The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14(NLT), “13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” As workman of the scriptures, we are often warned to be sure to put verses of scripture in their proper context. It is helpful to know who the Lord has inspired the writer to write to, and why. Sometimes it is doctrinal, and other times it is rebuke and correction. Philippians 3:13-14 is a passage that is so timeless and far reaching in its encouragement that any context would be too small a box to contain it.
From what we know about Paul, he laid it all out there for us. He talked about the challenges of being a Christian in such blatant terms, and he was so honest about the struggles of the flesh. He wanted to please God with all of his heart, but he was at times bombarded with so many obstacles. This is always an area that really tugs at my heart, because I know what it feels like to take one step forward, only to be knocked two steps back. It can really do a number on you, especially when you don’t understand what’s happening and why. This is one of the reasons that I endeavor to encourage sisters in the Lord that might be going through some of the tribulations that I have had at one time in my life. I believe it is my calling to help educate, uplift, and encourage, because I know God will deliver us from all affliction. We just need to have faith.
The one thing that we have to bear in mind at all times is that pain thrives in an environment that is void of faith; and sometimes, we are so distracted by what is happening in our lives that we kind of forget about our faith. The enemy sniffs out this waning, and then bombards us with one thing after the other so that our senses are overwhelmed. We’re so busy trying to put the pieces back together that we wake up one day and find that we have been overwhelmed to the point of numbness. We become numb to the Word of God, and we start to believe that our only recourse is to shut down.
If you’ve ever been abused emotionally, physically or mentally, this feeling of being numb seems very natural. We retreat to familiar patterns when anything like devastation or disappointment come into play, and we will often switch off emotions like hope, joy, and faith for fear that they will let us down. We feel like punching bags, and many of us are emotionally exhausted from the fight.
The Apostle Paul’s Road to Damascus experience was a shock to his total being. If any of us had been in his shoes, we may not have survived it. As he recovered and pursued the work of Jesus Christ vigorously, he faced some pretty tough opposition and circumstances—some of which you and I can’t really imagine. He wasn’t a super human. He didn’t have super hero powers. He was just a man that knew in his heart that Jesus Christ is real.
Again, he talked about the struggle of bringing his mind under the authority of Christ amidst all the danger and chaos he faced. He was a man that had committed unthinkable cruelty against Christ, but then was converted. Can you imagine the emotional heaviness he must have felt when thinking about how cruel he had once been to Christians? He could have chosen to be numb, so that he wouldn’t think about it or feel those feelings. This is why the passage in Philippians 3:13-14 is so precious, because Paul admitted that he wasn’t where he knew he should be, but he was determined that his past was not going to keep him from running the race and receiving the prize. This has to be our stance as well.
Paul encouraged us in love to never get tired of living for Christ. The enemy will try and use the complexities of our pasts to exhaust us, to paralyze us in hopelessness and fear. This can make a person want to remain in a cocoon, but God’s love will cast out this kind of fear if we let it. No matter how down we are, no matter what has happened in our lives; no matter what pains we are carrying in our souls, we can look to God and know that the Holy Spirit is within us working to will and do of His good pleasure.
Our walks in Christ are being perfected. This means that we turn our focus away from the past like Paul, and that we hold on to God with both hands, trusting that His work within us will be a good one. We can release those emotions that are holding us back, grab on to the hope of Christ, and usher in a new joy in our lives. ■
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
“Turn from Your Past and Usher in A New Joy!”, written for findchristianman.com©2019. All rights reserved. All done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!