Forgetting what lies behind


In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes:

” . . . forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal . . .” (Philippians 3:13b-14a)

Paul starts this chapter by describing his accomplishments as a religious leader within Judaism. He went so far as to claim that he was blameless with regard to how he lived according to the law.


(c) Can Stock Photo / Apriori

The things he lists are good things. They are things that anyone in his day and in his nation could be proud of. What Paul is putting behind him is not a life of hedonistic pleasure or flagrant sin. He is putting all his “goodness” behind him. He is telling us that none of the good things count toward what really matters.

He is not telling us that how we live doesn’t have consequences or that it is OK to do whatever we want. What Paul is saying is that the one thing that really does matter is having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The point is that all his religious accomplishment was not able to produce anything of ultimate value. When he came face-to-face with Christ Jesus, he understood that all his achievements totaled up to a pile of rubbish, trash, waste. He is forgetting what lies behind because it is of no value.

But it is in our nature to do stuff. We feel pressured by church leadership to take on responsibilities and make ministry happen. We can fall into the trap of pursuing constant activity without taking a single moment to ask ourselves why we’re doing all this stuff. We can find ourselves feeling guilty if we are not exhausted from serving.

What we should learn from Paul is that all the good things amount to nothing if they are not done in response to a deepening relationship with Jesus. We don’t have to work to please God. He is already pleased.

Keep in mind the goal that Paul was pressing toward. He pursued “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Jesus himself is the prize. So take a break from the activity and enjoy him.