“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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13–14).
We often hear friends and peers complaining about the difficulty of concentrating on their study, work or project assignment, or even in their daily routine. Perhaps that is true of us as well during this challenging time. Finding it difficult to keep pace with competing demands on our time and attention, we often become distracted and upset. In spite of the latest apps and gadgets, we feel overrun and frustrated by unaccomplished tasks. We wonder how certain people are able to achieve so much in their lives, studies and careers. In our fast-paced world, staying focused on any one thing for a prolonged period of time is a constant struggle. Despite our best efforts, our minds sometimes feel as though they are on a “scan” setting, constantly ‘sweeping’ from one station to the next, without staying at one long enough to get anything done.
Psalmist David makes it his life’s goal to focus on one thing that matters most to him. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). After he hears of the destruction of Jerusalem, and after much agony, prayer and fasting, Nehemiah’s goal is to return from exile in Babylon
to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. He is so steadfast in his mission that he does not allow setbacks, obstacles, human threats and opposition to derail his goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Because of his single-minded goal and courageous leadership, he and his men are able to rebuild the broken walls in 52 days. Both David and Nehemiah are focused rightly on one main thing that pleases the Lord and that occupies their time, attention and prayers. And the favour of the Lord is with them to grant them the desires of their heart (Psalm 37:4).
In the Gospels, we read of our Lord Jesus’ single-minded mission of obeying and fulfilling the Father’s will. “And taking the Twelve, He said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31). In his farewell message to the Philippian church, the Apostle Paul reveals his life’s goal to them: “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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13–14).
Mirroring Paul’s Life Statement
Paul is not telling us to cut off our past by totally forgetting it. We know we cannot. What he is telling us is not to allow our past’s achievements or setbacks to bog us down to the point that we lose focus in striving forward to achieve our goals which the Lord has given to us. In his case, Paul does not let his impressive pedigree of past achievements (a ‘pure’ Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew scholar par excellence, a meticulous keeper of the Law and a zealous persecutor of the church, etc,) derail him in his goal of knowing Christ and being found in Him. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Phil 3:7-9). Paul is ready to lose it all for the sake of Christ because his goal is to know Christ and be found in Him. What is your goal at this stage of your life? May the words of the hymn spur us heavenward: “This is our God, the Servant King. He calls us now to follow Him; to bring our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant King.” Amen.
– Eld Elgin Chan