:9; 2Ki. 17:38; Job 8:13; 9:27;
11:16; 19:14; 28:4; 39:15;
Ps. 9:12, 17, 18; 10:11, 12; 13:1; 31:12;
42:9; 44:17, 20, 24; 45:10; 50:22; 59:11; 74:19, 23; 77:9; 78:7, 11;
88:12; 102:4; 103:2; 106:13, 21; 119:16, 30, 61, 83, 93, 109, 139,
141, 153, 176; 137:5;
Pr. 2:17; 3:1; 4:5; 31:5, 7; Eccl. 2:16;
9:5; Isa. 23:16; 44:21; 49:14f; 51:13; 54:4; 65:11, 16; Jer. 2:32;
3:21; 13:25; 14:9; 18:15; 20:11; 23:27, 40; 30:14; 44:9; 50:5f; Lam.
2:6; 3:17; 5:20; Ezek. 22:12; 23:35; Hos. 2:13; 4:6; 8:14; 13:6; Amos
Here are the 8 NT uses of epilanthanomai...
Matthew 16:5 And the
disciples came to the other side and had forgotten to take bread.
Mark 8:14 And they had forgotten to take bread; and did not have
more than one loaf in the boat with them.
Luke 12:6 "Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not
one of them is forgotten before God.
Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid
hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and
reaching forward to what lies ahead,
Hebrews 6:10 (note) For God is not unjust so as to
forget your work and
the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered
and in still ministering to the saints.
Hebrews 13:2 (note) Do not
neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for
by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:16 (note)
And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such
sacrifices God is pleased.
James 1:24 (note) for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has
immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
We may need to renew our minds and
refresh our thinking on the nature of God's "memory" regarding our
past confessed sins, failures, rebellious acts, etc. Take a moment and
meditate prayerfully and thankfully on the truth in the following
glorious Scriptures (and then beloved...press on):
"Who is a God like Thee, Who
pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant
(refers to Jews who believe in Messiah -
click for more on "the
) of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in
unchanging love (His motive for His unchanging forgiveness). He will
again have compassion on us (the literal interpretation refers to
the Jews who place their faith in Messiah, but the principle is
applicable to all believers who confess and repent as are the other OT
passages quoted below). He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea." (Micah
7:18-19 ) (And all God's people shouted "Hallelujah!"
As far as the east is from the
west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
(King Hezekiah speaking in the days
when he had become mortally ill and sought Jehovah) "Lo, for my own
welfare I had great bitterness. It is Thou Who hast kept my soul from
the pit of nothingness, for Thou hast cast all (how many?) my sins
behind Thy back. (Isaiah 38:17)
"I, even I, am the one who wipes
out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your
sins." (Isaiah 43:25)
"If we walk in the light (which
will expose darkness or unconfessed sins) as He Himself is in the
light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His
Son cleanses us from all sin." (1John 1:7) (See also the booklet
The Forgiveness of God)
is in the
indicating that he was continually forgetting. This was his pattern.
Not perfection but direction is the idea!
Forgetting is also in the
middle voice which means that the "runner" initiates & participates in
benefits thereof. Paul is saying in essence that to keep one's focus
"Don't look back." How many times we've watched in dismay as a lead
runner looks back over their shoulder only to get passed on the other
side or to slow them just enough to allow the opponent to pass them
by. Don't look back dear saint. Make a break with the past. Nothing is happening back
there is relevant. Yes it's fine and biblical to make memorial stones
of remembrance but avoid making the stumbling stones of past memories.
To grow toward Christlikeness, face up to your failures, then focus on
Christ for the future.
Expositor's Bible Commentary
Forgetting did not mean
obliterating the memory of the past (Paul has just recalled some of
these things in Php 3:5, 6, 7), but a conscious refusal to let them absorb
his attention and impede his progress. He never allowed his Jewish
heritage (Php 3:5, 6, 7) nor his previous Christian attainments (Php
3:9, 10, 11, 12)
to obstruct his running of the race. No present attainment could lull
him into thinking he already possessed all Christ desired for him. (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
Albert Barnes has a lengthy
comment writing that...
There is an allusion here
undoubtedly to the Grecian races. One running to secure the prize
would not stop to look behind him to see how much ground he had run
over, or who of his competitors had fallen or lingered in the way. He
would keep his eye steadily on the prize, and strain every nerve that
he might obtain it. If his attention was diverted for a moment from
that, it would hinder his flight, and might be the means of his losing
the crown. So the apostle says it was with him. He looked onward to
the prize. He fixed the eye intently on that. It was the single object
in his view, and he did not allow his mind to be diverted from that by
anything--not even by the contemplation of the past. He did not stop
to think of the difficulties which he had overcome, or the troubles
which he had met, but he thought of what was yet to be accomplished.
This does not mean that he would not have regarded a proper
contemplation of the past life as useful and profitable for a
Christian, (Ep 2:11-note)
but that he would not allow any reference to the past to interfere
with the one great effort to win the prize.
It may be, and is, profitable for a
Christian to look over the past mercies of God to his soul, in order
to awaken emotions of gratitude in the heart, and to think of his
shortcomings and errors, to produce penitence and humility. But none
of these things should be allowed, for one moment, to divert the mind
from the purpose to win the incorruptible crown. And it may be
remarked in general, that a Christian will make more rapid advances in
piety by looking forward than by looking backward.
Forward, we see everything
to cheer and animate us--the crown of victory, the joys of heaven, the
society of the blessed-- the Saviour beckoning to us, and encouraging
Backward, we see everything
to dishearten and to humble. Our own unfaithfulness; our coldness,
deadness, and dullness; the little zeal and ardour which we have, all
are fitted to humble and discourage.
