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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Paul (Philippians 3:13-14).
Every time I read this, I am struck by his ability to leave it all behind. Paul was the ideal Jew. Not only did his parents follow all of the laws and prescriptions to raise a good Jewish son, he was the top of the scholars. He was in charge. People came to him. He had made it in every sense of how we view success. He had achieved it all. He had every reason to be proud – and to look back after his conversion.
But he doesn’t look back once God called him out of it. He lets it go.
Maybe that’s why I’m getting distracted. I think Paul alludes to a runner for a reason. If you’re running and you try to run forward while looking behind you, it’s easy to get tripped up. If I’m thinking about all the stuff I had before God called me out of my “Egypt,” I can’t concentrate on what He’s calling me to in my promise land. My idea of “making it” was getting my BA. Then it was getting my MA. Then it was going to be getting my PhD, tenure, etc., etc., etc. It was a big distraction because I was going to make it on my own.
God wasn’t really part of the formula.
Paul had to be put in a place where his value – and more importantly, his salvation – wasn’t based on what he did. It had to be based on what Christ did. Because it’s never about what we can do. A similar lesson must be learned in every Christian’s life, albeit within differing circumstances. We brag about our religious accomplishments, athletic feats, intelligence, and monetary gains. We are a proud people. We need to be broken so God can be glorified.
So it hit me: I can earn all the degrees I want. I can become a great professor and write articles and books. I can teach thousands of students. But what does all that matter in comparison to the salvation of Christ?
So press on. There’s a prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus ahead. And it’s all about Him.