A NOBLE ASPIRATION
“Not that I have already attained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14.
Paul’s goal really sounds like pie in the sky, doesn’t it? It would be if this life were all he ever had to live for. It all depended on his perspective.
Paul had a powerful awareness that there was something far better awaiting him in the life to come. He viewed his earthly life, not as an end in itself but as an apprenticeship for the real life which began with his shocking encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road and would reach its fullness when he left his earthly tent for his eternal home with Christ.
Like an Olympic athlete who shed every unnecessary encumbrance in order to win the race, Paul ran his race with as little of his futile old ways as possible. His goal was to embrace the faith life that led him ever deeper into an intimate knowledge of his Lord. Why was knowing Christ so important to him? He was not straining to know about Jesus. The life of this unique Man could have piqued his interest but done nothing more for him than knowing about any other unusual or significant person of his day.
Knowing about his own spiritual forefather, Moses, would not have enabled him to become like him, nor would he have wanted to. He had his own weaknesses and failings to contend with, without aspiring to be like Moses!
But knowing Jesus was a whole different ball-game. “Knowing” in this context, implies something far deeper than knowing Him even as a friend. It has the connotation of intimacy that produces something, just as intimacy between a husband and wife produces an offspring in their likeness. Why did Jesus take hold of him? He called Paul into intimacy with Him so that He could impregnate him with His “seed”. His word would reproduce Himself in Paul first. Then Paul was to take it to the nations to reproduce Him in the life of every person who received the seed.
With this goal in view, Paul bent every effort towards fulfilling Christ’s purpose for him. This was not only his calling but the calling of every person who embraces Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul called it a “mystery” – “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). God’s design from the beginning was to have a family of human sons and daughters created in His image and living in perfect harmony with Him and with one another.
Paul used this very imagery as he agonised over the Galatian believers who were on the brink of turning away from Jesus to Judaism.
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ be formed in you…” Galatians 4:19.
God sent Jesus in person to be the model son and to die in our place to remove all barriers between us and the Father. He sent His Spirit to live in us just as He lived in Jesus to ensure that His plan would work. But there is one thing God cannot do. He cannot invade our right to choose. It’s up to every believer in Jesus to do as Paul did – shed the baggage and run the race, unencumbered by any notion that we can win the prize through self-effort.
The whole enterprise is based on faith – faith in what Christ has achieved for us, and faith in God that He will accomplish His goal through us, to gather His family back to Himself from the ends of the earth and to restore in them the image of His Son. And what is the prize we are straining to win? Glory! God’s own nature, free from the ravages of sin that brought death to the human race and to God’s entire creation.
There were two others in the Biblical record, apart from Paul, who aspired to do “one thing”.
In Psalm 27, David expressed his fervent desire:
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Psalm 27:4.
Jesus Himself commended Mary:
“…Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said… ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord said, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:39b; 41-42.
What guarantee do we have that God will do it? We have His word that it will happen.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride beautifully adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'” Revelation 21:1-4.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.