He is the most cheerful Christian
who looks onward, and who keeps heaven always in view. He who is
accustomed much to dwell on fine past, though he may be a true
Christian, will be likely to be melancholy and dispirited, to be a
recluse rather than a warm-hearted and active friend of the Saviour.
Or if he looks backward to contemplate what he has done--the space
that he has run over --the difficulties which he has surmounted--and
his own rapidity in the race, he will be likely to become
self-complacent and self-satisfied. He will trust in his past
endeavours, and feel that the prize is now secure, and will relax his
future efforts. Let us, then, look onward. Let us not spend our time
either in pondering the gloomy past, and our own unfaithfulness, or in
thinking of what we have done, and thus becoming puffed up with
self-complacency; but let us keep the eye steadily on the prize, and
run the race as though we had just commenced it. (Albert Barnes.
Barnes NT Commentary)
Illustration - Those
inventive people, the Italians, have a custom. As midnight on New
Year’s Eve approaches, the streets are dear. There is no traffic;
there are no pedestrians; even the policemen take cover. Then, at the
stroke of 12, the windows of the houses fly open. To the sound of
laughter, music and fireworks, each member of the family pitches out
old crockery, detested ornaments, hated furniture and a whole
catalogue of personal possessions which remind them of something in
the past year they are determined to wipe out of their minds”
(Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations).
Illustration - The Oriental
shepherd was always ahead of his sheep. He was in front. Any attempt
upon them had to take him into account. Now God is down in front. He
is in the tomorrows. It is tomorrow that fills men with dread. But God
is there already, and all tomorrows of our life have to pass Him
before they can get to us (F B. Meyer, from 1000 New Illustrations by
Al Bryant, Zondervan).
F W Robertson has an
interesting thought on "forgetting" writing that...
It is not by regretting what is
irreparable that true work is to be done, but by making the best of
what we are. It is not by complaining that we have not the right
tools, but by using well the tools we have. What we are, and where we
are is God's providential arrange-ment—God's doing, though it may be
man's misdoing. Life is a series of mistakes, and he is not the best
Christian who makes the fewest false steps. He is the best who wins
the most splendid victories by the retrieval of mistakes.
Stephen Olford writes
When Sir Winston Churchill visited
the United States during World War II he was heard to say that “if the
present quarrels with the past there can be no future.” The point he
was making was that we have to accept the past as unalterable and move
on from there. To stay and quarrel with it, or be preoccupied with it,
is to ruin the future...
In one of his earlier diaries,
David Livingstone penned these words: “I have found that I have no
unusual endowments of intellect, but I this day resolved that I would
be an uncommon Christian” (adapted from Encyclopedia of 7700
One of the subtle devices the Enemy
uses to slow us up in our Christian life, is to keep us preoccupied
with past failures or successes. If we are going to live lives of
holiness and victory, we must forget all that is past; we must leave
it behind. Paul had a stunning and, at the same time, deplorable past,
but he realized that if he were preoccupied with his past, he would
not be able to give his full energy to his present calling. (Olford,
S. F. Vol. 2: Institutes of Biblical preaching)
Dwight Pentecost comments on forgetting writing that...
Paul has left behind him across the
Roman world a string of established churches shining as lights in the
darkness. The Roman world has the light of the Gospel through these
believers, who stretch from Jerusalem all the way westward to Spain.
Paul could become complacent, feeling his work is done because of the
churches that have been established. Paul could look at that which he
has suffered and conclude that he has suffered enough. The saints
would agree with him. Over and over again companies of saints waited
upon the Apostle Paul as he journeyed toward Jerusalem and urged him
not to go to Jerusalem because they knew it would involve physical
suffering. But Paul pressed on. Paul could look back on everything he
has experienced and say, “It is enough. I will withdraw from the
race.” But Paul says, “I must forget the things that are behind.”
Sometimes the blessing of God could lull us into complacency and
indifference. We feel that we have earned our right to take our ease
and to turn over to others the running of the race. We view ourselves
as competitors in a mile relay, in which we are called upon to run a
part of the distance and then turn the baton over to someone else and
let him continue. Paul’s concept is that he is in the race until the
Lord Jesus Christ brings him to Himself. Then and only then will the
goal be reached. We must beware lest accomplishments and blessings
cause us to withdraw from the race.
It is also true that, if we are to
reach the goal, we must forget failures that may be in the
past. Failures can discourage. We start out to run and then trip and
fall, and so we give up. We conclude we are not cut out for the race
and are content to let someone else run. Failures can bring
preoccupation with self just as much as blessings or attainments can.
Preoccupation with self can bring discouragement that would cause us
to retire before the race is finished. The apostle says, “I must
forget those things that are behind.” (Pentecost, J. D. . The joy of
living : A study of Philippians. Page 149. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel
C H Spurgeon (in the
Biblical Illustrator) explains that by saying forgetting
1. Does not mean —
(a) That He forgot the mercy of God
he had enjoyed.
(b) That he forgot the sins he had
2. We must follow out his figure.
If a racer were to pass most of his fellows, and then look round and
rejoice over the distance covered he must lose the race. His only hope
is to forget all behind.
(a) So must it be with past sins
overcome. Perhaps at this moment you can honestly say, “I have
overcome a fierce temper,” “I have bestirred a naturally indolent
spirit.” Stop long enough to say, “Thank God for that”; but do not
pause to congratulate yourselves, or it may be soon undone. The
easiest way to give resurrection to old corruptions is to erect a
trophy over their graves. Yonder friend is very humble, but if he
were to boast of it there would be an end of it.
