What is Your Goal?
There is not a single person in this room, who does not have a goal. Some goals are small and can be anything from passing a test to not falling asleep in class. At the same time you have goals that you do not even know about. Stop. Quiet for just a moment. . . . YOU ARE BREATHING! Your goal is to stay alive, or else you would not breathe. Although depending on the time of day, it could be argued if there is any life in us. At this very moment I myself also have a goal. My goal is to simply write this post without saying something heretical and or stupid, looking like a total fool, or all of the above. While we can have goals that have small stakes, we also make goals where the stakes are much higher. What are the big goals in your life? Is the goal of your life graduation, to give or receive a ring by spring, a certain amount of finances, land the ideal career, work in full time ministry, or do full time missions; what goal consumes your life? We make our lives, about such finite things. This is not to say that in the right context these things are not good, but often our goals are so many things before they are Christ. In Philippians 3: 12-16 we will see the Apostle Paul, why he runs the figurative race that is the Christian life, what obstacles he avoids to keep from deterring him in the race, and lastly his goal to finish. As you read this post ask yourself “What is the goal of my life?”
“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.”
“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.”
Here we begin with Paul adding to his point in V 11 that he has not achieved perfection, but he still pursues Christ all the same. He gives the flavor that perfection is not an instant thing, as even he is still not perfected. His pursuit of perfection is his pursuit for transformation. The focus that Paul has, his reasoning for this pursuit, is his drive to make Christ his own. The reason Paul continues for godly perfection, for transformation, is Christ alone. Paul knew the only way he would ever be perfect was because Christ in him was perfect.
The subject of perfection is significant as not only did it combat Gnostic teaching at the time, but it also combats much of our thinking today. Many believer’s and sects of Christian based religions have the idea that full perfection is achievable in this life. The problem is when people try to achieve perfection in their humanity, they will sooner or later find failure is the only result. Not only does the drive to achieve humanly perfect end in failure, but the idea of achievable perfection in this life takes the focus off of Christ and places it on ourselves. Our good friend Martin Luther once said “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” If we want to achieve perfection we have to, like Paul, continue pursuing Christ as our goal.
“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”
First we saw why Paul pursues perfection and what he does to not lose that focus. As anyone does who is resolved to pursue a goal, like Paul is, they keep their eyes on the goal diverting their attention to little else. In the case of Paul he forgets what is behind and pushes toward what is ahead. Paul is not allowing himself to become distracted by the past, he does not dwell on it. Had he wanted to he could have focused on the flesh to distract him by things that were behind, but instead Paul remained contained in the Spirit as he continued pursuit of Christ. If anybody had a reason to look behind that person would have been Paul. On one end Paul had high status and position as a Pharisee Greek, he was the cream of the crop, and he could have very easily dwelt on the lifestyle he once had, as opposed to what he presently suffered. Opposite of that Paul could have been plagued by the sins behind him also. The very message Paul preached was the same he once persecuted. He was involved in the murder and persecution of the people he had become, yet he chose not to look back. This does not mean that Paul did not reflect on his past, he simply did not make it his goal.
Focusing on what is behind not only distracts, but also deters us from what is ahead. There are many ways that we as believers can lose focus of our goal is. When we focus on the past there are several possible outcomes we can experience. The first of these is in regards to those who make salvation the pinnacle of their Christian life. Salvation is an amazing thing, but it is merely the beginning of our walk with Christ. By making salvation the pinnacle, the height of your Christian existence and not continued pursuit of Christ, you have no reason to keep moving because there is nowhere else to move. Salvation is the beginning, not the end of the Christian life, yet so many spend it at the starting line waiting for the race to end or come to them.
Secondly, looking behind can cause you to focus on past successes, giving you complacency, making your goal what you have already achieved. Paul does not say we are not to reflect on past growth or achievements, but we are not supposed to dwell there or cause it to halt progress. Just because you have grown a certain amount does not mean you have to stop growing! Does a runner stop because he got halfway in a race placing first, or does he keep going? The race is not over until we are dead, so unless that day has come there is always something we can do or some way we can grow in.
The third way in which looking behind can hinder our journey to the goal is focus on our past failures. Our flesh loves to remind us of past failures, both our own and of those who have failed us, because of which we become the part of a victim. When we do this not only does fear from the flesh keep us from pursuing the good things God has for us, but it undermines the work Christ has done in our lives. There are many believers who have allowed the negative things behind them slow them down, and for some stop entirely. Imagine had Paul focused on the negative things that were behind him, his days of Saul, of faithlessness, where would he have been? Not only would the work of Christ in his life seem moot in contrast, but it could have even stopped him entirely. Paul ran from his past, he ran toward a goal that gave him something better, and so should we. My friend C.S. Lewis had this to say “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” Why stop and settle for the temporal things, the things that in the end really do not matter, when we could be in pursuit of the eternal and the things that do?
“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.”
