Summary: The past is done, the future has not yet happened - so the present moment is important.
“Living a Joy-full Life: Developing a Race Strategy”
English author Storm Jameson once said, “I believe that only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present. Most of us spend 59 minutes an hour living in the past, with regret for lost joys or shame for things badly done (both utterly useless and weakening) or in a future which we either long for or dread…There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute, here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable minute. Which is exactly what it is – a miracle and unrepeatable.” (i) I’m not sure Storm is accurate about the number of minutes, but he is accurate about the impact of the past and the importance of the future. Storm and Paul could well have been soul mates, for Paul, too, understood the importance of the present moment – which is why he said, “This one thing I do…I press on…” Through Paul’s personal testimony to the Philippians we can learn how to live with the same, healthy spirit.
Paul begins by stating that AN EXAMINATION must take place. (12) “…but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” JESUS CHRIST HAD TAKEN HOLD OF PAUL. ‘Taken hold’ means apprehended. The image is that of a fugitive on the run being apprehended by authorities. Paul is referring to his life-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Trying to run away from Jesus, Paul ran into Jesus and was apprehended by Him. Jesus took hold of Paul’s shoulder and said, “Come with me.” Jesus was about to make a new man of Paul, to turn him from his old ways and passions to new ways and passions, to transform Paul into His likeness.
As a result, PAUL WAS TAKING HOLD OF JESUS CHRIST. Jesus’ goals had become Paul’s goals. But as he examined his life he admitted he had not yet accomplished it completely. (12-13) “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal… Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it…” There was more work to be done and further to go in Paul’s transformation. Paul was a great apostle, a brilliant theologian, a master missionary, a devoted follower of Jesus – but he was not yet all Jesus wanted him to be.
To master living in the present moment WE, TOO, MUST EXAMINE OUR LIVES. Jesus wants to make you a new creature as well. Have you been apprehended by Him? Has He grabbed hold of you and said, “Come with me?” If not, do you want Him to? Will you ask Him to? If Jesus has taken hold of you, are you taking hold of Jesus? Do you desire to develop into Christ-likeness? Are you willing to press on to that goal? Our time of self-examination this morning was meant to assist you in examining yourselves so that your celebration of communion next Sunday can be a time of taking hold of Jesus in a new and greater way. It’s the first step in living in the present moment.
Paul understood that this transformation was a long process. So he pictures a race, with the image of a marathon runner pressing on towards the finish line. To press on effectively, there must be a process of ELIMINATION. (13) “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind…” Let’s face it – we know we cannot totally forget our pasts. Even Paul did not – he referred to his just a few verses earlier. So what does he mean? Paul means that the past should not hold power over us. He tells us to BREAK THE POWER OF THE PAST. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to ‘overcome our pasts.’ As Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote, “The people of the world focus on what they are overcoming. Christians focus on what they are becoming.” (ii) To understand that we are becoming like Christ is so powerful and so exciting that it supersedes whatever happened in our past. (iii)
What from your past has a hold on you? Perhaps it’s your string of failures, your pile of sins, your multitude of disappointments, your vivid memories of people telling you you’ll never make anything of yourself, or your painful broken relationships. Break the power of your past. A farmer was riding his horse and came to a shallow ford; his horse refused to cross. The horse was remembering that the last time they had crossed this place the river had been flooded and the raging waters had frightened him. Encouraging the horse to move forward, the farmer shouted, “Come on, Donald, your memory is better then you judgment.” (iv) Judge yourself and your life by where you’re headed, not by where you’ve been. Break the power of the past.