(b) So with all the work we have
done. Some people have good memories as to their performances. They
used to serve God wonderfully when they were young. In middle life
they wrought marvels, but now they rest on their oars. As long as you
are in the world forget what you have done, and go forward —
individuals, churches, denominations. (Bolding added)
In his painting "An Allegory of
Prudence," the 16th-century Venetian artist Titian portrayed Prudence
as a man with three heads. One head was of a youth facing the future,
another of a mature man eyeing the present, and the third, a wise old
man gazing at the past. Over their heads Titian wrote a Latin phrase
that means, "From the example of the past, the man of the present acts
prudently so as not to imperil the future." We need that kind of
wisdom to overcome the anxiety created by our past failures and the
fear of repeating them in the future--an anxiety that can keep us from
enjoying life to the fullest right now. Never let a bleak past cloud
our bright future which is grounded in Christ Jesus. (adapted from
Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC
Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights
The well-known preacher Henry
Ward Beecher (1813-1887) speaking of the beginning of a new year
"We have passed through one more
year. One more long stage in the journey of life, with its ascents and
descents and dust and mud and rocks and thorns and burdens that wear
the shoulders, is done. The old year is dead. Roll it away. Let it go.
God, in His providence, has brought us out of it. It is gone; . . .
its evil is gone; its good remains. The evil has perished, and the
Alexander Maclaren has an
interesting view of what to "forget" writing that...
You find some certain type of
Christian character, or exercise of Christian grace, that is easy and
natural to you, and you come to know how to do it. It becomes your
special habit, which is all right, but it also tends to become your
limit, which is wrong. Habits are like fences, very good to guard the
soul from sudden incursions of trespassers, but very bad when the
trunk has grown up and presses against their stubborn rings. And many
of us simply keep on doing the narrow round of things that we fancy we
can do well, or have always been in the way of doing, like barrel
organs, grinding our poor little set of tunes, without any notion of
the great sea of music that stretches all round about us, and which is
not pegged out upon our cylinders at all.
This is what Paul is saying
believers are to do. Those who know the Lord Jesus as their Savior can
let go of the past and move ahead with assurance because Jesus
provides forgiveness and hope. Having confessed our sins, we can
confidently press on into the future. Remembering God's
faithfulness and forgetting past mistakes can make pressing on a time
of joyous anticipation.
Look not back on yesterday
So full of failure and regret;
Look ahead and seek God's way–
All sin confessed you must forget. –DJD
Never let a dark past
cloud a bright future.
(opiso from opis = a looking back) means backwards and
can apply to place and time.
are “the things which are behind”? What is Paul
referring to? In short, everything that is passing away, everything
that when "struck" lacks to ring of eternity, the "good" things,
the great human achievements (eg those
"religious" achievements Paul described earlier in this chapter),
the virtuous deeds, etc. In short all those things the world seeks
after and so futilely cling to as if these things give their lives
temporal and eternal meaning, purpose and significance.
What is it that is in your grip
and God has been gently "prying" your fingers so that you might
What else? Forget the bad
things too - the sins, the failures, the disasters. Why? Because
it has nothing to do with our glorious future. Now Paul is not saying
that if we have unresolved conflicts, broken relationships, unconfessed
sins, etc, that we should not deal with them! That is not his point.
In fact take a moment and pray Psalm 139:23,24 (noting carefully there
are six commands!) and then do business with God...
(a command - yes, God is inviting us and privileging us to "command"
Him!) me, O God, and know
(also a command) my heart (the secret place of my life).
(a command) me and know
(also a command) my anxious (word
study) thoughts; and
(a command) if there be any hurtful (wicked) way in me, and
(a command) me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24) (See
Spurgeon's note v23;
Paul's point is that on one hand the
saint cannot live on past victories. On the other hand, he or she should never
be debilitated by past (confessed) sins. And yet so many believers are so distracted by the
past that they are weighed down and encumbered to the point that they
can barely run for the future (see note on lay aside every
Hebrews 12:1). Paul is saying
that the saint who would run to win must completely forget those
things which encumber. Picture for a moment , a runner moving forward
and at the same time looking backward! It is not an effective way to
run for the goal ("gold") beloved! Let us all run that when
we break the tape we hear the Judge say "Well, done." Why "well done"?
Because we have been faithful (in the "big and small" things).
The runner who takes his eyes off
the goal is in danger of losing direction and motivation. He or she
must not be distracted by the crowds cheers or their jeers and must
not let other runners distract them from the course and the focus...one thing. And so...When the devil brings
up your past,
remind yourself of your future!
W P Insley (The Biblical
Illustrator) sums up Christian progress:
I. THE THINGS BEHIND WHICH ARE TO
1. Past sinful pleasures.
2. Past evil acquaintances.
3. Past good works.
II. THE THINGS BEFORE.
1. Increased holiness.
2. The prize of eternal glory.
The Illinois Medical Journal
Article - Why We Must Learn to Forget the Past: There are two days
in every week about which we should not worry—two days which should be
kept from fear and apprehension.
One of these days is Yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its aches
and pains, its faults and blunders. Yesterday has passed forever
beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back
Yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a
single word we said. Yesterday is gone.
The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow with its possible
adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance.
Tomorrow is beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise
either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds—but it will rise. Until
it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is as yet unborn.
