July 21 – Philippians 3:12-16
Don’t miss the antecedent; otherwise this passage is pretty confusing. When Paul starts with “Not that I have already obtained this,” the “this” is the resurrection. He’s just continuing his thought from verse 11.
Here Paul says that he is living his life striving towards the goal for the prize; that goal being the end of a faithful life, and that prize being the resurrection life we get to enjoy for eternity with Jesus. We get it because he gives it to us. That’s why Paul calls it a call here; it’s a gift given because Christ called us to receive it, not because we’ve earned it. And Paul has some clear intent for what this life lived towards resurrection means. It involves straining and pressing on, which sounds challenging. It involves forgetting what’s behind, which probably requires the renewal of our minds. He’s referencing back to his list of accolades from last week (v.5-6); just like he counted all those things as rubbish, he leaves them all behind him and doesn’t return to them. And in verse 15 Paul points out that we have a lot to learn, but gives us the promise that God will reveal it to us as we need it.
In short, this eternity-focused life requires effort, it requires renewal, and it requires revelation from God. This is a very good summary of the Christian life. Getting to the finish line of our lives still striving for the upward call of God in Christ will surely take training, endurance, strength from God, and support from the body of Christ. And it most certainly won’t happen all on it’s own. This is a difficulty we all experience at some point in our faith; we wait around without expending any effort, hoping tomorrow we’ll be more mature, more steadfast, or more joyful in our faith. At least according to Paul in these few verses, that simply isn’t an accurate representation of what it means to live like God has called you.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read Philippians 3:12-16 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• Paul is continuing his thought from verse 11. What is he saying about the resurrection in this passage?
• What do you think Paul’s view of the direction or purpose of life is here?
• What could it mean to live a life aimed at the goal of eternity with Jesus?
• How could that direction change the way you live now?