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A life of fearless faith and hope

January 8, 2022

Daily Scripture

Philippians 3:4-14

Philippians 3:4-14

4 If anyone else has reason to put their confidence in physical advantages, I have even more:

5 I was circumcised on the eighth day.
I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin.
I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews.
With respect to observing the Law, I’m a Pharisee.

6 With respect to devotion to the faith, I harassed the church.
With respect to righteousness under the Law, I’m blameless.

7 These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. 8 But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ 9 and be found in him. In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. 10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.

12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In these words, so fitting for the start of a new year, the apostle Paul testified that his overarching goal was to grow into all God called him to be. As The Message rendered these verses, he said, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me…. I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”* He only reached that point by discarding something many of us may struggle with too: a (duly modest) sense of superiority due to race, education, religious affiliation or any other force that creates division between people. He said he’d found a righteousness “that is not my own.” And God offers that gift to each one of us.

  • In verse 13, Paul shared an essential truth about pursuing God’s goals: “I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me.” The process of growing spiritually focuses on what is to come, not what lies behind. Is anything from your past haunting you, or defining you in the present? If so, ask God to help you let it go. Focus your energy on living 2022 with God, not past achievements or failures. Scholar William Barclay said Paul’s word for reaching out “is used of a racer going hard for the tape. It describes him with eyes for nothing but the goal. It describes the man who is going flat out for the finish.”** How can you live your life this year in such a way that you, too, are going flat out for the goal of living the life God calls you to? What choices can you make in 2022 that will empower you to run God’s race with eyes for nothing but the prize?

Lord Jesus, make it more true of me this year that “the goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call” in you. Keep my eyes on the prize of the ultimate goal of life in your kingdom. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of  Dave Pullin

Dave Pullin

Dave formerly served on staff at Resurrection for 18 years and currently serves in leadership at L'Arche Heartland, a local nonprofit supporting adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities through housing and work opportunities. He and his wife regularly host foreign exchange students through AFS and have found it a wonderful way to make the world a more tolerant place. He considers loving his family his greatest ministry and is most at home climbing mountains with his wife and two dogs.

I recently finished reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig which explores the question: What would life be like had we made different choices at key moments in our life? How might the protagonist’s life have been different if only she’d done things differently?

Without revealing too much of the story, the author skillfully explores the idea of regret and how many of us hold tightly to a few specific moments in our past that perhaps we would have rather chosen differently. Interestingly enough, the author brings to light the fact that there are a vast number of possible lives that we all could have lived. Beyond the big decisions such as what career to pursue, whether to get married or to have children, or where to live, there are an infinite number of smaller decisions we make everyday that could ultimately lead to various outcomes. And in this book, the main character gets to explore the various lives she could have lived. She gets to undo her regrets.

This type of thought work is interesting to me, which reveals that we give an inordinate amount of power to our regrets by thinking, “If only I’d done this, my life would be better…”.

I certainly agree that our lives would be different based on making different choices, but I’m not certain they would definitively be better. There is always challenge, struggle, disappointment, and suffering in life. Those we cannot escape. However, by giving our regrets so much power, we allow our past to dictate who we are and who we are yet to become. It is this idea that I feel Paul might be alluding to in verse 13, where he states that he forgets the things behind him and reaches out towards the things ahead of him. Paul’s pre-conversion past was not one to be proud of, yet he does not allow it to define what his life will be like. And we all can do the same.

There is something about the beginning of a new year that establishes a new rhythm in life and perhaps a new way of thinking. As we begin this new season, may we remember that our past cannot dictate our future, and who we were before does not control who we can now become. Each of us has an unlimited number of possible variations of what our lives could be. Our focus is better placed on where we want to go and on who we want to become rather than on who we were and what we’ve done (or haven’t) in our past.

Although we may not be able to go back and see what our lives could have been like had we made different life choices, we do have an opportunity to retain our own agency and make new decisions every single moment, to decide who we want to be, and decide how we want to live every single day.

In this new year, let’s not allow our regrets to have power over the endless potential that is our future.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress. Kindle Edition.

** William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 67.