That leaves only one day—Today. Any man, by the grace of God, can
fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the
burdens of those two awful eternities—Yesterday and Tomorrow—that we
It is not the experience of Today that drives men mad—it is remorse or
bitterness for something which happened Yesterday and the dread of
what Tomorrow may bring. Let us, therefore, journey but one day at a
Lawrence, Life’s Choices, Multnomah Press, Portland, 1982, pp. 111-112)
Grantland Rice gives an
interesting illustration of forgetting (in The Tumult and the
Shouting) writing that...
Because golf expresses the flaws of
the human swing—a basically simple maneuver—it causes more
self-torture than any game short of Russian roulette. The quicker the
average golfer can forget the shot he has dubbed or knocked off
line—and concentrate on the next shot—the sooner he begins to improve
and enjoy golf. Little good comes from brooding about the mistakes
we've made. The next shot, in golf or in life, is the big one.
Paul is giving essentially the same
advice in this verse, emphasizing that the key to forward movement in
the Christian race is to set our eyes on the goal and keep looking
ahead, because when we look back to our past sin, we open the door to
discouragement. What do you do when the past begins to "slow you
down"? When past sin gets you down, when you find yourself brooding
about it, or when you become discouraged because of a specific
failure, if you've not yet done so, then confess it to God (He already
knows and is waiting to hear you humble yourself and accept
responsibility), claim His complete, "no strings attached"
forgiveness, and put it behind. In our race toward the goal of every
increasing Christlikeness, as in golf, the next shot is the big one.
And as a corollary, it's always too soon to quit.
Hampton Keathley has this
advice on forgetting...
We Cannot Do Anything About Last
Year’s Harvest. Whatever we did last year, last month, last week, even
yesterday is over and past. There are no time machines to take us back
so we can change what we did yesterday. Nothing we do today can in any
way change the record of what was sown and what was or will be reaped
as a consequence. It is either a harvest that will be worthy of praise
or burning—or perhaps portions of both—but whatever was produced
stands as the record of the lives we live on this earth. The problem
with all too many Christians is that they are not forgetting the past
and reaching on to what is before (Php 3:13, 14).
If we failed to produce a crop worthy of the Lord’s praise last year
our brooding and wallowing in self-pity for having wasted this time
will only cause us to fail to produce anything glorifying to the Lord
this year. If we did use the opportunities the Lord gave us and
produced a harvest of good things, we cannot rest on our laurels. This
is another year; and just because the Holy Spirit led and blessed last
year, as we were obedient to Him and the Word, does not mean that we
automatically will produce anything good this year.
We Must Learn to Live With the Consequences of Our Failures. When
people believe they are failures or that their failures (evil sowing)
forever ruin their chances for success and marks them for life, it
neutralizes them and wipes out their ability to use their life and the
gifts God has given them.
But how do we avoid this? By the following:
By confessing our failures to God
(1Jn 1:9; Ps 32:5-note).
This wipes the slate clean.
By knowing and resting in the fact
we are forgiven through Christ and can move ahead for the Lord and in
life regardless of the past (Ps 32:1-8-note;
By learning from our failures: use them as back doors to success (Ps
119:59, 67, 71-note).
The principle is we need to learn from our failures (He 5:8-note).
By forgetting the past (triumphs and failures) so we can press on for
the future with renewed commitment to God’s will (Php 3:13,14; Lk
By seeing and using the trials caused by our failures as character
builders. “The tests of life are to make, not break us. Trouble may
demolish a man’s business but build up his character. The blow at the
outward man may be the greatest blessing to the inner man.”10 Again
consider Ps. 119:67-note,
with Jas 1:2-note,
Jas 1:3, 4-note;
1Pe 1:6, 7-note.
As Lawrence mentioned (see
John Lawrence, Life’s Choices, Multnomah Press,
Portland, 1982, pp. 22-23), brooding and wallowing in
self-pity for having wasted some part of one’s life will only cause us
to fail to produce anything glorifying to the Lord in the year ahead.
Therefore: We Must Commit Ourselves
to This Year’s Harvest. We must press on in our lives by sowing for
the future and for the Lord. Whether we did or did not produce
effectively in last year’s harvest, we must neither sit around in
self-pity or guilt, or sit on our laurels. We must press on toward the
upward call of God in Christ. The following passages illustrate what
we need to do by way of pressing on whether we have experienced
victory and growth, or failure, or a lack of growth. (The
Seven Laws of the Harvest- Recommended
Steven Cole says that in
regard to our attitude toward past events, sins, failures, etc,
we should just "Leave them where they are "In the past." Pastor Cole
the picture is of a runner who does
not make the mistake of looking over his shoulder. His eyes are fixed
on the goal. If he made mistakes earlier in the race, he doesn’t kick
himself by replaying them in his mind. If he did well, he doesn’t
gloat about it. He leaves the past behind and keeps moving on toward
the finish line.
Many Christians today are being
told that to experience healing from their difficult pasts, they need
to delve into their pasts and relive the hurtful things that happened
to them. This approach has come into the church from the world, not
from the Word. It would be wrong to say that verse 13 is all that the
Bible says about the past. Even earlier in the chapter, Paul has
mentioned his own past life in Judaism.