“14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”
V.14 brings further clarity to what Paul was saying all along, his goal, his prize, was Christ. The reason for Paul’s existence was not his circumstances, achievements, relationships, or possessions, but completing the call of God and being completed in his transformation in Christ. Here was a man who had one goal on his mind, one focus driving him forward, and that was who He was in Christ and seeing that through to the end of the line. Paul’s goal was not several things, but one, Christ alone, living life centered on God’s plans not his. If you ever want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
Earlier I asked the question of what our goal is. Was Christ the first thing that came to your mind or was it something else? Maybe He did, but was quickly overshadowed by things we think are more important. Maybe Christ looks good, but that girl or guy next to us looks better. What about that job you want, that job pays off now, I can put Christ aside because He does not pay off to later right? Is our goal living a life in pursuit of Christ, forgetting what is behind us, striving toward the perfection He will one day give, or is it the meaningless and material. If anything is our goal apart from Christ, it may pay off in the here and now, but I can guarantee is will not later. WE SAY WE BELIEVE OUR GOAL IS JESUS CHRIST, OUR POSITION IS JESUS CHRIST! IF WE SAY WE BELIEVE AND ARE IN CHRIST WHY DO WE NOT LIVE LIKE IT!!!! WHY DO I NOT LIVE LIKE I?!!! WHY DO I COVET MY BROTHERS, GET ANNOYED WITH MY SISTERS AND LIVE AS IF MY GOAL AND PURPOSE IN THIS LIFE IS MY FLESH?!What does it take, when will we be convinced that the only goal in our life needs to be Christ. When we make Christ the goal of our life the quality of living we will have far surpasses anything the world has to offer use. We are not here for worldly treasures, but heavenly transformation.
“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.”
Overall it is seen in these passages that the center of this Apostle’s universe is Christ, which manifested from that is a mature attitude toward his circumstances and in his actions. Paul shows us that you can be mature without being perfected. He sets the tone for as how those who have reached a level of maturity think. What we see is that a sign of those who are mature will have the tone of the attitude and thinking that Paul has described in these passages. At the same time he is not saying this is a definite maturity, but one that needs to continue being developed and maintained throughout the Christian life. This maturity is not a one-time thing, or perfection itself, but a cycle of disciplines and habits in the life of a believer. Paul goes on to say that if a believe does not think this way, does not have this mature thinking, that the Holy Spirit will show them their error or need for change.
If we are people whose goals are set on Christ, our actions and thinking will reflect the maturity that comes with being in full pursuit of Him. This is the entire essence of being transformed by Christ, you have to pursue Him to be transformed by Him. Like Paul and the people of Philippi this maturity is maintained by spiritual disciplines and living it out. We are in Christ not to just know Him, but to live Him, and if He is our goal we will do just that. It does not take much to see that when make things of the world our goal, we will not only cease to grow in maturity, but begin thinking and living in a manner that is immature. The goal of Christ produces maturity, and not only that it will illuminate giving discernment to areas in our life which need maturing. People who are immature in their thinking, pursuing things other than the goal of Christ do not have this privilege. We as people allow ourselves to be consumed by so much of the immature, those things that do not really matter. I know believers who know more about super heroes, sports stats, musicians, authors, celebrities and so on than what they do of Scripture. Even in my life I have a knowledge of Doctor Who that is almost obscene. I could tell every detail about every Doctor, every story from the past fifty years, the backgrounds to his companions, and the characteristics to each of his adversaries! I know more about Doctor Who than a lot of Scripture. When I get to Heaven do you think God is going to say “Chris you had such great taste, I cannot believe you were a fan of Doctor Who also! Let’s watch some episodes and talk about how awesome it is! NO! In term of everything none of that knowledge makes any difference. It is not wrong to enjoy, but when we know more about a work of fiction than we do Scripture, that is a problem. The next time you are on Facebook, especially during football season examine the proclamations from people over their favorite teams. For some we see great joy, others great sorrow, all the same there is much to be said about football. Why are we not the same about God and the work he is going? Surely that is much more to be excited over than a game right? We talk more about football, fiction, and everything else than we do the Gospel. As we mature in our thinking and action that maturity will be seen in what we do and what we say.
“16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
Our friend Paul ends this section of verses by telling the people of Philippi to live in a way that reflects the standard that they have already lived up to. Mirroring the previous verse of them continuously disciplining their selves in maturity, the standard which they have set as mature believers, is something they need to continue pursing. Just like looking ahead and not behind, holding true to what they attained is about continuous action. They were to moment by moment strive for this. The standard they held to that produced that maturity, again was Christ. That is the thing Paul continues to hammer. Their standard was not maturity, worldly things, careers or relationships, but the goal of Christ. This is something that was more than a focus, more than setting goals, or even looking ahead but was an all-consuming mind. Following Christ is more than a lifestyle, it is a life, and the standard by which these people had lived was one where Christ was there life.
Do we live by the standard of the faith that we have achieved as we have pursued the goal of Christ or have we abandoned it for something else? While the Christian life is about our goal of one day meeting Christ in glory there are a degree of steps that have to be taken. Following Christ is not one giant leap, but a step by step journey. Some of my favorite stories are those with characters on journeys. One in particular that has been a favorite since I was a child is The Hobbit. The Hobbit, for those of you not familiar with the story was the tale of a comfortable, average, every day Hobbit who lived for good food, comfort and most importantly books. In the story this comfortable, complacent fellow is taken from everything he has ever known. As the journey of Bilbo goes on something cool begins to happen, you begin to see the transformation in which his journey had brought upon him. No longer was he living for comfort and a quiet life, but for his goal to get through his journey alive. My point is that our Journey is very much the same. Our goal may not be the same as Bilbo’s, but like him a Christian’s journey towards the goal of Christ, is a journey that does not leave one unchanged.
So, what is Your Goal?
What is the goal of what you are living for? Do you live your life in continued pursuit of Christ or are you stuck in things that are behind? Maybe you are still at the starting line? It could possibly even be that a worldly goal has distracted you from the race. Whatever the case, make Christ your goal, pressing forward, forgetting what is behind, ultimately achieving maturity and most importantly transformation.