7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I read these verses today and their humanness hit me like a ton of bricks. Philippians is such a powerful yet short book in the New Testament, and this specific passage is so encouraging to all those who are weary and broken.
Often, wisdom and truths written by the disciples are perceived as hard to relate to--because as broken, sinful Christians in a modern-day age, they can be found stuffy. Limiting. Out of touch. Impossible to upkeep for where we are culturally as a society.
However, if there's a disciple who knows what it's like to oppose the beliefs of Christianity, Paul's your guy. Paul's story is paradoxical in that he went from being the oppressor to being the oppressed. Prior to proclaiming Christianity, he was a man named Saul, known for violently and brutally attacking those who believed in Christ. On the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, while he was on his way to arrest several Christians, he was encountered by Jesus who made him blind for 3 days and instilled within him a love and passion to spread the joy of the Gospel.
In this letter to the Philippians, his tune has changed as he encourages them to remain steadfast in their love for Christ despite persecution. Following Paul's conversion to Christianity, he was beaten and imprisoned many times, persecuted enough to where he could've give up.
But Philippians proves that, despite the persecutions he went through, Paul was filled with abundant joy. He knew that what God could accomplish was far greater than any pain he endured during a beating or malnourishment he experienced within prison. And because he rested in this knowledge, he had reckless, bountiful joy. A joy that seemed senseless when you examined his earthly cause to be joyful.
However, his joy was not senseless because his causes weren't earthly. Paul's deep desire and craving to fully understand every bit of Christ and His existence were inspiring. In my Bible commentary, it notes that Paul sought the ongoing power that is "the day-to-day experience of being in Christ." He didn't want moments of separation from the spirit. He wanted to spend each and every remaining day of his existence in full obedience to Christ.
The full surrender that comes with obeying Christ is one that takes constant prayer and self-discipline. It is a bold thing to disassociate oneself from the world and partake in only things of the heavenly realm. Paul knows this, though.
In verses 7-10, Paul's words overflow with praise. He even says that he considers everything a loss in comparison to the great joy that comes with knowing Christ. He even calls them "garbage." Once, I heard a sermon about these verses that basically said the Greek word that Paul used meant something a little more harsh than just "garbage"-- it was actually closer to something like an offensive word used to describe excrement.
This is a strong anthem from one of Jesus's most passionate servants. It's like his oath, his promise--his battle cry for all of eternity. Because, if you really think about it, Paul's lost it all for Jesus. He even says, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." He lost all things for his Savior, and he doesn't care who knows or what they have to say about it.
Then, in verses 12-13, Paul goes on to share his imperfection. Reading such empowering verses like 7-10, then following it with these 2 verses, really share the human frame. He gets passionate, excited, and bold when proclaiming his love for Jesus. But, in following that, he's basically saying, "Of course, I'm nowhere near perfect. I haven't reached my goal, I haven't fully taken hold of what I really need to do for Christ."
Then he says: "But I press on."
He presses on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him. This means he presses on even when he doesn't feel like it. This means he presses on when he feels bogged down by the weight of his sin. This means he presses on even when the world tells him that his faith is unnecessary, even fruitless.
These are all things I feel that we, as Christians, often struggle with. Truth be told: I don't always get excited about spending time with God. I don't always feel like a fully loved, renewed, and redeemed child. I don't always feel encouraged to engage others in my faith, because the world seems so enticing and eternal when you live on it.
But these verses are an anthem for us children of God who don't always feel like being real with our Heavenly Father: we press on. They're an anthem for us sinners who cower in the dimly lit corners of our conscience, convinced it will stop our Father from breaking down walls to the heart of our sin: we press on. They're anthem for us apologists who can't seem to take the bold step of faith that comes with putting our beliefs on broadcast: we press on.
These 2 verses are some of the most encouraging things I've ever read in the Bible. Paul tells the Philippians to forget what is behind--which means saying goodbye to all the shame you carry--and straining toward what is ahead. Despite all that weighs us down, we press on toward the goal to go where God has called you-- HEAVENWARD!!!!
Friends, rejoice today in knowing that you have freedom to press on. Pressing on looks like oversleeping before an important interview, hair unkempt, unsure of what year it is, but going anyway because you have full assurance that you are exactly what the Interviewer wants: YOU. The exact brand of beautiful and messy and lovely and hopeful and eager and earnest and heartfelt and unsure yet confident that makes YOU. The holiest of hearts seeks yours, and all we have to do is press on even when we're groggy and half-asleep.
So, fight with me! Fight to win the prize and strain toward what is ahead--where God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus!!!!