It can be helpful to reflect on
what happened to us in the past in order to understand where we’re at
in the present and where we need to grow. There is a biblical case for
self examination, which means evaluating things that have happened in
the past, both good and bad, as a means of growing now. But our text
shows that there needs to be a balance. Paul means here that we should
not be controlled by the past. Someone has used the analogy of a car’s
rear view mirror. You don’t drive by looking in the mirror. You drive
by looking ahead out of the windshield. But it’s helpful to take
occasional glances in your mirror and use the information to make
decisions about how to drive safely in the present and future. But if
you spend too much time looking in your mirror, you’ll probably crash
because you’re not paying attention to the present. In the same way,
we need to take periodic glances backward, but we also need to put the
past (good and bad) behind us, accept God’s grace and enabling for the
present, and move on with what He is calling us to do now. (Philippians
3:12-16 Christian Growth Process)
Theodore Epp writes the
following advice on Dealing With Your Past...
We can do nothing about the past
except make necessary confession. And when confession is made, the
Bible promises: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1
By confession, sin is placed under the cleansing blood of the Lord
Jesus Christ, and when it is under the blood, it does not condemn any
Unless the past is dealt with, one is not prepared to live in the
present nor to go on into the future. Unless the past is dealt with,
it becomes a haunting memory that saps the strength of the believer so
he is unable to honor Christ in his daily life.
What God does with sin when it is
confessed is explained in various passages. Isaiah 44:22 says,
I have wiped out your
transgressions like a thick cloud, and your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you (NASB).
Hebrews 8:12 (note)
FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR
INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE" (NASB)
Someone has said,
The present must forget the past by
correction, or else the past will become a moral and spiritual
liability for the future.
Consider some items that need to be
forgotten: failures--they keep our faith from advancing;
successes--they create pride (see Pr 16:18); losses--they drag us
down so we cannot serve the Lord the way we should; grievances--they
produce false attitudes (see 1Cor 13:6); sorrows--God can heal all
heartaches; discouragements--we need to remember Christ, not
disappointments, thwarted hopes and plans.
And their sins and iniquities will
I remember no more (He 10:17-note)
to the Bible) (Copyright
Back to the Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved)
Seeing Or Remembering - There's a story about a man who was
slowly losing his memory. After an examination, the doctor said that
an operation on his brain might reverse his condition and restore his
memory. However, the surgery would be so delicate that a nerve might
be severed, causing total blindness.
"What would you rather have," asked
the surgeon, "your sight or your memory?"
The man pondered the question for a
few moments and then replied,
"My sight, because I would rather
see where I am going than remember where I have been."
In Philippians 3 the apostle Paul made the same choice spiritually.
His past, with its success and its shame, he chose to forget. What
mattered to him most was keeping his eyes on the goal of gaining
Christ's approval. That kind of mindset is one sure mark of Christian
maturity. It's what God is working to develop in our lives (Phil.
3:13-15). We can't forget our past, of course, but we don't have to
live in it. Any good we may have done is from God, so we can only be
thankful. When we confess our sins, they are buried in the deepest
sea. Let's not keep dredging them up.
What do you choose? To see or to
remember? --D J De Haan (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Onward and upward your course plan
Seeking new heights as you walk Jesus' way;
Heed not past failures, but strive for the prize,
Aiming for goals fit for His holy eyes. --Brandt
If you keep looking back,
you can't make spiritual progress.
A Time To Forget - The end
of one year and the dawning of a new one provides an excellent
opportunity to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start. The
well-known preacher Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) said: "We have
passed through one more year. One more long stage in the journey of
life, with its ascents and descents and dust and mud and rocks and
thorns and burdens that wear the shoulders, is done. The old year is
dead. Roll it away. Let it go. God, in His providence, has brought us
out of it. It is gone; . . . its evil is gone; its good remains. The
evil has perished, and the good survives."
Those who know the Lord Jesus as their Savior can let go of the past
and move ahead with assurance because Jesus provides forgiveness and
hope. Having confessed their sin, "forgetting those things which are
behind," they can confidently face the future, "reaching forward to
those things which are ahead" (Phil. 3:13). Remembering God's
faithfulness and forgetting past mistakes will make entering the new
year a time of joyous anticipation.
Yes, we can leave the sins and failures of this past year behind us,
accept His forgiveness, and press on to higher ground. As far as our
shortcomings are concerned, we can make the beginning of the new year
a time to forget. — Richard De Haan (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Look not back on yesterday
So full of failure and regret;
Look ahead and seek God's way—
All sin confessed you must forget. —DJD
Never let a dark past cloud a bright future.
Look Back Or Ahead? -
The great American baseball player Satchel Paige once said in jest,
"Don't look back—something may be gaining on you." In contrast, George
Santayana, a Spanish thinker and writer, noted in 1905, "Those who
cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
So which is it? Do we move on, never looking back, or do we dwell on
our past errors to avoid making them again?
Scripture seems to indicate that we should do a little of both. We do
need to think back on our lives and learn from our mistakes. That's
part of the process when we confess our sins and ask God for
forgiveness. We need to think about our disobedience long enough to
seek God's mercy and then choose to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11).
Forgiveness is God's way of clearing the slate, but it's our
responsibility to depend on the strength of the Holy Spirit who lives
within us to avoid repeating the errors of the past. The apostle Paul,
for example, acknowledged his past mistakes, drew upon God's mercy,
and then focused on becoming more like Christ (Philippians 3:13,14).
So, is it best for us to look back or to look ahead? We would be wise
to do a little of both: We need to look back for forgiveness, then
look ahead to make progress. — Dave Branon (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
More like the Master I would live
More of His love to others I would show;
More self-denial like His in Galilee,
More like the Master I long to ever be. —Gabriel
To grow spiritually, face up to your failures,
then focus on Christ for the future.
