Philippians 3:12-21 Devotional
Start by reading Philippians 3:12-21
Philippians is such an inspirational and encouraging book. As we’ve learned, the letter of Paul to the Philippians was written from prison and verses 12-16 of chapter 3 describe Paul’s progress in the Gospel: Through Christ, Not the Law. Paul emphasizes the need for progress in Christian living, presenting himself as one who continually reaches ahead to see God’s kingdom expanded.
Verses 12-21 inspire us to Strain Toward the Goal. What goal you ask? Great question, Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, “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.” Paul is telling us not to dwell on the dark elements of our past, or even be defined by a victory of our past. We must forget what lies behind in order to press on toward what God has in store for us, which is eternal citizenship in heaven, as Philippians 3:20 states, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”. He is telling us not to spend our life looking back, or live an aimless existence, instead live life with purpose and set your sights on eternal citizenship in heaven.
There is an illustration that came to mind as I read this text. Law enforcement officers are required to take several courses in order to qualify for patrol, and during this training the instructors teach a concept called "high visual horizon". The idea is that when officers are in pursuit they look up, look ahead, and maintain a high visual horizon in order to identify hazards and make proper, timely decisions. Their taught not to look at the hood, or front bumper, rather keep your eyes up and look far ahead. If officers fail to maintain a high visual horizon during a pursit they will inevitably crash, and consequently fail to safely reach their destination.
Just as driving during a pursuit requires maintaining a high visual horizon in order to safely reach the destination, Paul tells us in Philippians 3:17 “…join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” He’s telling us to use him as an example of what it looks like to strain forward, to move toward a destination with purpose. While Paul is not yet perfected, he is confident enough in his Christian walk to ask the Philippians to join in imitating him and other mature Christians. Paul’s intent is not for the Philippians to focus on him per se but rather for them to join in humble, radical dependence on Christ.
He’s telling us to forget what lies behind, let go of our past, and look ahead toward the destination, not just a destination, but the destination. Straining forward without letting go of the past is like driving while staring into the rear-view mirror. It is aimless and only a matter of time before you crash and fail to reach your destination. Paul tells us to look up, look ahead, and set your sights on the best destination known to man, eternal citizenship in heaven. We get there by putting our faith and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As you go about your day I encourage you to maintain a high visual horizon. Keep your eyes on the prize, which is the fullness of blessings and rewards in the age to come, most especially being in perfect fellowship with Christ forever.