Summary: Our goal is not to get to heaven, but to strive to lay hold of our calling.
Lay Hold on Your Calling
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
And so we don’t miss the point of this exhortation, we are told in verse 17, "Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern."
The greatest thing that can happen to us as Christians is that we become heavenly minded. To be heavenly minded is to live every part of your life with the goal of entering into heaven having completed the purpose for which God has called you. To be heavenly minded is not to wait for heaven, but to press on toward the goal of entering heaven having finished what God has called you to accomplish. This passage reveals three important principles in verse 12. We have not yet attained what we are called to take hold of, we have not reached perfection, and we are to press on, toward the call.
1. We have not yet attained – or literally, have not laid hold of the purpose of our calling. When we enter into fellowship with Christ by surrendering our lives to Him does not mean we automatically accomplish our mission. As a new Christian, you have not yet laid hold of your calling. Even as an older Christian, you may not have found the purpose in which you were called. Jesus is the door that we must enter in order to begin our new life and begin our journey toward Heaven but entering that door is not the finish line. It is a major error to think that once we get our ticket to heaven we have reached our goal. When we begin a new life in Christ without an understanding of our calling, our first purpose is to show ourselves to be faithful stewards and seek out God’s purpose. If I can’t pass the test of basic stewardship, I will never find the path God has called me find. In Jeremiah God asked the question, "If you can’t run with the footmen, how will you contend with the horsemen? If you were wearied in the land of peace, how can you expect to contend among the arrogant nations?" Our calling is not to get into heaven only, but to equip ourselves so that we can answer the call. We then begin to run the race knowing that God honors faithfulness.
2. We are not yet perfected. Before your spiritual life can take root, your flesh nature must be crucified. Our flesh does not die when we are born into the kingdom of God. We are set free from the bondage of sin and are no longer driven by the flesh, but it is our responsibility to bring our hearts and minds under subjection to Christ. Many of us leave a lifetime of engrained habits that will not die easily. A Christ-centered focus is required in order for us to become heavenly minded. Where my eyes are fixed, my feet will follow. Though perfection will never be achieved in this life, I am called to strive for that mark. Each time I look back on my life, I should be amazed at how far God has brought me. I should stand determined to never return to where I have been. My focus is not on my past, but on my goal of winning the race God has set before me. When I think I have arrived, I am as far as I can go. If God works in my life and I begin to grow, and I look back and think I have hit the mark, I will stop growing and eventually start sliding. If I compare myself to my mistakes or the mistakes of others, it is easy to be proud because I have lowered the bar. But when I look to Christ, I have the model of perfection that reveals my need to press on. In Christ, I am encouraged by my past and given the strength to reach ahead toward my calling. I can only overcome this life by His strength. Only He has the power to give me endurance to keep reaching ahead.