FORWARD: tois de emprosthen epekteinomenos (PMPMSN): (Php 2:12
Ro 15:23-29 - note;
1Co 9:24, 25, 26, 27
(epekteino from epi = into, upon + ekteino =
to extend, stretch out <> ek = out + teino = to stretch)
means literally to overextend oneself. Epekteino found only
here in all of Scripture means to
stretch one's muscles to their limit, attempting
energetically to attain a state or condition. This verb was used to describe
a runner who stretches out his neck and whose “eye outstrips and draws
onward the hand, and the hand the foot.” (Wuest)
Eadie notes that
epekteino present a vivid image of "the keen attitude of the racer
stretching his body out = ek and toward epi = the goal.
(Philippians 3 Commentary
describes this "overextending" as Paul's habitual practice and
calls for this to also be our lifelong attitude. The apostle is in a
race and he is sparing nothing. Every fiber of his body, every bit of
strength that he can draw from a breath of air is being put into the
pursuit of a goal.
Expositor's Bible Commentary
describes this as "the relentless centering of his
energies and interests on the course that is ahead of him. (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
picture is of a foot race, in which the runner's head, shoulders and
chest are bent forward and his eye fixed upon the goal, the tape at
the end of the race so as to be the first one across the goal. Often a
race is decided by a fraction of an inch, and the runner who is able
to throw himself across the finish line by extending himself may be
crowned the victor.
is calling for an extreme effort, stretching one's self to the limit.
How are you doing?
Do you have the focused attention that Paul is
describing in your spiritual race? Or to ask it another way - What is
your primary focus in life? What drives you? Where do you invest your
time and energy and talent?
Running with endurance the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1)
our eyes steadfastly on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)
Alexander Maclaren explains Paul's figure of "reaching
forward", writing that...
The idea is that of a man
stretching himself out towards something as a runner does, with his
body straining forward, the hand and the eye drawn onward towards the
goal. He does not think of the furlongs that he has passed, he heeds
not the nature of the ground over which he runs. The sharp stones in
the path do not stay him, nor the flowerets in the grass catch his
glance. The white faces of the crowd around the course are seen as in
a flash as he rushes past them to the winning post, and the parsley
garland that hangs there is all that he is conscious of. “They do it
to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” Let us, with
eye and hand flung forward, “stretch out towards the things that are
before,” and imitate that example — not in the fierce whirl of
excitement, indeed, but in fixed regard to, and concentrated desire
of, the mark and the prize.
Spurgeon asks in regard to
Does he not here give us the
picture of a runner? He reaches forth. The man, as he speeds, throws
himself forward, almost out of the perpendicular. His eye is at the
goal already. His hand is far in advance of his feet, the whole body
is leaning forward; he runs as though he would project himself to the
end of the journey before his legs can carry him there. That is how
the Christian should be; always throwing himself forward alter
something more than he has yet reached, not satisfied with the rate at
which he advances, his soul always going at twenty times the pace of
the flesh. John Bunyan gives us a little parable of the man on
horseback. He is bidden by his master to ride in a hurry to fetch the
physician. But the horse is a sorry jade. "Well," saith Bunyan, "but
if his master sees that the man on the horse's back is whipping and
spurring, and pulling the bridle, and struggling with all his might,
he judges that the man would go if he could." That is how the
Christian should always be, not only as devout, earnest, and useful as
he can be, but panting to be a great deal more so, spurting this old
flesh and striving against this laggard spirit if perchance he can do
more. Brethren, we ought to be reaching forward to be like Jesus.
Never may we say, "I am like so-and-so, and that is enough." Am I like
Jesus, perfectly like Jesus? If not, away, away, away from everything
I am or have been; I cannot rest until I am like my Lord. The aim of
the Christian is to be perfect: if he seeks to be anything less than
perfect, he aims at an object lower than that which God has placed
before him. To master every sin, and to have and possess and exhibit
every virtue, - this is the Christian's ambition. He who would be a
great artist must not follow low models. The artist must have a
perfect model to copy; if he does not reach to it, he will reach far
further than if he had an inferior model to work by. When a man once
realises his own ideal, it is all over with him. A great painter once
had finished a picture, and he said to his wife with tears in his
eyes, "It is all over with me, I shall never paint again, I am a
ruined man." She enquired, "Why?" "Because," he says, "that painting
contents and satisfies me; it realises my idea of what painting ought
to be, and therefore I am sure my power is gone, for that power lies
in having ideals which I cannot reach, something yet beyond me which I
am striving after." May none of us ever say, "I have reached my ideal,
now I am what I ought to be, there is nothing beyond me." Perfection,
brethren, absolute perfection, may God help us to strive after it!
That is the model, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in
heaven is perfect." "Shall we ever reach it?" says one. Thousands and
millions have reached it, there they are before the throne of God,
their robes are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, and we
shall possess the same, only let us be struggling after it by God's
good help. Let every believer be striving, that in the details of
common life, in every thought, in every word, in every action, he may
glorify God. This ought to be our object; if we do not reach it, it is
that which we must press for, - that from morning light to evening
shade we shall live unto God. Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever
we do, we should do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is what we
are to seek after, praying always in the Holy Ghost to be sanctified
wholly, spirit, soul, and body. "It is a wonderfully high standard,"
says one. Would you like me to lower it, brother? I should be very
sorry to have it lowered for myself. If the highest degree of holiness
were denied to any one of us, it would be a heavy calamity. Is it not
the joy of a Christian to be perfectly like his Lord? Who would wish
to stop short of it? To be obliged to live under the power of even the
least sin for ever, would be a horrible thing! No, we never can be
content short of perfection; we will reach forward towards that which
is before. (Philippians 3:13,14 Onward!)
