Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Following Paul’s Example All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:12-21 NIV
As a young teenager I longed to go to sleep and wake up transported to a time perhaps 10 years later, married, a mother, happy. But – none of us who have attained adulthood achieved it by skipping our teenage years. Paul uses an athletic example of a long race, perhaps a marathon, in this passage to demonstrate the concept of spiritual perseverance. He uses phrases like, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:13b-14. I picture a runner not looking back, or side to side, but putting all of his strength, concentration, and effort into moving forward as best as he is able to run. A champion marathon runner is never a young child, but instead is a young adult who has spent years training, practicing, failing, and trying again. The champion keeps his goal in mind.
There are several women I think of who are examples to me of spiritual perseverance. Joni Eareckson Tada, Gladys Aylward, and Corrie Ten Boom come to mind. Joni injured her spine as a teenager and has been in a wheelchair for over 50 years. She perseveres daily through pain and discomfort everyday as she relies on God for her strength. She has a ministry called Joni and Friends that ministers to disabled children and their families all over the world. Her story is at Joniandfriends.org. Gladys Aylward was a British missionary who had to persevere to even get to China, as no one would allow her to join their organization. She raised her own money to travel to China over several years, and she was instrumental in saving nearly 100 orphaned Chinese children’s lives in 1938. There are many articles and books written about her perseverance in presenting the gospel to the Chinese people. Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid Jews during WWII in German-occupied Holland. They were betrayed, sent to a concentration camp and only Corrie survived. She and her sister Betsy led Bible studies, prayed with and shared Jesus with their fellow inmates in Ravensbruck. Her story is told in her book called The Hiding Place and in the movie of the same name.
Paul and these women fixed their eyes on Jesus and remembered their, “citizenship is in heaven,” Philippians 3:20. Pray today about keeping your eyes on Jesus – remembering this world is not our home.
By Grace Hunter