Dwight Pentecost tells the
following story illustrating the picture Paul is painting for us...
When I was in London, I found my
way to several of the art museums and galleries of that city. I wanted
to see some of the famous paintings I had become familiar with through
books of art. It was a delightful experience to walk through those
corridors. I was particularly struck with one painting. Two chariots
were racing at breakneck speed. Their wheels were just a blur of
motion. The charioteers, with whip in hand, were lashing their horses
to the expenditure of every ounce of energy they had. Intensity was
written in their eyes, in their faces, in the set of their bodies. The
horses were straining themselves, it seemed, to the point of collapse.
Their eyes wild, their nostrils distended, they gulped great breaths
of air as they pressed toward the goal. With the goal before them,
they were giving themselves unreservedly to the race. Those who had
not so extended themselves had been left behind and were an
insignificant part of the background of the painting. The attention of
the viewer was focused upon the two charioteers who strained toward
the goal. (Pentecost, J. D. The Joy of living: A study of Philippians.
Page 144. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications)
Adam Clarke has an
When it was said to Diogenes, the
cynic, "Thou art now an old man, rest from thy labours;" to this he
answered: "If I have run long in the race, will it become me to
slacken my pace when come near the end; should I not rather stretch
forward?" Diog. Laert., lib. vi. cap. 2. sec. 6.
Stephen Olford writes...
Most people are afraid of the
future. Uncertainty and insecurity about the days that lie ahead fill
the heart with fear and foreboding. But for the Christian, there need
be no fear. In the language of the old hymn, he can say with Edward H.
Peace, perfect peace, our future
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.
There is nothing that can ever
happen which is not already foreknown and included within the
permissive will of God. There is a sense that through trust in the
living God we can foresee the things which are before us. The
eventualities of life need neither terrify nor disturb us. (Olford, S.
F. (2002). Vol. 2: Institutes of Biblical preaching: Volume two)
This devotional illustrates the importance of not looking back but instead
continually looking forward -
the Race - On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister
became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.
Within 2 months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds. On
August 7, 1954, the two met together for a historic race. As they
moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would
win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question,
"Where is Bannister?" As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead.
Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, "If I hadn't looked back, I
would have won!"
One of the most descriptive pictures of the Christian life in the
Bible is of an athlete competing in a race. 1Cor 9:24-27
tells us that discipline is the key to winning. In Heb 12:1,
2 (notes - 12:1,
are encouraged to lay aside anything that might hinder our spiritual
advancement and to stay focused on Christ. And in Philippians 3:12, 13,
the apostle Paul said,
"I press on...forgetting those things
which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are
Lord, give us endurance as we run this race of life. Help us not to
wallow in past failures, but to be disciplined and to shun sinful
ways. May we fix our eyes on the eternal goal set before us and keep
looking unto Jesus. -H G Bosch (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Run the straight
race through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path and Christ the prize. -Monsell
You can't make spiritual progress
by looking back.
TO WHAT LIES
AHEAD: tois de emprosthen:
Literally "the things before"
lies ahead (1715) (tois...emprosthen
from en = in, + prósthen = in front of, before)
refers to the things that are
before or in front of, or ahead of us.
In his painting "An Allegory of Prudence," the 16th-century Venetian
artist Titian portrayed Prudence as a man with three heads. One head
was of a youth facing the future, another of a mature man eyeing the
present, and the third, a wise old man gazing at the past. Over their
heads Titian wrote a Latin phrase that means,
"From the example of the past, the man of the present acts prudently
so as not to imperil the future."
We need that kind of wisdom to
overcome the anxiety created by our past failures and the fear of
repeating them in the future--an anxiety that can keep us from
enjoying life to the fullest right now. Paul was able to "forget" his
past and anticipate his future. This doesn't mean that his memory was
erased, but it does mean that because God had forgiven him, Paul had a
clean conscience and was free of any guilt or pride he may have felt
from his past. As he lived in daily fellowship with Christ, trials
became God's tools to gradually chisel him into conformity to Christ
Jesus his Lord. Thus Paul's driving passion was to know Christ better.
As we close the chapter of each year of our life, let's rededicate
ourselves (not legalistically but under grace and in complete
dependence on His Spirit) to follow Paul's example. The Spirit of
Christ will enable us to live fully in the present as we gain wisdom
from the past and face the future with courage. Refuse to let a bleak
past cloud your bright future (see notes regarding exulting in
our hope and in tribulations in Ro 5:2, 3 (notes =
David Guzik writes...
Because Paul realizes that he has
not "arrived," there is only one option open for him. He must press
on. There is no turning back for Him.
When Spain led the world (in the
15th century), their coins reflected their national arrogance and were
inscribed Ne Plus Ultra which meant "Nothing Further" - meaning that
Spain was the ultimate in all the world. After the discovery of the
New World, they realized that they were not the "end of the world" -
they changed the inscription on their coinage to Plus Ultra - meaning
Which motto better expresses your
Christian life - "Nothing Further" or "More Beyond"?
This is where child-like faith
meets real maturity. A child can't wait to be bigger, and always wants
to be more mature. Paul has put his hand to the plow and will not look
back (Luke 9:62). (Notes)
Tozer rightly observes that
in the Christian life...
The normal Bible direction is not
backward, it is always forward. Jacob returned to the altar, but in
doing so he did not go back, he went forward. The Prodigal Son did not
say, "I will go back"; he said, "I will arise and go to my father."
From where he was, going to his father's house was a forward step in
his moral activities. It represented no retreat, but a distinct
advance over his previous conduct.
The will of God is always the proper goal for every one of us. Where
God is must be the place of desire. Any motion toward God is a forward
motion. Even repentance is not a retreat toward the past but a decided
march into a more glorious future. Restitution is not a return to
yesterday but a step into a blessed tomorrow....
If we find that we have gone back, then we should immediately reverse
the direction and again go forward. (The Next Chapter After the Last)
C H Spurgeon writes that...
Paul having put the past and
present in their proper places goes on to the FUTURE, ASPIRING EAGERLY
TO MAKE IT GLORIOUS. We ought to be reaching forward, to be like
Jesus. He who would be a great artist must not follow low models.
Hebrews 12:2) “Be ye perfect.”
Shall we ever reach it. Millions have who are before the throne, and
we shall too by God’s good help.
PUTTING FORTH ALL HIS EXERTIONS TO
REACH THAT WHICH HE DESIRES.
1. “This one thing I do.” He might
have attempted other things, and did, but all with reference to this
2. Why? Because he felt God had
called him to it.
3. Moreover he saw the crown.
Alexander Maclaren writes...
I. First, we may take this as
the advice commended to us in the example here taught us: Live in the
Our highest condition in this world
is not the attainment of perfection, but the recognition of heights
above us which are as yet unreached. From generation to generation,
for the individual and the species, the condition of our progress is a
distance beckoning us, and a feeling that we have not already
attained, neither are already perfect.
II. Let the bright, certain, infinite future dwarf for us the
narrow and stained past: "forgetting the things that are behind."
(1) Forget past failures; they are
apt to weaken you.
(2) Be sure to forget past
attainments; they are apt to become food for complacency, for every
(3) Forget your past circumstances,
whether they be sorrows or joys; the one are not without remedy, the
other not perfect. "Forget the things that are behind."
III. Let hopes for the future and lessons from the past alike lead
to strenuous work in the present.
"This one thing I do." Be the past
what it may, be the future what it may, I know that I cannot reach the
one nor forget the other, except by setting myself with all my might
and main to present duties, and by reducing all duties to various
forms of one great life-purpose. Concentration of all our strength on
a single aim, and that aim pursued through all our days, with their
varying occupations—what a grand ideal of life that is! We shall work
hard and heartily at various tasks, and yet the good part shall not be
taken away from us by outward activity, any more than our possession
of it will sequester us from vigorous service of God and man. (Living
in the Future)
Is My Purpose? -
In Daniel Schaeffer's book on Esther, Dancing With A Shadow, he
summarizes with a single sentence the lives of each of the main
characters in that wonderful Old Testament book. For Ahasuerus, the
powerful warrior king of Persia, it was: "Success in life is all in
the planning." For the faithful Mordecai: "The price of obedience is
never too high." And for Queen Esther: "What I am is more important
than what I have." She proved it when she risked her crown (and life)
to intercede with Ahasuerus on her people's behalf.
I was discussing these one-line descriptions with some co-workers who
were also reading Schaeffer's book. Someone wondered how we might
summarize in a single statement our purpose for living. One woman
candidly admitted, "My only goal in life is to catch up." Sound
familiar? For others it might be, "To have as little trouble in life
as I can." Or you may say with Haman, "You can never have too much."
But as followers of Jesus Christ, we should be able to say with the
"One thing I do, I press toward the
goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Php
Is that the purpose of your life?
--D C Egner (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Do you pursue a
life of wealth and fame?
A mocking epitaph is all you'll claim;
Let God replace your vain and selfish aim
With lasting goals that glorify His name. --Gustafson
We fulfill our purpose
when we serve our Creator
In his devotional "Our Daily
Walk" F B Meyer has this devotional on Philippians 3:13-14,
entitled "The Christian Ideal":
AN IDEAL is a mental conception of
character after which we desire to shape our lives. It is the fresco
which we paint on the walls of our soul, and perpetually look at in
our lonely hours; and since the heart is educated through the eye, we
become more and more assimilated to that which we admire.
Our Ideal should be distinctly beyond us. We must be prepared to
strain our muscles and task our strength, attempting something which
those who know us best never thought us capable of achieving. Like St.
Paul, we must count the ordinary ambitions of men as dung, must forget
the things which are behind and press forward to those before.
We should choose as an objective some ideal which is manifestly, in
our own judgment or that of others, within our scope. It is a mistake
to set before our minds an ideal which is altogether out of harmony
with the make-up of our nature. Therefore we should learn, to say with
the Apostle: "I follow on to apprehend that for which I was
apprehended by Christ Jesus." Be sure that God created and redeemed
you for a definite purpose. Discover that purpose, and set yourself to
make it good.
Our Ideal should give unity to life. Happy is the man who is able to
prosecute his ideal through each hour of consciousness, and who can
say: "This one thing I do!" Such people are the irresistible ones.
Those who know one subject thoroughly, or who bend all their energies
in the prosecution of one purpose, carry all before them. The quest
for a holy character may be prosecuted always and everywhere. In every
act and thought we may become more like Christ.
The Christ ideal is the highest ideal. "That I may gain Christ, and be
found in Him." But such an ideal will only be realised at the cost of
self-denial. You must put aside your own righteousness to get His; you
must be willing to count all things loss; you must ignore the
imperious demands of passion. So shall you be prepared for the hour
when even "the body of your humiliation" shall be transformed to the
likeness of the glorious body of Christ. His working is on your side;
in you and for you He will subdue all things to Himself.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want. May Thy grace abound towards me, so
that having all sufficiency in all things, I may abound unto every
good work. AMEN.